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2 | CENTRE OF COMPETITIVENESS

Belfast Telegraph | JULY 2 2019 SPONSORED

Manufacturing Talent Rules! summit tackles the skills shortages with ideas overhaul

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ith upwards of 60% of local manufacturers reporting difficulty recruiting for entry level, skilled, managerial and specialist roles, the recent Manufacturing Talent Rules! summit, attended by over 150 industry delegates, agreed on how best to tackle the sector’s on-going skills shortages. The over-whelming consensus amongst delegates was that the sector needs to consciously dispel the myth that it offers dirty, dangerous, dull and poorly paid jobs and instead highlight the dynamic, digitally focused reality. Information on the breadth of roles, career paths, personal development opportunities and salaries on offer should be more readily available and more resources should be devoted to authentically telling the story of manufacturing. Collaboration is key to changing perceptions or as one presenter phrased it “none of us are as smart as all of us.” The importance of speaking as one and developing a charter which embodies the values and commitment of the sector drew strong support. Following the summit, the Centre for Competitiveness has begun working on such a Charter. Prioritising engagement with schools also emerged as a key theme, as was ensuring that the interactions with schools were interesting and captured the ex-

citing nature of manufacturing and production. Providing the right content in the right context was deemed crucial, so the Centre for Competitiveness is currently producing a print and digital Manufacturing Talent Rules! magazine which will be distributed this Autumn to every post-primary school in Northern Ireland. Supported by videos the magazine will give information on the range of careers on offer as well as the summer programmes, work experience and placement opportunities provided by local manufacturers. An interactive event for Year 11s is also being developed. Making parents aware of and contextualising the scale of future opportunities in the manufacturing sector is an essential next step. A 2018 report by the World Economic Forum estimated that robots could eliminate 75 million jobs globally by 2022 and create another 133 million jobs. In this context giving students a foundation in industrial technology is a smart move. The summit also explored how to attract and retain more women into the sector. In 2018 only 20% of those employed in the U.K manufacturing sector were women and just 12% of U.K engineers were women. Delegates agreed that ambassador programmes, male allies and mentors, and female networking groups worked well. They also felt that more op-

portunities for flexible working as well as programmes aimed at returners would further attract and retain more women into the sector. Many delegates thought that early stage career forums and job rotation might help retain more recent graduates and since the summit a NI Women in Manufacturing Lean in Circle has been formed. The importance of culture was emphasised time and again as was prioritising the mental health and well-being of those working in the sector. Presenters and panellists spoke of the need to initiate the “How are you?” conversation and regularly ‘pulse check’ employees satisfaction levels. A desire by many delegates to delve deeper into the challenges that cultural transformation presents has resulted in the development of a stand-alone mini-conference on cultural transformation slated for late this year. The Manufacturing Talent Rules! summit was at its heart a gathering of really committed people focused on the creation and implementation of real-world solutions to a particularly thorny problem. As one delegate remarked at the end of the event “that was good, but everybody wants to know what comes next?” Susan Cleland Deputy CEO Centre for Competitiveness

WHAT’S NEXT? Print and digital Manufacturing Talent Rules! magazine sent to every post-primary school in Northern Ireland Interactive event for Year 11s Development of a Manufacturing Talent Rules! charter A mini-conference on Cultural Transformation in Manufacturing

ABOUT THE CENTRE FOR COMPETITIVENESS The Centre for Competitiveness is a not for profit membership organisation established by the Northern Ireland Private sector in 1990 to actively support the development of an internationally competitive economy through innovation, productivity and Quality Excellence in the public, private and voluntary sectors. Through its global network the Centre maintains its leading edge in Competitiveness strategies and practices through international collaboration. Competitiveness fosters innovation and in turn creates a more prosperous future. Competitiveness lies in the intersection of culture, policy, geography and talent. With this idea in mind, the Centre for Competitiveness brings together organizations with the common mission to accelerate competitiveness through collaboration, allowing members to learn from each other’s experiences and exchange best practices. Capturing these innovations and drawing from the cumulative expertise of its members, the Centre strives to enhance competitive strategies in this new era of illumination and find concrete policy and business recommendations in order to navigate the transition.

