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Investing in local skills can boost industry and communities

Many companies across the UK are all too aware of the increasing problems in finding and holding on to reliable, skilled staff.

This is a particular issue in Northern Ireland, where the construction industry has suffered badly since the economic downturn. While other parts of the UK and Republic of Ireland have picked up, there is still some way to go before the Northern Irish sector recovers fully.

According to the 2016 annual business register and employment survey from NI’s Department for the Economy, building firms recruited another 1,425 workers in the year to September 2015.

But the survey – which comes out every two years – said the biggest growth was in services jobs, which cover everything from restaurants to office positions and increased by 3,830 over the year.

Talent emigration

The small growth in construction jobs in the year to September 2015 reflected a time when the industry had finally begun to pick up after the recession. However, that recovery has stalled in recent months, as the demands of growth elsewhere tempt workers into the Irish Republic or across to England.

Quinn Industrial Holdings employs 761 people in on the western edge of Northern Ireland, where there are particular problems in identifying and retaining ambitious young people from the area.

“The new partnership will provide local pupils with that clear line of sight into the local workforce, and show construction to be a viable path”

Recent research commissioned by the then Fermanagh District Council in response to the Independent Review of Economic Policy (DETI & Invest NI 2009) highlighted the problem of economic export of local talent, while a further ETI report showed the need for a clear “line of sight” into employment from education.

Quinn has a deep commitment to the local area where it is based. It has taken major steps to address the brain drain, while also working to achieve its eventual aim of creating a centre of excellence in Fermanagh and in particular in the town of Enniskillen.

School ties

The company has announced a working relationship with local school St Michael’s College, as part of its ‘Quinn People’ initiative. This involves an investment of £25,000 to provide a clear pathway for pupils to develop their educational attainment and secure sustainable and fulfilling employment at QIH.

The new partnership will provide local pupils with that clear line of sight into the local workforce, and show Quinn and construction to be a viable path, offering the chance to develop a fulfilling and challenging career at home.

Quinn’s approach to addressing this issue comes from the top down, with CEO Liam McCaffrey seeing it as both a duty to the local community and a smart business decision.

The company wants young people to feel they can stay in their own community while at the same time developing sustainable careers.

Kevin Lunney is COO at Quinn Industrial Holdings

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