Question Time: Employment and Learning Tuesday 02 June 2015

With the proposed closure of the Belfast Metropolitan College Tower Street Campus, Employment and Learning Minister, Stephen Farry, discussed alternative options available for young people interested in studying in specialist performing arts training. The Minister pointed to the £12m investment in the new SPACE facility (for performing arts, computing and engineering) in Bangor’s South East Regional College campus and the wide ranging provision of courses in this area. Performing arts courses are also available in colleges in Lisburn, Ballymoney and Newtownabbey. When Basil McCrea argued that Bangor is too far away for many people, the Minister warned against “a sense of parochialism in that, if it is not in Belfast, it does not work”, adding that it is, “a terrible message to send to the other five colleges (outside Belfast) and, indeed, students who are functioning there. ” Tough decisions have had to be made in light of the cuts to the Further Education budget and the decision to close the Tower Street campus was made in the knowledge that Bangor’s SPACE facility is only 13 miles away.

Gary Middleton then asked the Minister about the strategies being employed to address youth unemployment in Foyle. The Youth Unemployment Scheme was introduced to help young people between 18 and 24 to develop desirable skills and compete for employment. 1200 young people in the Foyle/Lisnagelvin area participated in the scheme from 2012-2015. The Steps 2 Success employment programme is also available to young people who are mandated on to the programme after 9 months on benefit. Other programmes include ‘Into Work Training Support’ and United Youth. The Department is also undertaking a review of youth training to help boost the skills and employability of our young people.

During Question Time Mr Farry also answered questions on apprenticeships, freight transport and logistics training, careers in childcare and the developing of IT skills.

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