Susan Cleland Deputy CEO of Centre for Competitiveness with Summit Host Mark Simpson.


JULY 2 2019 | Belfast Telegraph

CENTRE OF COMPETITIVENESS | 3

SPONSORED

QUB: Inspiring Manufacturing Talent

Emma McQuigan, Mechanical Engineer and Ben Lindsay, Product Design Engineer, who will graduate from Queen’s EPS this year to form their own company STAND.

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he responsibility for producing talent and innovation, the two essential ingredients which allow Northern Ireland manufacturing to consistently punch above its weight, is one which Queen’s University Belfast takes seriously. The university is where many manufacturing companies source their engineers, computer scientists and auto-

mation experts and it is where the sector turns to for research and development to hone their products and processes. Little wonder then that the Queen’s Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPS) faculty makes sure it is embedded with manufacturing companies, both locally and around the globe, to ensure it is producing the right kind of talent and offering the right kind of research and development

support. That is essential because the manufacturing world is forever changing so it stands to reason the university needs to flex its course design to meet those needs. Examples of that are easy to find. Our industry partners said there was a need for more leadership skills in undergraduates, so EPS enhanced and reshaped

its programmes adding a leadership angle through its Engineering Leadership Programme. It also created new courses for professional development at Masters level, such as Mechanical Engineering with Management, which are already helping to prepare and shape the future leaders and directors. Our industry partners also said that it needed graduates with entrepreneurial skills, and

an understanding of business. So EPS responded by including Employability Development workshops and Professional Studies modules. This has opened up a world of opportunity and for some current graduates such as Emma McQuigan (Mechanical Engineer), and Ben Lindsay (Product Design Engineer) who will graduate from Queen’s this year, to form their own company STAND even before finishing their degree course. These types of intervention are allowing companies to attract and retain manufacturing talent while still changing or developing their careers, as well as hiring graduates into the sector equipped with the right skills to meet industry demand. The university is also collaborating with some of the most innovative companies in the world to help them streamline their processes and to come up with new ways of tackling old problems and to imagine new technologies which will sharpen their competitive edge. For example, the university’s £7.5million advanced manufacturing technology facility based in NITC at the Belfast campus, provides advanced machining, robotics and welding technology supported by professional engineers, is helping companies reduce cycle times, improve product quality, and train engineers, thus bringing new capability and opportunity with reduced risk. It is also playing a central role in the recently-awarded Belfast Region City Deal, an initiative which will transform the manufacturing sector and wider economy in Northern Ireland. The City Deal comprises of a

10-year programme of inclusive growth which will bring an anticipated £350 million in funding from Westminster and create 20,000 new and better jobs, accessible to people from all communities. These initiatives show that everything EPS is doing is centred on the goal of making the Northern Ireland manufacturing sector world class, a momentum which is driven by the steady supply of top-class talent. To mould that talent is at the core of Queen’s aim but it also places huge emphasis on inspiring the next generation of engineers through the likes of outreach events with post primary schools. Such inspiration is critical, as some of those who are or have been involved with the faculty know only too well, such as Claire McAlinden, the Director of Operations at QUB. Claire is a global leader with significant mastery in Manufacturing, Supply Chain and Cultural Transformation, having worked in a number of senior leadership roles for Procter & Gamble (P&G) over 20 years, most recently in their Gillette Division. Having worked in many countries in P&G’s operations gaining a wealth of experience, she returned to Northern Ireland in 2015. Claire currently works at Queen’s University in the faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPS). Here, she is using her corporate experience to drive closer partnership and impact between QUB and the Manufacturing sector in NI.

