MLAs Paul Frew, Robin Swann and Jim Allister were keen to impress their concern regarding the future of the Northern Regional College in Ballymoney on the Minister for Employment and Learning, Stephen Farry, during today’s Question Time. The business case to assess the best way to provide further education services in the Ballymena, Ballymoney, Coleraine and Larne area has not yet been produced but the MLAs are worried for the future of the college in Ballymoney. The Minister said that Members should not jump to conclusions ahead of the assessment of the business case but that “irrespective of what happens we are committed to ensuring that the people of Ballymoney will be able to access Further Education” and that “the maintenance of the status quo will end up serving our young people poorly”. We have to invest properly in the future of young people by avoiding the “parochial thinking” which might see resources spread too thin.
Mr Farry also provided the House with an update on the relocation of the University of Ulster from Jordanstown to Belfast. He revealed the project remains on target for its 2018 delivery, on time and on budget. A £150m loan from the European Investment Bank has been secured towards the £250m cost of the move. The Minister also assured Members regarding their concerns on the impact of the project on housing and transport in North Belfast saying that the move will be a benefit to the local community.
During listed questions the Minister also provided the latest news on apprenticeships and plans to cope with the high demand for courses at the Lisburn Campus of the South Eastern Regional College. Question Time concluded with 15 minutes of topical questions in which Mr Farry also answered Members questions on the Disability Employment Service, the Youth Employment Scheme, zero hour contracts and equality within Universities.