Northern Ireland Assembly Flax Flower Logo

Northern Ireland Assembly

Monday 15 October 2001


Assembly Business

Assembly: Suspension of Standing Orders

Social Security Fraud Bill: Final Stage

Education and Training for Industry

‘Guide to the Rules Relating to the Conduct of Members’

Oral Answers to Questions

Department of Education

Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety

Department of Finance and Personnel


The Assembly met at noon (Mr Speaker in the Chair).

Members observed two minutes’ silence.

Assembly Business


Mr C Wilson:

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek clarification that may be helpful to the Assembly. I refer to comments made last week by Dr Paisley:

"We have lodged our letters of resignation, but those resignations should take place immediately and should not be postponed." — [Official Report, Vol 12, No 8, p296].

What was the result of the lodging of those resignation letters by Dr Paisley and his party members? Have you acted on his desire that they should take effect immediately?

Mr Speaker:

As I understand it, Dr Paisley set out the situation clearly, and the position is as he stated it. There is nothing further that I should add to that.

Mr C Wilson:

Are we to understand, Mr Speaker, that he was tendering his resignation and those of the relevant Members of his party from the Executive? There has been no public confirmation that that has occurred.

Mr Speaker:

The Member is somewhat confused. First, Dr Paisley could hardly have been tendering his resignation from the Executive since, for all his distinction, Dr Paisley is not a member of the Executive. He made it clear that, in the context of resignations by others, the resignation of his party’s Members would take effect.

This is not the first time on which the matter has arisen. Similar letters were previously provided. I take it that Dr Paisley wanted it to be clear beyond peradventure that, should other events take place, we will proceed.

Mr B Hutchinson:

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it permissible, under the code of conduct and Standing Order 42(4)(b), regarding the Pledge of Office, for Ministers to write newspaper articles in their capacity as Minister, without making reference to the matters that are supposed to be in their portfolio?

Mr Speaker:

I will examine the matter and consider the extent to which it relates to Standing Orders — and, therefore, to what degree it involves me — and the extent to which it refers to the ministerial code, which is an Executive matter. As Members will be aware, the code has never been brought to the Assembly for approval. I will look into the matter that the Member has raised and respond to it.

Assembly: Suspension of Standing Orders


The Minister for Social Development (Mr Morrow): I beg to move

That Standing Order 40(1) be suspended in respect of the Final Stage of the Social Security Fraud Bill (NIA 16/00).

The Social Security Fraud Bill is an integral part of the overall strategy of modernising the social security system to ensure that the right money goes to the right people at the right time. The Bill is designed to improve the way in which fraud is detected and to deter potential fraudsters. Members across the Assembly have endorsed my desire to tackle fraud. The Committee for Social Development passed the Bill unanimously. No amendment has been put forward during the passage of the Bill, because Members are aware that I am required by the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to work with the Secretary of State to secure single systems of social security, child support and pensions for the United Kingdom. The Bill maintains parity with Great Britain on social security matters.

Mr Speaker:

I remind Members that the matter is the suspension of Standing Orders so that the Final Stage of the Social Security Fraud Bill may be taken today. I shall not accept speeches on the subject of the Bill, only on procedural matters. I have had no requests to speak. If the motion is agreed, we shall proceed immediately to the Final Stage. If the motion falls, the Final Stage of the Bill, which is on the Order Paper, also falls and will be taken at a subsequent time. Suspension of Standing Order 40(1) requires cross-community support. If there are Ayes on all sides of the House and no Noes, I shall consider that to be cross-community support.

Question put and agreed to nemine contradicente.

Resolved (with cross-community support):

That Standing Order 40(1) be suspended in respect of the Final Stage of the Social Security Fraud Bill (NIA 16/00).

Social Security Fraud Bill: Final Stage

The Minister for Social Development (Mr Morrow): I beg to move

That the Social Security Fraud Bill (NIA 16/00) do now pass.

This is a short, but important, Bill. Members are concerned about fraud. The estimated £73 million per annum of public money that is lost due to benefit fraud must be reduced. I shall not go over the provisions of the Bill in detail. However, it will help to reduce that loss, first, through prevention and early detection, using new information-gathering powers, and secondly, by deterrence, using the powers to restrict payments to persistent offenders and the swift and effective punishment of collusive employers.

