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Open University supports new Northern Ireland Assembly All Party Group on Skills

It is clear from all sectors – public, private and third sectors - that skills development and supply is essential to ensure shared, inclusive prosperity and well-being across all parts of Northern Ireland.

To help address this significant issue, a new All Party Group on Skills has been established at the Northern Ireland Assembly. The All Party Group will engage with key sector organisations, skills and education providers as well as government departments and agencies to develop evidence-based proposals.

At its launch at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on 11 April 2024, the Chair of the All Party Group on Skills, Sorcha Eastwood MLA, said:

“Fundamentally skills are about people, opportunities and innovation. Skills policy is crucial to our society, and it is a major issue for every industry and every area of public services. For example, it is a top priority for businesses, the health and social care sector, the arts, agriculture and our net zero energy transition. 

The new All Party Group on Skills, with the support of The Open University, intends to investigate a wide range of specific areas of skills policy and engage with key stakeholders. 

The first enquiry will be into skills in social care given that providing adequate social care for an ageing population is one of the greatest challenges Northern Ireland faces. Those working in the sector are highly skilled and must be better valued by society.”

At today’s launch, Patricia Higgins, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Social Care Council, gave an overview of the issues facing the social care sector, the full contribution social care makes to Northern Ireland, including the economy, and she also outlined the issues which will be discussed at further meetings of the group’s investigation into skills in social care over the coming months.

Patricia Higgins said:

“Properly investing in social care will positively impact the economy, create jobs and support the health and social care system in Northern Ireland – however, we cannot do this without that investment including supporting social care workers as professionals in their own right in terms of their skills and learning pathways.  How we invest social care skills will also impact on making the sector an attractive place to work.”

John D’Arcy, Director of The Open University in Ireland said:

“The Open University is delighted to support the new All Party Group on Skills. Since our establishment in 1969, The OU has supported people across Northern Ireland to gain higher level qualifications which have allowed them to change their lives through improved employment opportunities as well as enhancing their well-being and personal development. We welcome the All Party Group’s focus on lifelong learning and the need for education and training to be available when and where people, communities and businesses need it to be. We look forward to engaging with sector bodies, providers and government to gather evidence, views and ideas for the All Party Group to consider as its work programme rolls out.”

The current membership of the All Party Group on Skills is:

Chair: Sorcha Eastwood MLA

Vice Chair: Sinéad McLaughlin MLA

Secretary: Cathy Mason MLA

Treasurer: Diane Dodds MLA

Kellie Armstrong MLA

Danny Donnelly MLA

Connie Egan MLA

Nick Mathieson MLA

Sian Mulholland MLA

Claire Sugden MLA

The All Party Group on Skills can be contacted at about the current work on social care or to identify other areas of work for the All Party Group.

For media enquiries please contact:

Christine Murphy, Communications Manager

Tel 028 9053 6219