Manufacturing careers to close the skills gap

BY CLAIRE McALINDEN, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS AT QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY BELFAST

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he Northern Ireland manufacturing world needs to address its skills gap if it is to thrive and provide opportunity for all our people. We need to encourage new talent to come into the sector, we need to nurture and retain the talent which is already there and we need to ready the next generation of leaders to take advantage of the disruptive technologies and turn them into opportunities to grow their business faster and further. Much of that can be achieved

if we focus on building great job opportunities into true manufacturing careers, rather than “just jobs”. Such careers pay better and are more enjoyable, so everyone benefits. Careers which offer a clear path of progression and opportunity to contribute, and an ability to continuously upskill and reskill, as the world of work changes. Careers that are built in a culture that centres on the values of innovation, diversity & inclusion, and continuous development. If

we can do that we will help attract the best talent to the sector and, crucially, also help retain it. It is something we are focused on at QUB’s EPS. We take our role of producing the best graduates with the right type of skills to meet the demands of industry very seriously. For instance, our undergraduate courses are focused on a project-based learning approach which develops students’ problem-solving capability in a teambased environment, mimicking the workplace and better pre-

paring students for entering the world of work. But our responsibility doesn’t end there. To help meet the challenge of retaining great people, we also strive to offer the support which manufacturing companies need to upskill their employees onthe-job so as to fulfil the pledge to provide a progressive career, something which is becoming an essential offering in today’s job market. Such professional development could, for instance, be fo-

cused on training in Industry 4.0 skills, or on leadership and finance skills, learning a new skill or gaining a qualification which will allow employees to develop their role within the organisation. A good example of the latter are our part-time MScs in Cyber Security, Software Development and Data Analytics, courses which not only help bolster the career of employees but also offer a big plus for companies. Those are three skills areas which companies from all sec-

tors are having to enrich to meet the challenges of today’s technological world; what better way to meet that need than by upskilling current employees? My own experience highlights how companies can grow loyalty if they are able to offer a true career. Before joining Queen’s 3 years ago, I worked for Proctor and Gamble (P&G) throughout Europe for 20 years, one of the world’s most progressive manufacturers. They produce a diverse range of brands Continued >>


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Belfast Telegraph | JULY 2 2019 SPONSORED

Claire McAlinden, Operations Director at QUB’s Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, centre, with Professor Mark Price, Pro Vice Chancellor at QUB’s Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences and John Houlihan (right) from P&G.

and products from Gillette, Pampers, Pantene, Oral B, Fairy and many others. I, like many of my colleagues in P&G, stayed significantly longer than we originally intended as young graduates, in my case 20 years! Why, you might ask, did I stay with the company for so long? Quite simply because it offered me a career which rewarded success, laid out a clear path for progression, had a culture of diversity and inclusion, was constantly helping me upskill and where I was inspired by a mentor in the form of my first ever boss in P&G John Houlihan (pictured). That was something which is hugely valuable to me and allowed me to rise through the ranks to a senior position very quickly. Of course, we need to remember that P&G is a multinational corporation so has the resources to provide much of that training and guidance in house. At EPS we’re well aware that many manufacturing companies, particularly our SMEs in Northern Ireland, don’t have such capacity and that’s a role that universities can fulfil, and that’s why we offer courses to upskill manufacturing employees on the job. By doing that we help local companies not just retain talent but also draw new talent into our industry. Communicating the message that a career in manufacturing is a world away from its traditional image is also key on that latter note, and that is why we take time

to highlight the varied and exciting opportunities which are out there in the sector, particularly in Northern Ireland. By doing that we can attract talent from other areas, whether that be different industries or from outside Northern Ireland, providing people with great lifelong opportunity for career development and learning. Returners – like myself – are a well of talent which the manufacturing sector here can tap into and will be more than willing to hear of the opportunities which have become available within these shores. Professor Mark Price, the Pro Vice Chancellor of EPS at Queen’s (pictured), recognised the opportunities that could come with recruiting someone like me from a completely different sector into Higher Education. We need more leaders in Manufacturing to look past “previous role descriptions” or different “sector experience”, and tap into that potential “Returner talent pool”. This will create a real diversity of ideas, thought, experience and backgrounds in an organisation which in turn will accelerate bottom line results. By creating true careers and the right culture to allow them to flourish in the sector here in Northern Ireland and by communicating the breadth and excitement which comes with working in manufacturing, we can close that skills gap and propel this industry to be a world leader enriching us all.