The Bill represents a measured response to the problem of benefit fraud. I do not suggest that it will eliminate all such fraud. However, it is a reasonable response to the problems that we face, and it will close some of the more obvious loopholes that have come to light in recent years.

I thank the Committee for Social Development for its careful scrutiny of the Bill, and also the Members who took part in the debate.

Question put and agreed to.


That the Social Security Fraud Bill (NIA 16/00) do now pass.

Education and Training for Industry


The Chairperson of the Committee for Employment and Learning (Dr Birnie):

I beg to move

That this Assembly takes note of the report from the Committee for Employment and Learning ‘Inquiry into Education and Training for Industry’ (1/01R).

On average, each worker in the Northern Ireland economy has a significantly lower output than his or her equivalent in Great Britain, in much of the rest of the European Union, or in the United States. Unless those levels of productivity can be raised, it is doubtful whether we will be able to keep unemployment levels low or generate the resources from which money for necessary social spending, such as on education or health, can be raised.

Mr Ervine:

Will the Member consider the fact that bad management is the reason that productivity is low or not as good as in other places?

Dr Birnie:

I agree with the Member, and he will see that such issues are addressed in the report. Training, research and development can make a massive contribution to the achievement of higher productivity and, to reflect Mr Ervine’s intervention, that includes management training. Many columnists have argued that the skills of the labour force together with spending on associated research and development are the factors that result in any one region or country having a higher rate of economic growth than another. Education and training can contribute strongly to making unemployment, poverty and social exclusion less likely. There are strong grounds for regarding training for industry and its associated research and development as one of the most important challenges faced by the Assembly and the Executive.

We are not, however, arguing that the only value of education is its contribution to the economy. In early 2000, the Committee decided to initiate an inquiry into the contribution of the education system to industry and the research and development base in the universities. We have now completed that inquiry and are grateful to all who contributed. We had almost 40 oral evidence sessions and received over 100 pieces of written evidence. I thank especially the Clerk, the Committee staff, the three special advisers, our researcher, and all the Committee members for their hard work in bringing this substantial report into being.

(Mr Deputy Speaker [Sir John Gorman] in the Chair)

The level of interest generated by the inquiry was heartening. It indicates the importance of the subject and the widespread willingness to contribute to shaping improvements and policy in these areas and to do so by working with the institutions of devolved Government. The Committee supports the many initiatives in this area that the Minister and his Department have taken since devolution, and our recommendations are designed to enhance the impact of many of them. We do not underestimate the challenge that we face. Since as long ago as the mid- nineteenth century, official reports have argued that British schools are failing to meet the needs of industry. Even at that early stage a contrast was drawn with other countries, notably Germany. We all remember Tony Blair’s famous slogan before the 1997 election when he said that his aim was "Education, education, education."

All around the world, education for industry, technology and the promotion of entrepreneurship has become a holy grail for economic strategy and policy. There are, however, steps that can be taken at the level of our regional Government, and one of those is to make the necessary tough decisions on the allocation of spending between Departments. While almost every area of public spending claims to be underfunded, it is clear from the evidence given to the Committee’s inquiry that higher and further education and aspects of training require additional significant financial resources.

12.15 pm

The Department for Employment and Learning has a strong case in a climate of interdepartmental competition for resources, given that many of its spending activities can be seen as investments that will lead to future economic growth and, hence, to the resources to fund future public spending. Where possible and appropriate, industrial and other non-Government sources of funding should be accessed.

Further action is required to correct the low levels of adult literacy and numeracy in Northern Ireland. That has been said frequently in the House. Other Departments have a responsibility to ensure that that serious problem is not perpetuated in future generations.

The Committee is anxious to maintain a geographical spread of further education provision. At the same time, there are grounds for some colleges to specialise in certain activities, and thereby attempt to secure positions as centres of excellence. We should encourage further education colleges to improve the statistical database of students and staff and to make it more consistent. Where possible, information technology modules should be included in further education courses.

With regard to higher education, the Northern Ireland universities have had to cope with a rapid increase in student numbers in the last decade. That increase has far exceeded the growth in public funding of higher education. That is a UK-wide phenomenon, and it has generated considerable strain. The Committee shares the concern of those commentators who note the serious decline in the real level of funding for Northern Ireland university- based research and development in the 1990s, which contrasts with its continued growth in Great Britain and its recent rapid expansion in the Republic of Ireland.

