Question Time: Minister for Employment and Learning Tuesday 05 November 2013

During topical questions Stephen Agnew took the opportunity to ask the Minister for Employment and Learning, Dr Stephen Farry, for further information on the recently announced theatre at the South Eastern Regional College in Bangor.
Dr Farry highlighted the importance of the creative industries to the local economy and suggested that this project would bring further benefits to Bangor. A 350-seat theatre will be made available as part of the development, and, although it is formally part of SERC and is there primarily for the use of students, the college will make it available for use by the community in a commercial capacity.

Sammy Douglas asked the Minister for his assessment of the skills gap for highly skilled welders and associated professions and also what opportunities the Department could exploit that would benefit the local economy.
Dr Farry stressed that the Bridge to Employment programme was completed to recruit unemployed people with basic skills and to upskill them to work as scaffolders and pipe fitters. However "The welding element has proved difficult, as arrangements for the provision of the relevant training have not been finalised.  That centres on the identification of a suitable training provider.  My Department remains in discussion with the recruitment agency on that." The Minister also stated that "Our various programmes, including Skills Solutions, are there to respond to the needs of business."

In a response to a question on the additional support fund from Dolores Kelly the Minister stated:
"The additional funding is initially intended to provide colleges with the appropriate means to address the technical and personal support needs of existing students with learning difficulties and of students wishing to enrol.  That extra funding will also enable colleges to ensure that the additional technical and personal support needs of existing students with learning difficulties, who are currently enrolled on discrete programmes, are met."

Cathal Boylan asked the Minister to outline his priorities for greater North/South cooperation. Dr Farry stated that he and his officials regularly interact with Southern counterparts to share policy and good practice and to identify opportunities for collaboration in areas that include employment, training, further and higher education, employment relations, and accessing European funding.

For a full transcript of Question Time visit:

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