JULY 2 2019 | Belfast Telegraph

CENTRE OF COMPETITIVENESS | 5 SPONSORED

Manufacturing a partnership that lasts BRIAN GILLAN, HEAD OF BUSINESS AND CORPORATE BANKING. FIRST TRUST BANK

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uch of the current economic data for Northern Ireland is positive according to the Ulster University’s Economic Policy Centre Summer Outlook, with the job market in particular continuing to surprise. Manufacturing remains the largest employment growth sector responsible for one in four of all jobs in our economy, however this growth appears to have stalled in the last year. Looking forward, the PMI data for the sector is mixed – new business and future output expectations are positive, but employment has gone negative. Talent therefore is a key focus for our local manufacturers. That was the topic for discussion at the Manufacturing Talent Rules Summit in Belfast earlier this month, an event we were keen to support given our specific investment and focus on the manufacturing sector. It’s clear from our dealings with customers that two key investment strands underpin their forwarding planning – a commitment to investment in innovation and investment in talent. It is this focus that we are keen to emulate and promote. Recently, eight of our own team members from across Business Centre, Acquisitions and Corporate completed a Manufacturing Awareness Programme delivered by the University of Warwick. This first-class training programme combined in-depth

teaching on topics such as Supply Chain Management, Manufacturing Finance and Industry 4.0, with on-site visits to market-leading, innovative manufacturers. Our support of progressive manufacturing includes backing for investment in plant, processes, technology and training. With a weaker sterling exchange rate, importing and input costs become more expensive. It can also affect migrant labour. This all adds impetus to local businesses to invest in new technology and processes to drive efficiency, innovation and automation. Access to finance with a banking partner that understands your challenges is vital for manufacturers who are and want to modernise their operations to be more competitive. Where there are challenges however, there is also opportunity. Our purpose is to back customers to achieve their dreams and ambitions. We adopt a partnership approach with our customers – and commit to getting to know their strategy, values and longer-term objectives. This approach also means we can offer the financial structure that provides the liquidity to grow and adapt to future market changes. To find out more or how we can help please talk to our Manufacturing sector specialists Ann McSorley (ann.mcsorley@ aib.ie) or Sean Connolly (sean.p.connolly@ aib.ie).

L-R at the Manufacturing Talent Rules Conference is: Brian Gillan, Kevin Fitzpatrick and Sheena McFlynn from First Trust Bank, Susan Cleland, Deputy CEO at Centre for Competitiveness, Patrick McGuigan from First Trust Bank along with broadcaster Mark Simpson who hosted the event.

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Securing the best talent L

ast year, staff at Avondale Foods made a surprising discovery. The hugely successful Craigavon company prided itself on its commitment to diversity, yet a lean analysis revealed that no women were employed in the 19-strong distribution warehouse. Director Simon Geddis (left) says they were all scratching their heads: “We couldn’t understand how this had happened. “We asked why it was 100% male, as women are quite capable of doing these jobs . “It didn’t make any sense. The best we could come up with was that it was down to groupthink or unconscious bias.” But identifying the issue was the first step and once Avondale Foods recruited one woman to the department, that single move kickstarted a sea change and more women began to apply. Now one of Northern Ireland’s top 100 privately-owned companies, Avondale Foods rose from humble beginnings as a vegetable business to become a leading manufacturer of freshly prepared convenience foods, supplying blue-chip names like Waitrose, Asda, Morrison and Dunnes Stores and offering career opportunities for skilled employees in areas such as planning, new product development and engineering. It now supplies high street giant M&S with all its noodle