The universities can help themselves through the best possible performance in the research assessment exercise. At the same time, the Committee supports the creation of a separate pot of money, over and above that of the research assessment exercise, which can be devoted to research that reflects strategic or regional needs in Northern Ireland. I declare an interest in that subject, as I am on unpaid leave of absence from one of those universities.

The Committee wants to see business/education links promoted with vigour. It is pleased that the Northern Ireland Business Education Partnership now has a wider remit. However, the number of teacher placements in industry should be increased. In Scotland, one in 14 teachers — roughly 7% — has been placed in industry for at least one week. That compares to approximately 0·2%, or one in 400, of teachers here.

Careers education and guidance is a crucial area, and the staff who work in that field should be given esteem commensurate with the importance of their work. Careers education should be as up-to-date as possible, and therefore should make maximum use of information technology. Guidance provision should always put the interest of the recipient first, rather than any financial interest of a particular teaching institution.

While we await the completion of the Fulton review of the careers service, the Committee recommends that the Department give close attention to the recent development of careers education in places such as Wales. One cross- cutting matter of particular concern is the trend in subjects being studied at A level. Young people are voting with their feet against crucial disciplines, such as certain sciences and mathematics. Everything possible should be done to encourage an increase in the popularity of such subjects.

Even though the Northern Ireland labour market may now, sadly, be moving into a cyclical downturn, we believe that our findings on sectoral skills shortages are likely to be of lasting significance. Although the Committee commends the Department’s attempts to better marry types of labour demand and supply, more could be done to make the variety of agencies involved comprehensible to the private sector. The structure of Northern Ireland’s training organisations and sectoral training councils should be streamlined, given wider UK developments in those areas.

Above all, it should be recognised that skill levels in the Northern Irish workforce, in some respects such as sub-degree, technical and craft skills qualifications, fall short of those in Great Britain and much of the rest of the European Union. In the late nineteenth century, this region was one of the workshops of the world. Significant contributions were made to global science and technology. What was once true can be true again. I support the motion.

The Deputy Chairperson of the Committee for Employment and Learning (Mr Carrick):

The Chairperson has already set the context for the Committee’s inquiry into education and training for industry. It was clear from the outset that the contribution of education and training to Northern Irish industry was of paramount importance. No one denies that education and training have an intrinsic merit in contributing to social and cultural worth, and do not need to be justified through economic payback alone. Nevertheless, it is vital that both education and training systems be geared to meeting economic needs. That dynamic must always be present to meet the demands of a continually changing labour market. We all have a role to play in ensuring that those demands are met efficiently and effectively. Furthermore, we must strive together to guarantee access for all.

At the first evidence session of the inquiry in June 2000, the economic commentator John Simpson told the Committee that it was to be complimented on the ambitious breadth of the inquiry. The terms of reference were, in retrospect, wide ranging. However, I have been heartened by the number of organisations from all sectors in Northern Ireland that have taken the time to work with the Committee to help to shape future policy.

During the inquiry, several areas emerged as vital to education and training systems, around which the report has been structured. I want to briefly focus on three areas of particular importance. Before I do so, I reiterate the Chairperson’s words of appreciation and gratitude to the Committee Clerk, his predecessor, the support staff, special advisers, and research staff. They were a tremendous encouragement to the Committee; they did an excellent job and deserve the Committee’s appreciation and gratitude.

First, I will speak about skills strategies. I acknowledge the work that the Northern Ireland Skills Taskforce and the Priority Skills Unit have done. A report recently published by the task force aims to raise awareness of skills issues and to encourage the development of positive actions and potential solutions. However, more needs to be done to develop a co-ordinated and flexible skills strategy to enable Northern Ireland’s education and training sectors to respond quickly and appropriately to the changing labour market. Any skills strategy must account for the fact that our economy is predominantly comprised of small and medium-sized enterprises. Their training costs can be particularly burdensome, and they find it more difficult to replace any staff released for training.

Neither can the low levels of adult literacy and numeracy in large sections of the community be ignored. The Department for Employment and Learning is preparing an urgently needed basic skills strategy, and the Committee looks forward eagerly to considering it. I must, however, caution that while strategies are important, immediate action is needed. The Committee took evidence on the work of Moy Park Ltd to address basic skills needs in the Upper Bann constituency. The link that Moy Park established with the East Tyrone College of Further and Higher Education was especially commendable.

