Supporting the local jobs market and accelerating new measures to create and retain jobs will be the key focus of a major new £200 million Economy and Jobs initiative.
Welcoming the initiative, Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster said while her main focus remained on rebalancing the economy over the longer term, the impact of the global downturn meant that more needed to be done to boost the local labour market in the short-term.
Key points from the Economy and Jobs initiative are: An extra £5.7 million to support tourism and help complete some major tourism projects; Proposal to provide higher levels of support to employers for jobs filled by disadvantaged workers (ie over 50s, long-term unemployed); A new Skills Grant proposal to encourage small businesses (up to 50 employees) to invest in new skills development; Finance Voucher to help SMEs access the specialist support they need to grow their business; Fast-tracking processes to encourage more investment applications.
Arlene Foster said: “When I launched the Economic Strategy on behalf of the Executive in March, I stated that the route to economic success would come through a renewed focus on export-led growth.
“To support this, Invest NI has committed further resources, to support local firms seeking to secure and grow their sales in Turkey, the Nordics, Central & Eastern Europe and Canada. Invest NI now has an in-market expertise in 27 countries across the world and these resources will make an important contribution in increasing the value of our export sales.
“Invest NI has also made significant progress towards the key targets it is responsible for under the Programme for Government, with over 8,600 jobs promoted against the target of 25,000 and £458 million investment commitments made against the £1billion target.
“However, we recognised that the Strategy was being launched at a time of uncertainty in the global economy and that it needed to be flexible to enable us to respond to emerging issues.
“That is why the Executive has announced the Economy and Jobs initiative and made over £200 million available to support people, support businesses and support investment. The initiative comprises a range of proposals including proposal to help smaller businesses gain increased and rapid support and a scheme aimed at encouraging employers to help people who are finding it difficult to get a job.
“On the tourism front, an extra £5.7million will be used to develop tourism schemes including a range of capital projects which had not progressed because of budgetary constraints. The NI Tourist Board estimate that tourism capital projects will support over 450 construction jobs”