Question Time: Employment and Learning 10 March 2014

Minister for Employment and Learning, Stephen Farry outlined the actions that he has taken to address the days lost through sickness absence within his Department. A Managing Attendance Action Plan has been developed to tackle the problem through governance, well-being strategies and stakeholder responsibilities. Managers have been encouraged to attend training that provides them with the skills to deal with absence management. An e-learning package on managing absence will soon be deployed to all employees in the Department. Sickness absence has been improving down the years with the average number of days lost falling from 17.7 days in 2003/2004 to 11.5 days in 2012/2013 – the Minister congratulated the staff on their efforts made to date and progress made so far.

Mr Farry also answered questions on the initial teacher training review, the Shankill Job Assist Centre, the efforts of HE and FE institutions in creating an entrepreneurial spirit among students and the opportunities available to unemployed people in the sustainable energy and energy efficiency sectors of the economy.

During topical questions the Minister was asked for his views on and response to Robert Salisbury’s report that industrial relations among the 6 FE colleges are “not fit for purpose”. Mr Farry welcomed the report and revealed his hope that it will represent a “new beginning in terms of human resources relations within the FE sector”. The 17 recommendations offered in the report have been endorsed by Colleges NI who is now consulting with stakeholders with a view to their implementation. There was also an update on the future plans for Stranmillis College and Chris Hazzard asked for an update on the training of emergency doctors in light of the “ongoing crisis in our A&E departments”.

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