Last updated: 20.04.13

Academia 'not sole pathway to higher level skills'

There are other valuable ways of gaining higher level skills besides academia, according to one politician.

Stephen Farry, minister for employment and learning in the Northern Ireland Executive, said in an article for the Belfast Telegraph that some of the main anticipated outcomes of the current review of apprenticeships include developing a broader level of frameworks and training at higher level skill levels.

He claimed the government needs to work to increase labour market participation and address the problems of economic inactivity and unemployment.

A number of initiatives, such as the Youth Employment Scheme and the Not in Education, Employment or Training Strategy Pathways to Success programme, are in place to deal with these issues and Mr Farry described them as "critical".

The politician said it could also be important to identify the key sectors that already offer strong prospects for growth and which are likely to flourish under a lower corporation tax rate.

"Dedicated working groups embracing business, universities/colleges and government either already have, or are working on, action plans for these sectors," he remarked.

Mr Farry claimed he sees potential in a lower rate of corporation tax to provide a step-change in the economic transformation of Northern Ireland and in the event of such cuts, specific adjustments could be made to skills and employability investments.

Furthermore, it would see greater emphasis given to management and leadership skills, the acquisition of lost talent and further diversification of language training. "There is a low risk in over-training, or upskilling too far. By far, the greater risk lies in doing too little, too late," the minister said.

Indeed, Mr Farry published a report last year entitled Preparing for a Lower Corporation Tax Environment, which indicated a reduction in rates by 12.5 per cent could double the number of jobs locally and create 58,000 more by 2030.

He said it is essential to change the skills profile of the current and future workforce, with higher levels and increased knowledge of science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects to be prioritised.