‘Skills the economic lever of which we have maximum control’

Leading educational charity Sentinus has welcomed the announcement that 300 new technology jobs are to be created in Belfast, but warned that if we are to continue to attract such jobs in the future we need to invest more in encouraging young people to develop their Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) skills.

Jim Stewart CBE, Chair of Sentinus, a leading educational charity which delivers STEM engagement in schools across Northern Ireland said: “We welcome the recent news that financial services company Tullett Prebon is to create 300 new IT jobs in Belfast, contributing £10m in salaries to the local economy. These new jobs will provide excellent opportunities for graduates, experienced IT professionals and school leavers. It is important to note however that the main reason that Belfast was chosen for these jobs was due to the availability of a highly educated and skilled workforce, alongside an attractive business environment and strong infrastructure.

“This type of investment goes to prove just how crucial it is that we continue to address the growing skills gap and highlight the critical importance of STEM subjects to the future of the NI economy, particularly in the current post-Brexit climate. We already know that whatever economic advantage might have been gained from a reduction in Corporation Tax has been greatly diluted by the planned cut across the rest of the UK. Skills by comparison remain the constant area of potential competitive advantage and an economic lever entirely within our own control.

“With STEM subjects such as Mathematics and Computer Science currently underprovided, it is important that we maintain investment in these subjects in order to support the growth of the sector in the future, while also remembering that it is skills like these that will attract further investment. STEM needs to be actively encouraged and put further up the agenda moving forward, to ensure our young people continue to grow and meet the demands of the current and future knowledge economy.

“First Minister Arlene Foster stated that the company’s decision to establish its new IT development centre in Belfast is ‘a vote of confidence in the ability and quality of the Northern Ireland workforce.’ We need to ensure that pipeline of talent does not dry up if we are to attract similar high quality jobs in the future.”