Northern Ireland’s economic recovery will be driven by innovation, investment and a skilled workforce, according to Economy Minister Diane Dodds.
The Minister was speaking as she launched the Economic Recovery Action Plan which sets out a road map to rebuilding the economy from the impact of the pandemic.
The Minister said: “As we move slowly back to normality, we must put all our efforts into restarting, repairing and rebuilding our economy. We must encourage businesses to innovate and lead and we must support workers to prepare for new opportunities.
“My Economic Recovery Action Plan is the blueprint to rebuild a stronger economy in Northern Ireland. We will focus on where we have the greatest opportunity to drive innovation and develop the skills and capability of our workforce to secure better jobs.”
The report identifies supporting a highly-skilled workforce, stimulating research and development, building a greener economy and promoting investment, trade and exports as the drivers to recovery.
It also identifies a number of actions the Department plans to take to stimulate growth. These include:
the development of a flexible skills fund;
widening access to apprenticeships by removing the age cap;
developing proposals to implement a Northern Ireland artificial intelligence centre of excellence;
delivering the High Street Stimulus Scheme;
delivering a Tourism Voucher Scheme to stimulate demand;
accelerating delivery of City and Growth Deals; and
developing a green innovation challenge fund.
The Minister continued: “Throughout this pandemic I have done, and will continue to do, everything in my power to protect jobs and livelihoods.
“The discovery of a vaccine is a game-changer, however, allowing us to look beyond the current restrictions and plan for recovery. The Recovery Action Plan sets out a suite of decisive actions that will further the rebuilding agenda.
“Going forward our message must be clear – Northern Ireland is once again open for business, open for investment and open for visitors.”
The Economic Recovery Action Plan has been welcomed by leaders from the business, tourism and hospitality, and skills sectors.
Angela McGowan, Director of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Northern Ireland, said: “The CBI welcomes the Department for the Economy’s Recovery Action Plan. The emphasis on investing in skills, creating employment opportunities and stimulating investment and demand is strongly aligned with the CBI’s build-back-better proposals for a jobs-rich economic recovery.”
Dr Joanne Stuart, CEO of the NI Tourism Alliance (NITA), said: “NITA welcomes the Department’s Recovery Action Plan which recognises the importance of the tourism and travel industry as a key economic driver for regional economic recovery. The actions outlined within the report are critical to supporting the survival and rebuilding of the tourism industry and NITA look forward to continued engagement with the Minister through the Tourism Recovery Steering Group on the development of a sustainable Tourism Strategy.”
Dr Bryan Keating, Chair of the Department’s Strategic Advisory Forum, said: “The Department’s Economic Recovery Plan is a significant piece of work which, I believe, will allow businesses to plan for the future. I also can see how the plan, when successfully executed, will allow young people a welcome opportunity to join the workforce and older employees or those currently out of work to either enhance their careers or re-start them.”
Kevin Holland, Chief Executive of Invest Northern Ireland, said: “The Department’s Recovery Action Plan sets out a wider ambition to create longer term economic prosperity. It will contribute to the trade, investment and jobs that will support the rebalancing of our economy and underpin the building of a shared future for all. We are very happy to see innovation front and centre in driving this ambition.
“We are currently building detailed delivery plans under eight economic drivers aligned to the Department’s plan. These plans can impact quickly, generate public economic success and build for the future.”
John McGrillen, Chief Executive Officer of Tourism NI, said: “I welcome the publication of this action plan as we continue to offer support towards the recovery of our tourism industry in partnership with the Department for the Economy. Many businesses have been severely impacted by the pandemic, but we have also witnessed huge resilience and a determination to adapt and survive.
“The recovery plan includes the development of a sustainable, regenerative Tourism Strategy focusing on economic growth, social wellbeing and the protection of the environment. The plan will also allow us to develop and deliver industry-wide training to the tourism sector, as well as campaigns and additional funding to provide the skills and capabilities to improve and grow product offerings and business models.”