Skills strategies must ‘filter down’ into real action for industry – Sugden

Independent MLA Claire Sugden has said that high-level policies aiming to remedy skills gaps and staff shortages need to filter down into tangible action on the ground in order to benefit industry.

By Joanne Knox
Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 8:52 am

Many industries remain under-staffed, Ms Sugden said, with skills gaps also emerging across a variety of sectors.

She commented: “Sectors such as meat processing, logistics, manufacturing and hospitality are all reporting issues filling vacancies.

“Without appropriate staff levels, our economic growth – that has recently been stronger than nearly any other part of the UK – will soon be stunted.

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Claire Sugden MLA

“Skills strategies, such as the Department for the Economy’s ‘Skills for a 10X Economy’ are a necessary part of resolving this issue, but strategies are only as good as the effect they have.

“If they are not getting people into work, and providing industry with the optimum level of skilled staff, then they are not currently working.

“I appreciate this particular strategy is looking at the following 10 years – and will hopefully provide greater sustainability for industry and employment moving forward – but we also need an approach that has more immediate benefits and effects.”

A variety of factors have contributed to the current skills and staffing shortages, the East Londonderry MLA stated.

“There were undesirable consequences for industry from Brexit,” Ms Sugden said.

“New UK-wide immigration laws prevented many overseas employees from working in industry here – industries that had become reliant upon this workforce.

“Changing immigration rules can only be done by Westminster, but pressure needs to be put on the UK government by ministers here to underline the effect current laws are having.

“The pandemic also saw people leave professions that they have not returned to.

“These were things that occurred beyond the control of the Executive, but we still have plenty of tools at our disposal to form a system that upskills our society, utilises those skills that already exist and satisfy the needs of industry – all while getting people better, and better paid, jobs,” she ended.