“IF YOU CAN MAKE YOUR BUSINESS ATTRACTIVE TO AS WIDE AS RANGE OF CANDIDATES AS POSSIBLE AND IF YOU CAN MEET THEIR EXPECTATIONS, IT MAKES THE TALENT POOL LARGER.”

products and stir fry sauces. “Our customers demand very, very high standards — so what we need are brilliant people who are capable of delivering the requirements that our customers demand,” Simon says. “We see this as a terrific opportunity because it puts clear water between us and our competitors, in terms of environmental standards, ethical standards, how we distribute. “As a business grows larger, it needs to draw on a good talent pool. “If you can make your business attractive to as wide as range of candidates as possible and if you can meet their expectations, it makes the talent pool larger. “And if you allow those people to grow with the organisation, you have a win-win.” Attracting talent is a challenge in a location where there is intense competition for a finite talent pool — and that can mean drawing on talent from further afield, such as Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Portugal. “We’ve found that people who have had a different cultural journey can bring out-of-the-box

ideas to the organisation. “Through that diversity you can have this wonderful tapestry of ideas — as opposed to having a specific group where you can get almost trapped in groupthink,” Simon says. “We look at the employee life cycle and, at each touch point from attraction and interview to retention and training, we’re asking what are the expectations of the candidates, how does the business make them feel, can we offer a more flexible approach to working arrangements to retain people with young children?” The company also offers innovative health and wellbeing events and employs a staff nurse on an outside contract, allowing staff to consult experts over any health concerns. “Our challenge is to recruit really good people, be attractive enough that they want to work here for a period of time, that they learn and develop and can avail of the opportunities within the company. “If that can’t happen in the timescale that they want, we’ve brought them on a journey where they are more valuable to the industry as a whole,” Simon says. “We want to create a sustainable business, so we need good management level people to allow the business to grow and thrive in the long term and deliver for our customers.”


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Belfast Telegraph | JULY 2 2019 SPONSORED

Mid and East Antrim: the manufacturing heartland of the NI economy

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id and East Antrim has a proud reputation as the engine room of the Northern Ireland economy and the region’s manufacturing heartland. A third of employment within the borough is within the manufacturing sector, and Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, led by Chief Executive Anne Donaghy, is an organisation passionate about growing the economy and reestablishing the area’s standing as a manufacturing stronghold. The 40 elected members working together makes this a forward-looking, innovative Council committed to providing the key ingredients for economic development. The Council works alongside its partners in the public and private sectors to create jobs, develop an advanced manufacturing ecosystem, attract major investment and capitalise on the talent of its citizens – that’s what we’re here to do. Mid and East Antrim is an area that has been hit harder than most in recent years, with the loss of around 3,000 highly paid manufacturing jobs. The Council’s Chair of Borough Growth, Alderman Gregg McKeen, is leading the economic fightback with plans to deliver on a clear vision to reignite the Borough’s economy but is under no illusion there remains many challenges in securing the manufacturing sector’s future. Ms Donaghy said Mid and East Antrim’s strong manufacturing heritage, capability, skills base and hard work ethic of our people in the toughest of times means it is perfectly positioned to reignite its manufacturing industry. Ms Donaghy added: “We tick all the boxes needed to become a hub for advanced manufacturing and innovation, and my vision is for this to be established to industry 4.0 standards. “I believe that through a mixture of our local talent (both existing and pipeline), existing infrastructure, and the expertise and skills of companies in the local area, we are ideally positioned to deliver. “There is no doubt, it remains an extremely challenging time for manufacturing in Mid and East Antrim and across Northern Ireland, and I expect there will be further challenges ahead. “But I strongly believe that through our collaborative and innovative strategy for growth and development, Mid and East Antrim will undergo a manufac-

