18/11/2005

Smith sets 10,000 apprenticeship target for NI

The Government has revealed a 10,000 apprenticeship target in Northern Ireland by 2010 in order to meet future economic competition.

Emphasising the need to address the changing job market trends, Employment and Learning Minister Angela Smith, in a speech to delegates attending this week's GMB Trade Union Conference in Belfast, said it was necessary to take a "strategic approach to acquiring the skills necessary to enable us to take advantage of future opportunities".

"We must also make sure that the skills of our workforce match the skills needed for Northern Ireland to meet future economic competition," the Minister continued.

"The Northern Ireland economy has changed dramatically in the past 10 years and our unemployment rate is at an all time low, but we are experiencing skills shortages in the professional and technical sectors.

"I intend, therefore, to raise the number of apprentices in training here to 10,000 by 2010. To achieve this, it is vital that government, universities, colleges, employers and trade unions all work together to identify the skills we need now and in the future."

During Thursday's GMB conference, themed under the banner headline of 'Re-Thinking Apprenticeships', Angela Smith also detailed a number of current initiatives geared to addressing the skills agenda further.

The GMB is a general union of 700,000 people. The union today is the sum of a number of mergers of longstanding trades unions covering several production and service sectors and trades.

(MB/SP)

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