Ann McGregor, NI Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive, outlines the Chamber’s plan to create 94,000 jobs by 2020 – andexplains why training and support for young people is key to the region’s growth.
Gross weekly pay – £450.60 / £500 UK average
JSA Claimants – 7.1 per cent / 4.1 per cent UK average
Unemployment rate – 6.8 per cent / 8.4 per cent UK average
Ann McGregor, NI Chamber of Commerce chief executive on the BCC quarterly economic survey: “The findings suggest that businesses are a bit more optimistic about the future particularly in terms of confidence, turnover and profitability but it’s a probably a bit too soon to be looking for the green shoots of recovery.
“We must all hope that this proves to be the case and recent job announcements by new investors and existing companies have certainly been immensely encouraging.”
Ann McGregor, NI Chamber of Commerce chief executive: There is no doubt that the Northern Ireland labour market continues to experience difficulties in 2012 and the renewed economic downturn is placing additional pressure on unemployment and jobs.
Unemployment continues to rise and prospects for the local economic remain muted with independent economic commentators estimating that the local economy will grow at a rate below 1 per cent this year, with further increases in unemployment likely.
However while this is clearly disappointing, it is not of the same kind of magnitude as at the height of the downturn when thousands were added to the unemployment register month after month.
The number of employee jobs in Northern Ireland has fallen by 8,700 (1.2 per cent) over the last year. As of March 2012 the unemployment rate for Northern Ireland currently sits at 6.8 per cent – below the UK average of 8.4 per cent, as well as a the EU rate of 9.8 per cent and Republic of Ireland rate of 14.3 per cent.
The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in Northern Ireland currently stands at 60,700, increasing by 2,400 (4.1 per cent) over the last year, which was lower than the increase for the UK (9.8 per cent) and was the second lowest annual increase among UK regions.
Potential growth sectors for 94,000 jobs
In 2011 Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce launched The Jobs Plan, a document to stimulate debate and focus policy on the future of the Northern Ireland economy. This document was launched alongside seven other business organisations from Northern Ireland and outlined a vision for the creation of 94,000 jobs for the region by 2020.
Research carried out by Oxford Economics on behalf of The Jobs Plan identified that there is the potential to create:
– 10,000 jobs in Northern Ireland’s ICT sector
– 7,500 jobs in the agri-food sector
– 5,900 jobs in the heath tech sector
– 1,700 new jobs in high value manufacturing
– 21,000 jobs in tradable services
– up to 15,500 jobs in the tourism sector
– over 11,700 jobs in creative industries.
– 1,600 jobs in the the emerging green/clean tech sector
Support for young people
Despite these grounds for optimism, young people in Northern Ireland risk being denied the opportunity to apply their recently acquired skills and a particular problem faced by young people is having insufficient experience to compete for job vacancies, and it is difficult to get such experience without having a job. That is why firms should be supported and encouraged to provide work placement.
We at the Chamber cannot stress highly enough how appropriate support for young people not in education, employment or training is essential for improving the outcomes of the hardest to reach in society. This will mean dealing with the systemic failures in education, improving literacy and numeracy standards across our education system starting in the Primary sector. A key goal must be to increase the number of pupils achieving 5 A-C grades at GCSE level (including maths and English) to 70 per cent by 2014 – this is critical to addressing the high levels of disadvantage in our society.
To progress with our vision to create 94,000 jobs, Northern Ireland needs to build the skills base of our unemployed young people to prepare them for the jobs that will rebuild and rebalance the Northern Ireland economy.