Assembly Written Question 13275/17-22

Question: To ask the Minister for the Economy for her assessment of the UK Department for Education’s policy paper entitled Skills for Jobs: Lifelong Learning for Opportunity and Growth, including (i) what implications this may have on Northern Ireland; and (ii) whether she is considering similar reforms to the post-16 further education and technical training system.

Answer: I am aware of the White Paper very recently published by UK Department for Education. There is a great degree of complementarity between this White Paper and the emerging thinking for the new Skills Strategy for Northern Ireland, a draft of which will soon be published for consultation. In particular, a core objective identified in the new NI Strategy is creating a culture of lifelong learning. I can agree with the key premise that investing in skills supports economic recovery and improves an individual’s life and employment chances. Inresponse to COVID-19 I put a number of skills interventions in place allowing free access to a number of on-line courses for those who had been impacted. I note references in the White Paper to a £2.5bn National Skills Fund. Investment in skills must be a cornerstone of the Executive’s Programme for Government and plans to stimulate economic growth – and I am giving consideration with my Executive colleagues to the creation of a dedicated, new fund to support skills growth and thereby accelerate economic recovery.

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