turing renaissance and re-establish the engine room of manufacturing and innovation in Northern Ireland.” The Council is a key partner in the Belfast Region City Deal, which will deliver up to £1 billion of investment, create around 20,000 jobs and boost prosperity across Northern Ireland. Mid and East Antrim is set to secure £80 million of funding from Belfast Region City Deal to encourage economic development and help grow the region’s business strengths through innovation and digital growth. A key project aimed at breathing new life into the Borough is the £145 million transformation of the former St Patrick’s Barracks site in Ballymena. This

will see the delivery of a regional hub for innovation and advanced manufacturing. Some £26 million of funding secured by Council through City Deal has been assigned to the creation of an i4C Innovation centre – a key driver for the regeneration of the St Patrick’s site through innovation and digital. Ms Donaghy said: “The creation of the i4C innovation hub is a central pillar in Mid and East Antrim’s economic vision where the elected representatives set clear targets for job security, job creation and growth in investment. “As the engine room of Northern Ireland manufacturing in Northern Ireland it was a no-brainer that we felt confident

across the borough at both political, manufacturing and industry level to compete for the biggest UK infrastructure contract, the Heathrow expansion project, recently approved by Westminster. “We’re proud we remain in the final stages of the competition having been selected as one of the last 18 sites out of an original 127. “This ambition is only possible when the public and private sector work side by side to support a joined up vision. I commend the 100-strong manufacturing businesses and stakeholders already engaged through our Manufacturing Task Force. “The MPs across County Antrim have carried out sterling work in supporting the Heath-

Susan Cleland Deputy CEO of the Centre for Competitiveness launching Manufacturing Talent Rules Summit at Ryobi in Carrickfergus with Platinum Partners Anne Donaghy, Chief Executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council; Ann McSorley, Head of Corporate Banking First Trust Bank; Special Event Partner Claire McAlinden, Operations Director QUB Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences and Kacper Szapanski, Die Cast Operator at Ryobi. row Hub bid at Westminster level, fighting hard to bring part of this investment package to the suppliers of Northern Ireland. “Elected members remain extremely committed to supporting manufacturing and along with JTI and Michelin they have funded the Manufacturing Taskforce. “Council have also committed to support Graham’s Construction in the development of the Heathrow Hub, and we are key

advocates and partners of Manufacturing Talent Rules. We continue to work closely with our local universities to be at the cutting-edge of innovation.” Mid and East Antrim’s Mayor and Chair of Borough Growth, supported by Ms Donaghy, will be moving to secure our manufacturing footprint across Europe and the world, and look forward to showcasing the area at Westminster this Autumn.


JULY 2 2019 | Belfast Telegraph

CENTRE OF COMPETITIVENESS | 7 SPONSORED

“We must reconfigure our Manufacturing Talent Aquisition investment culture”

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ver the years as an engineer, entrepreneur, and lead academic, responsible for the development of a wide range of the current Assured Skills Academies now mainstream with a number of inward investment companies, Dr Mark Brotherston, CEO of Inspire Business Centre, has become concerned by the increasing trend of Foreign Direct Investment companies drawing talent away from the indigenous SME sector. “We must rethink the talent acquisition pipeline, as the current model is consistently displacing locally developed talent from our SME sector, putting pressure on them to constantly find new talent to survive and grow, with limited return on their original training investment” he says. Yet he insists that there is plenty of potential talent out there – it’s just that we’re not focused on a ‘demand led’ talent development process. “Training for trainings sake is not meeting the needs of industry. We must

Dr Mark Brotherston, CEO Inspire Business Centre.

