Employment and Learning Minister, Danny Kennedy, has visited North Carolina to examine the success of its skills and economic development model.
The Minister was accompanied by Jeremy Fitch, Managing Director of Invest Northern Ireland. The Department for Employment and Learning and Invest Northern Ireland are working together to develop the Assured Skills programme which is modelled on North Carolina's approach to attracting inward investment. It aims to deliver the skilled workforce that investors require, including the delivery of bespoke training programmes.
In a series of meetings, the Minister discussed the development of the North Carolina model, which has seen it recognised as the state with the best business climate in the entire United States in nine of the past 10 years.
Mr Kennedy emphasised that, whilst significant progress had been made, Northern Ireland still had lessons to learn from North Carolina. He said: "All those with whom I have spoken, in government, business, Further Education and Higher Education, have consistently emphasised the significance of cooperation between sectors as the key to a successful economic development policy. While we in Northern Ireland have attempted in recent years to reflect this in our own approach, we must continue to analyse and implement best practice wherever possible. The ambition, flexibility and collaborative approach seen in North Carolina offers a model to Northern Ireland if we are to succeed in growing our private sector and building future prosperity.”
The Minister met with educational, business and state government leaders to discuss the relationship between higher education, further education and the business community and included a meeting with North Carolina's Secretary of Commerce, Keith Crisco, who emphasised the need for continued investment in the skills agenda in order to secure future economic growth.
Mr. Kennedy said: "The strong cultural links between Northern Ireland and North Carolina have in recent years been extended to include a growing economic relationship. The 'North Carolina model' of economic development, above all, a collaborative partnership between Higher Education, Further Education, business and government in order to build a highly-skilled workforce, is regarded by my Department as demonstrating how we in Northern Ireland should be working.
“The real economic challenges faced by North Carolina will be familiar to Northern Ireland - growing unemployment, reduced public spending and strong competition from neighbours. Despite this, North Carolina is determined to continue investment in its highly successful model of economic development and this is an approach which we must seek to emulate.”
Notes to editors:
1. A photograph of Employment and Learning Minister, Danny Kennedy meeting with Dr Scott Ralls, President of the North Carolina Community College System and Jeremy Fitch, Managing Director of Invest NI, at Raleigh, North Carolina is available at http://www.delni.gov.uk/north-carolina-2011.
2. All media queries should be directed to the Department for Employment and Learning Communications Branch on 028 9025 7466. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.