INDEPENDENT MLA Claire Sugden has said that high-level policies aiming to remedy
skills gaps and staff shortages need to filter down into tangible action on the ground in
order to benefit industry.
Many industries remained under-staffed, Ms Sugden said, with skills gaps also emerging
across a variety of sectors.
“Sectors such as meant processing, logistics, manufacturing and hospitality are all
reporting issues filling vacancies,” Ms Sugden said. “Without appropriate staff levels our
economic growth – that has recently been stronger than nearly any other part of the UK
– will soon be stunted.
“Skills strategies, such as the Department for the Economy’s ‘Skills for a 10X Economy’
are a necessary part of resolving this issue, but strategies are only as good as the effect
“If they are not getting people into work and providing industry with the optimum level of
skilled staff then they are not currently working.
“I appreciate this particular strategy is looking at the following 10 years – and will
hopefully provide greater sustainability for industry and employment moving forward –
but we also need an approach that has more immediate benefits and effects.”
A variety of factors had contributed to the current skills and staffing shortages, said the
East Londonderry MLA.
“There were undesirable consequences for industry from Brexit,” Ms Sugden said. “New
UK-wide immigration laws prevented many overseas employees from working in industry
here – industries that had become reliant upon this workforce.
“Changing immigration rules can only be done by Westminster, but pressure needs to be
put on the UK government by ministers here to underline the effect current laws are
“The pandemic also saw people leave professions that they have not returned to.
“These were things that occurred beyond the control of the Executive, but we still have
plenty of tools at our disposal to form a system that upskills our society, utilises those
skills that already exist and satisfy the needs of industry – all while getting people better,
and better paid, jobs.”