Jobs but no skilled staff to fill them!

Cookstown - the heart of Mid Ulster
Cookstown - the heart of Mid Ulster

A deficit in skilled labour in Mid Ulster has been flagged up in new research carried out by the local Skills Forum.

Businesses from six industries compiled the research for the forum revealing the district is facing a skills shortage with 4,700 vacancies recorded in 2016-17.

The report claims getting workers with the right expertise was an issue and addressing the gap could create around 2,355 jobs by 2021.

Manufacturing and engineering, construction, food and agri-food, retail, hospitality and IT sectors contributed to the research.

The forum was set up by Mid Ulster District Council and used government data and information from companies for its research.

It found that 71 per cent of businesses in the district are struggling to attract “appropriately qualified staff.”

Brexit and decisions relating to the free movement of people are also highlighted as challenges to Mid Ulster.

And, depending on the outcome of Brexit, vacancy rates maybe made worse in lower-paid sectors such as hospitality and construction and in particular, the food and agri-food where 64 per cent of employees come from elsewhere in the EU.

Speaking at the launch of the skills report and action plan Chair of Mid Ulster Council, Councillor Sean McPeake, said: “While we could look at the skills picture at a high level where the evidence confirms that there are substantial skills shortages, we could use only our informed opinion at a sub-regional level to account for what our businesses were experiencing on the ground here in Mid Ulster.

“In commissioning a skills study, the forum was setting out to establish how Mid Ulster, the most entrepreneurial region here, with the second highest concentration of businesses outside of Belfast, is going to maintain, sustain and grow its economic base in the current skills landscape”.

Alan McKeown, who chairs the Mid Ulster Skills Forum and is Corporate Services Director, Dunbia, one of Europe’s largest processors of beef and lamb, said people needed to be prepared for a rapidly changing world.

“This report is the first major piece of work to come from the Skills Forum and the outworkings of the action plan have the potential to be transformational in terms of how we do two things: prepare people for the rapidly changing world of work and upskilling or reskilling those already in work,” he said.

“I believe Mid Ulster is leading the way and can be an exemplar of how a high performing skilled workforce can ensure economic prosperity and the Skills Forum, as a collective, has the ability to drive this success”.

The plan identifies a series of priority actions, from enhancing the image and perceptions of key sectors, increasing the quality and quantity of apprenticeships, and improving engagement across education and employers to supporting technological change and innovation and securing resources and finance for the plan’s implementation.