The Committee also heard from another progressive firm in the Upper Bann constituency. Galen (Pharmaceuticals) has had difficulties in recruiting appropriate chemistry graduates. The decline in the number of students of scientific subjects and mathematics needs to be given serious consideration in the current review of the curriculum for 16- to 19-year-olds. There is a great need for education providers, Government agencies and the media to work together to increase scientific awareness.

The Department for Employment and Learning has worked hard on the image of the further education sector, but much more needs to be done to ensure parity of esteem for vocational and academic education. Geographical spread is essential to ensure local access to further education and to underpin social inclusion. However, that needs to be balanced with further movement towards specialisation in support of particular sections of the economy and the development of centres of excellence as appropriate.

The Department will soon finalise its further education strategy, which should address those issues. It must guide the allocation of funding for the sector. While I welcome the recent improvements in support for further education students, the overall per capita funding for students in the further education sector needs to be increased if it is to achieve its objective of delivering high-class vocational training on a par with academic qualifications.

Several colleges have developed mutually beneficial relationships with local businesses, and those should provide a template for the whole sector. Further education staff, in particular, need to understand the needs of local industry. The Department’s Lecturers Into Industry initiative has already played a part in that, as have the plans for its further development.

I am aware from the evidence submitted to the Committee that further education colleges are only just beginning to develop effective links with industrial development agencies. I urge action to ensure that the pace is increased with the creation of the Invest Northern Ireland agency.

A major review of careers education and guidance was carried out in 1995, but there has been only limited improvement since then. That area is vital, given increasing student numbers in tertiary education. Career choices are often not made until its completion. A job is no longer for life. Many adults face difficult career choices throughout their working lives and need access to career guidance. I was extremely impressed by the work carried out by the Education and Guidance Service for Adults in that regard.

12.30 pm

I urge the Department to complete its response to the Fulton report. We need implementation and action sooner rather than later.

The Committee met the Committee for Education and Lifelong Learning from the National Assembly for Wales to discuss in depth the issue of careers education and guidance. It is clear that we have fallen behind our colleagues in Wales and Scotland, who have already opted for career guidance to be delivered to national standards in order to counteract the fragmented range of services at local level. I hope that we can soon achieve a centrally co-ordinated, independent and high-quality service to reflect the new curriculum and the needs of the economy.

The path from education through training to industry needs greater clarification so that stakeholders can understand it more easily. The Department for Employment and Learning has made a significant contribution towards ensuring that education and training systems respond early and effectively to economic indicators. However, much still needs to be done, and the Committee looks forward to collaborating with the Minister and the Department over the report, which sets out the key areas that the Committee believes must be addressed. I commend the report to the House.

Mr Byrne:

As a member of the Committee, I endorse the report and congratulate the Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson for the way in which they conducted the inquiry.

The inquiry into education and training for industry in Northern Ireland is vital to the training needs of our regional economy in the next 20 years. As a region, Northern Ireland must compete in a global economy through open competition in the EU, and, indeed, in the wider international trading context.

The statistics relating to Northern Ireland’s gross domestic product (GDP) performance remind us that we have a deficit to make up. At present, the average production from workers in Northern Ireland equates to 84% of the UK average. However, when we compare our production performance with the average in either the USA or the EU, we only achieve between 50% and 60%. That is a major concern. Performance is not just the responsibility of workers; management in Northern Ireland is facing a major challenge in trying to improve output.

One of the key issues that the Committee uncovered — and it was made clear through several submissions — was the poor level of literacy and numeracy, particularly in adults. Approximately 250,000 adults lack basic skills in numeracy or literacy. That is a severe handicap to people when they try to find employment, above all, in sustainable jobs. Skills and training pose a major challenge to education and training providers in Northern Ireland, particularly for practical skills training and higher technology skills training for industry.

The Committee received a wide range of submissions from the further education sector, the higher education sector and several community and private training providers. We also received a submission from the Training and Employment Agency. The Committee was particularly impressed by Bombardier Shorts’s submission, which outlined its in-house training facilities. The firm’s basic skills training is very much tailored to the needs of industry, and it impressed on us the need for future skills training to be tailored to those interests.

The Committee was also impressed by the submission from Letterkenny Regional Technical College, which highlighted the importance of further education or regional technical colleges as engines of local economic development.

The Committee made 43 recommendations, but I will not go into detail about those. The Committee found that good statistical information on training output and quality was lacking. The Department needs a statistical information unit to collate, analyse and evaluate skills training. That is much needed and would help in the provision of training tailored to the future needs of our economy.

