15/03/2011

Conference To Highlight Skills Gaps

Northern Ireland must act now to develop 'green' skills and resources or risk losing out on thousands of potential jobs, a major conference will be told at the Waterfront Hall on 29th March.

The one-day Skills Development for the Sustainable Sector event will bring together more than 150 specialists from industries such as those within the construction sector and from government to examine urgent skills gaps and outline strategic actions needed to achieve sustainable growth and generate new employment opportunities.

Dr Lorna Lawrence, Research Lecturer at Carbon Zero NI, said the conference comes at a time of renewed focus on employment and economic growth.

"It is widely recognised that Northern Ireland can gain an economic advantage and secure a leading position in the fast-growing green economy by capitalising on its enviable natural resources and smart renewable technologies.

"But if this potential is to be fully realised and exploited, urgent action must be taken to develop essential training and develop new skills that will help local talent secure existing and emerging green roles," she said.

"This conference is about bringing top decision makers and CleanTech employers together to map current and future skills gaps and develop a strategic pathway for industry, training providers and educators.

"The transition to a green economy presents significant opportunities, but industry must be properly equipped if Northern Ireland is to achieve sustainable growth and meet its climate change targets."

Organised by the Carbon Zero NI programme and funded by the Department for Employment and Learning, speakers at the conference will include wind energy specialist Clifford McSpadden from the Global and Maritime Wind Alliances; the Northern Advisor on Employment and Skills, Dr Bill McGinnis, and Dr Esmond Birnie, Chief Economist at PwC.

Guest speakers from Robert Morris University Pittsburgh USA will share their experience on successfully delivering traditional, blended and online education.

They will discuss how this has underpinned the transformation of the city's skills base from largely engineering and steel manufacturing to become a global leader in the CleanTech sector.

In September 2010, the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI) published the Strategic Energy Framework document, which sets targets of 40% renewable electricity, and 10% renewable heat by 2020.

Malachy McAleer, Director at South West College said the conference would form an important step towards establishing excellence in the sustainable sector.

"Northern Ireland is already taking an active role in the development of green technologies and exploring the best use of our natural resources. It is vital that we can continue to enhance our position in the sustainable sector by providing the emerging generation of green collar workers with access to the very best courses, training and skills.

"This conference is designed to help people and industry better connect with new opportunities and to bridge the gap between traditional skills and those required by the 'clean and green' sector. Its outcomes will help shape a qualified workforce that is equipped with the very best know-how," he said.

A number of optional, free guided visits to industrial and Further Educational sites of sustainable excellence have also been coordinated for interested conference delegates and take place on Monday 28th March.

Organisers say the conference will be of value to those involved in sustainable development including government departments, academia, local authorities, state agencies, renewable energy companies, research and environmental communities and the general public.

Attendance at the Skills Development for the Sustainable Sector is free, but places are strictly limited and must be registered in advance by contacting Andrea Davidson, phone, 028 8676 0493.

(BMcC/GK)

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