The growth of some of Northern Ireland’s leading companies is being thwarted because many graduates seeking employment lack the skills needed for the workplace.
That’s according to Patrick Leggett, Director at Lisburn’s Xperience Group who was speaking as Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) launched its policy statement ‘Growing Something Brilliant: An Action Plan for Growing the Northern Ireland Economy’ which sets out the way forward for the growth of the local economy.
The action plan, which consulted a number of NI Chamber’s 1,200 membership including Xperience Group includes almost 40 recommendations on what needs to be done by government to achieve growth and prosperity in Northern Ireland.
Mr Leggett said: “There is a definite shortage of people with strong software development and Microsoft skills.
“Over the past two years we have invested circa £1.2 million in developing our own construction solution as well as building our own ‘cloud’/hosting platforms in Belfast and London.
“And having recently won contracts in Northern Ireland and Great Britain we are expanding into Scotland and England but are having real difficulty in getting the right skills locally to help meet this demand.
“There is a definite shortage of people with strong software development and Microsoft skills.
“From an SME perspective, FDI can increase competition for skills, so we need access to, and support to, develop more local talent to ensure that we are not exposed and able to continue to expand.”
Commenting on the issue, NI Chamber Chief Executive Ann McGregor said: “Preparing young people for the world of work, investing in the skills of those already in work and improving the employability of those not in work, particularly the economically inactive, is really important for Northern Ireland’s competitiveness.
“Businesses can only perform as well as the people who start, work in and run them, and skills shortages are consistently raised as one of the biggest issues facing our members.
“A higher share of our working-age population has low qualifications and low levels of literacy and numeracy, and many young people are not really equipped for the world of work.
“There is a shortage of graduates across a number of key areas, including management, software development, ICT and STEM.
“There is already pressure, and there will be additional pressure after the reduction of Corporation Tax.
“We believe that there will be a greater requirement for higher-level skills in the creative arts, managerial and professional roles and computer science, as well as management and leadership.”