The Committee had a strong desire to see more resources put into the Careers Advisory Service, particularly in secondary schools and further education colleges. Good careers advice is vital if we are to provide young people with the opportunity to realise their full potential. Young people must understand the different career possibilities that are available through academic, vocational or practical training routes.

We are all aware of the importance of university R&D in enabling manufacturing industry to develop new products — or adapt existing ones — and thus gain a competitive edge. The Committee was concerned at the lack of postgraduate students, who are vital to the development of research and development in our two universities. Postgraduate students will not be interested in R&D unless we also invest in the resources that are afforded to postgraduate students. The most crucial resource in university R&D is the postgraduate student working on a project under supervision.

The Committee is concerned at the lack of co-ordination between the 17 colleges of further education. Training provision for practical skills should be spread throughout Northern Ireland, not just centred in the two main cities or a few other towns. I come from Tyrone, which has a good history of providing workers for the construction industry. It is important to offer skills training in such rural parts of Northern Ireland.

The Committee had a wide-ranging remit. Tackling everything dealt with in the inquiry would be too big a project. However, it is important that it be used as a benchmark for the future provision of skills training in Northern Ireland. I commend the report to the House. I hope that lessons can be learnt, and that education and training providers can boost their contribution, so that young people and adults can avail of good opportunities in future.

Mrs Nelis:

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. I welcome the report, and I urge all Members to read it. It is evident from the number of oral and written submissions that the inquiry was long overdue. We should acknowledge the valuable input from education and training institutions, businesses, trade unions, the voluntary and community sectors, student unions, borough councils and churches.

The submissions from such diverse bodies were wide- ranging and informative. If the 43 recommendations are adopted, the concept of the intrinsic value of education and its relevance to job creation and the economy will be embedded in society.

The terms of reference of the inquiry were

"To examine and make recommendations to improve the contribution of further and higher education and training, including university- based Research and Development, to . industry."

That is a challenge for the Committee for Employment and Learning, for the Department and also for joined-up government. Those challenges must be met if we are to collectively pursue a culture of lifelong learning that will create enormous benefits for the individual and for society. We must strengthen, develop and mainstream education, training and industry and North/South co-operation in order to increase and stimulate economic growth. That action must be directed to the provision of real jobs.

The inquiry’s recommendations have assumed critical importance in the light of the current downturn in the global economy. In order to survive, we must implement them. In so doing, we will activate policies central to addressing unemployment, deprivation and social and educational exclusion, which are the lot of many of our young people.

We must make difficult choices if we are to lay to rest the twin evils of joblessness and poverty. We cannot sustain competing economies on this small island. We must set up a further and higher education system throughout Ireland, one which is open, inclusive and delivers high-quality education and training to all. Our overriding need for North/South co-operation in research and development was brought home by many of the witnesses who gave evidence to the Committee.

A major weakness of the report is its failure to identify areas for all-Ireland co-operation that would mutually enhance our prospects of competing in the global market. That is particularly relevant in the field of training provision, and is essential if we are to ensure access to third-level education through adequate student finance. I welcome the U-turn by the Labour Government in that respect.

Current mainstream training is linked to British Government macroeconomic policy. That has had major implications for the North, such as the lack of adequate quality training and job creation. There are regular newspaper headlines on the topic — for example, "EU peace money has trained 22,000 people." However, we rarely hear how that training has produced sustainable, full-time jobs; boosted the economy; upgraded the level of skills; or helped young people to build confidence.

As we have read in many submissions, training is geared to improving employability. However, it is not linked seriously to the provision of real jobs. In the main, the approach to training is top-down. That may, in part, account for the low skills level in the workforce.

Evidence also suggests that, in respect of sub-degrees and craft-trained qualifications, we fall far short of the Republic of Ireland, Great Britain and the rest of Europe. We must not underestimate the extent of the challenge facing us if we are simply to catch up. We recognise the initiatives begun by the Minister and the Department to address those problems, and we trust that the inquiry and its recommendations will speed the process.