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re-think the ‘Why’ then deliver the ‘What’, resulting in an agile solution, where we identify bespoke talent requirement, in collaboration with industry sectors, design competency based, application orientated, agile skills development models, which align people, with the right competencies, mind sets, aptitude and attitude, with the abundance of employment opportunities which exist, within NI manufacturing.” Inspire Business Centre is a local enterprise development organisation consisting of 70 companies collaborating in an ‘Enterprise Eco-System’ with a challenging strategic development plan including significant investment in ‘Manufacturing Talent Acquisition’ “Many of the 70 companies at Inspire identified a need for talent development. As opposed to an offer of a one-size-fits-all model, that doesn’t supply the bespoke contemporary skills, at a pace, nor in a place which succinctly meets the business need, so we offered bespoke solutions.” Describing the normal process as “a tanker rather than a speedboat”, Mark explains how

Inspire decided to pioneer something more agile and responsive. “Inspire Academy Model is reaching out to economically inactive people and upskilling them to take up jobs that already exist, inspiring people, trapped in economic inactivity who don’t see a pathway to employment, we have delivered 20 Academies and created 250 new jobs” he says. “A specific Manufacturing talent acquisition pipeline is our Inspiring Technology Entrepreneurship and Design (ITED) project working with GCSE design and technology pupils at Dundonald High School, creating a ‘Manufacturing Innovation Zone’ on site, which is available to be directly timetabled. “This facilitates the GCSE Technology and Design students to design through contemporary software, 3D-printing and Laser Cutting manufacturing in a live working environment. The collaboration has enabled their grades to soar and a new skilled talent pool is being developed close to the direct employment opportunity.”

Manufacturing, Northern Ireland and Brexit: Rory Campbell, Forde Campbell LLC T here’s a big shake-up coming to UK immigration laws. The need to regain control over immigration drove Brexit, but what are the consequences of the new regime for Northern Ireland’s manufacturing sector? A hard Brexit will end EU workers’ right to live and work in the UK without restriction. EU citizens would face the same immigration system into the UK as non-EU citizens, and incoming workers would have to meet a series of requirements before being allowed to enter and work. The Migration Advisory Committee have suggested that migrant workers should meet a minimum salary threshold of £30,000 for a five year working visa. Immigration rules for EU citizens may be softened, at least for the short term, if there’s a negotiated Brexit; a no-deal Brexit would end freedom of movement immediately and totally. For EU citizens living and working without restriction in NI this will be drastic regime

change. It’s true that the EU settlement scheme aims to allow EU workers who’ve lived here for five continuous years to work, set up business and access benefits and healthcare. And certainly a percentage of the EU workforce are Irish citizens, who can live and work without restriction anywhere in the UK under the terms of the Common Travel Area. But NISRA data clearly shows that the prospect of Brexit is causing EU workers to leave Northern Ireland, evidencing a 26% reduction in EU workers from 2016 q2 to 2018 q2. Will they try to return post-Brexit? They’ll find it hard to do so: a £30,000 salary is a tough call in a region where the average wage is £25,000, so work permits will be hard to find. And in the short term they may well not want to return, if a falling sterling adds to exchange rate pressures intensified by the proximity of the Republic to make a local wage less attractive. The worry is that Northern Ireland’s manufacturing sector depends more on EU labour than anywhere else in the UK,

with EU workers making up 19% of the manufacturing workforce. In England, EU workers comprise 11% of the sector, 9% in Scotland and 7% in Wales. Labour shortage would damage manufacturing employers, falling behind competitors on the other side of the border whose doors remain open to EU labour and skills. And shortage of workers will impact on foreign direct investment, given that the top reason cited for foreign companies locating in the North is the availability of a skilled workforce. The Department for the Economy believes that Northern Ireland has the potential to excel. Its Economy 2030: A Consultation on an Industrial Strategy for Northern Ireland paints an encouraging picture for the future. But success requires continued access to skills and workers. In a hard Brexit, and especially in a no-deal scenario, the impact of the new immigration regime will be particularly savage in a region with lower wages than Great Britain, a higher dependency on EU workers and a competitor economy only a border away.


8 | CENTRE OF COMPETITIVENESS

Belfast Telegraph | JULY 2 2019

Kerry Group and Hyster-Yale

Moyola Precision Engineering

ASM Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council

First Trust Bank

Lean-in Belfast

Ryobi

Queen’s University Belfast

Coca-Cola HBC

MoF Technologies Thales

Belfast City Council

Profile for Belfast Telegraph

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