12.45 pm

There is a strong case in recommendations 9 to 19 for proper acknowledgement of and funding for further education colleges — and especially those in Newry, Armagh, Fermanagh, Omagh and Derry — to enable the development of a strategic, cross-border role for delivering basic skills, vocational education and training equity. This is despite the constraints placed on the allocation of public spending between Departments and the significant additional resources required by the Department for Employment and Learning. It would be an advantage, in the terms of reference and the expansion of the recommendations 31 and 33, if the Executive and the Government of the Twenty-six Counties could explore the possibility of establishing an all-Ireland body to promote and validate vocational qualifications such as NVQs, advanced certificates of vocational education (ACVES), national diplomas and HNDs.

Finally, a LeasCheann Comhairle, I will make a plug for my constituency and the development of Derry. It is the major alternative site for the growth of full-time higher education provision. I ask the Minister to consider establishing a working group to advance recommendations for the development of higher education in the north-west. This should be done in co-operation with the Dublin Government.

I wish to pay tribute to the Committee staff who have done sterling work in the preparation of this report. I urge all Members to give it serious consideration. Go raibh maith agat.

Mr Neeson:

I welcome the report, though I was disappointed not to receive a copy until Saturday morning. I am not a member of this Committee, and to do the report full justice more time to study its contents would have been appreciated.

Having said that, it is a good, timely report. I suggest that Members read it in conjunction with the report from the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment on its inquiry into the implementation of ‘Strategy 2010’. During the public sessions of our inquiry, and even in oral submissions, the question of the relationship between training, industry and business came up time and time again. It is important that we take an interdepartmental approach towards the issues at hand; issues that affect not only the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and the Department for Employment and Learning, but the Department of Education as well. Dealing with enterprise culture starts at an early age.

I again welcome the fact that on numerous occasions Minister Farren and Minister Empey have worked in partnership when dealing with pressing issues. There is a strategic issue here for the Department for Regional Development as well. In ‘Shaping our Future’, reference is made to the provision of educational facilities on a regional basis throughout Northern Ireland, so an interdepartmental approach is required.

It is critical that the institutions provide the skills necessary to meet the needs of the economy. Recommendation 8, which rightly draws attention to the fact that there is a need to provide skills for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), is important. The backbone of industry in Northern Ireland is small businesses, and it is important that that be reflected in new education provision.

By the same token, I acknowledge that when Nortel was expanding — before its sad decline due to global recession — many further education institutes provided and developed the skills necessary for that industry. That was very welcome, and devolution has given opportunities to develop such provision.

I draw Members’ attention to recommendation 22 on the need to further increase the number of university places in Northern Ireland. The Department is working towards that, but far too many young people leave Northern Ireland for other parts of the UK and never return. We have lost many of our more talented people because there were not sufficient university places available in Northern Ireland. I hope that the Minister does not mind me reiterating the view that is shared by the vast majority of Members about student fees. Those fees must be abolished if we are to provide the equality of opportunity that is required.

Recommendation 28 refers to New Deal and to the need to monitor progress. I agree with that, but the Department and the Minister must seriously consider the vacuum that has been left with the demise of the ACE jobs. The impact of that is still being harshly felt in my constituency. I may have been critical of the level of skills development under the old ACE scheme, but at least the scheme contributed to meeting an important community need, particularly for the more vulnerable members of society.

Recommendation 28 also refers to equality of opportunity in training. That is an important issue. When the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment was considering its report, the need to provide equality of opportunity — particularly gender equality — in the workplace became very clear. We made recommendations in relation to those matters.

The report quite rightly highlights the importance of research and development. That is vital, especially given the new circumstances that we face following the events of 11 September. However, I am disappointed at the delay in setting up the science park in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter. I understand that the delay is through no lack of enthusiasm on the part of those charged with the task of establishing the organisation; rather, it is because of planning issues. If we are to have joined-up government and an interdepartmental approach, such issues must be addressed.

The report recognises the importance of information and communication technology. That issue kept cropping up, so I particularly welcome recommendation 19, which states that full-time students in further education should have one component in information and communication technology training. I ask Members to look back at recommendations 27 and 28 of ‘Strategy 2010’, which dealt specifically with further education and training and the commercialisation of new technology, as they deal directly with today’s topic of debate.

As a former teacher, I — and I am sure that this applies to Assembly Member Carson also — recognise the need to provide opportunities for placement in industry for teachers, particularly those involved in careers guidance.

This is a good and welcome report, but it can only be implemented if the resources are made available. I hope that they will be. The development of skills for the twenty- first century is vital to the people and communities of Northern Ireland, and when we provide the necessary facilities, TSN must be taken into consideration. I support the motion.


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