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Magazine of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce



Prof Liam Maguire, Executive Dean, Ulster University



City of Derry Airport SONI delivering clean electricity grid for NI Focus on Education, Skills, and Training Chamber Member News



contents 4 Message from the CEO 6 President’s Message 13 Find Insurance


Local commercial insurance specialists expand their team

16 cover story

Ulster University on leading key City Deal projects and developing the North West’s tech potential

22 Chamber Life 44 Workplus

Why connecting employers and apprentices can drive post-Covid recovery

62 welcome to the chamber 66 the final word

By Ulster University’s Dr Sandra Moffett

6 13



Message from the CEO Welcome to the 13th edition of CONNECTED, the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce magazine.

CONNECTED, Londonderry Chamber of Commerce’s full colour publication. Designed and produced by business people for business people. Distributed to businesses across the North West.

CONNECTED Magazine Editor Brown O’Connor Communications Content Editors Mairead Reid Production & Design Big Moo Design Advertising Mairead Reid Email Address Front Cover Image Stephen Latimer Photography

Londonderry Chamber of Commerce President Dawn McLaughlin Chief Executive Paul Clancy Business Development Executive Mairead Reid Events Manager Anna Doherty Accounts Assistant Caroline Murphy t: 028 7126 2379 w: Follow us on:

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure accuracy, the publisher accepts no responsibility for omissions or errors within this publication. Editorial submissions are included at the discretion of the editor. The opinions expressed in articles within this publication are not necessarily those of the Chamber. All offers, promotions and competitions appearing in CONNECTED are the sole responsibility of the advertiser/promoting party and Londonderry Chamber of Commerce does not accept any responsibility for any representations made within them.


This is our first edition of 2021, published as we mark a year since the coronavirus pandemic changed life as we know it. 2020 was difficult for so many reasons and in particular for the local business community. No business ever wants to shut their doors to their customers or clients but local businesses in the North West took a courageous and early lead to protect their staff, their customers, and their communities in March last year. Despite this, local businesses across the North West have remained optimistic, pivoted their operations to continue supporting their suppliers and customers, and looked after their local communities. As we move into the summer, our economy and society will reopen once again. The efficient and speedy roll-out of the vaccine gives us our best opportunity to get back to some sense of normality. This edition of CONNECTED features a special bumper focus on education, skills, and training, areas which have come into sharp focus over the past 12 months. We hear from some of the North West’s and indeed Northern Ireland’s best and brightest skills providers, training organisations, educational institutions, apprenticeship providers, and many more. The value of high-quality training and education and the importance of a strong, diverse skillset within the workforce has never been more evident than over the past year. With more and more people sadly finding themselves out of work or needing to reskill or upskill within their jobs, education, skills, and training are front and centre like never before. We hear from the likes of People 1st, North West Regional College, Ulster University, Workplus, and more in this edition about how they have stepped up over the past year to support jobseekers and employers alike. Despite the challenges of the past few months, there has been a palpable sense of optimism for the future from North West businesses. In particular, February’s City Deal announcement was excellent news for our region and the projected levels of capital investment in the North West are truly unprecedented. For this edition’s cover story, we spoke to Ulster University’s Professor Liam Maguire, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Computing, Engineering, and the Built Environment about Magee’s crucial role in the City Deal. Professor Maguire and the Magee campus will play a leading part in some of the Deal’s flagship projects, focusing on research and innovation on emerging technologies like AI, automation, robotics, and health diagnostics, and exploring their real-life potential for business and society. Over the coming weeks and months, the Executive will be continuously reviewing the Covid situation and deciding what can reopen and when. The Chamber will be working hard to secure the certainty and clarity that our members need as they look to get back on their feet, lobbying to get our businesses reopened as soon as safely possible, and speaking up for local business to ensure that you succeed in a successful North West. I hope you enjoy this latest edition of CONNECTED and read about the strength of our local businesses across the entire North West region. Paul Clancy Chief Executive

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Your safe, convenient & cost-effective airport Double Daily flights to London Stansted with Loganair

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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE Welcome to all our members and thank you to everyone who has contributed to this edition of CONNECTED. This is my first edition of CONNECTED as President of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce. The first quarter of 2021 has been a difficult one for many of our local businesses. Responding to the ongoing pandemic, restrictions on trading and doing business, and getting to grips with the new post-Brexit trading rules have been a serious challenge for all our businesses here in the North West. However, I have been heartened by the persistent resilience of our local businesses and business leaders. While desperate to get back to business and doing what they do best, many have pivoted their operations to continue supporting their communities and customers and they have steadfastly followed the rules which keep us all safe. Despite this being the toughest period many of us will ever face, I speak regularly to employers and businesses who are optimistic and positive about the future for the North West. And they’re right to be. Despite the challenges 2021 has faced us with already, it has also brought good news for the North West. The signing of the Heads of Terms of the Derry and Strabane City Deal was excellent news for our city region. With £250m invested in the significant capital projects across Derry and Strabane, it represents the greatest ever public sector investment in our region. Its impact and potential benefits cannot be overstated. Spanning everything from boosting our university and educational institutions, the regeneration of our town and city centres, addressing historical challenges and inequalities like deprivation and unemployment, and creating up to 7000 jobs over the next 10 years, the City Deal has truly transformative potential and it’s now up to business, government, and other key partners to work hard to make it a reality. We’ve also had great news about the future funding of our local airport. Connectivity via road, rail, and air is vital to our region’s economic success and the Government’s decision to fund the route between City of Derry Airport and London Stansted helps keep the North West connected to crucial business hubs across these islands. Moves by the Infrastructure Minister to make our city centre more accessible and enjoyable for everyone will also help boost our struggling city retailers and hospitality businesses as we come out of lockdown. The road out of lockdown and restrictions will be long and economic recovery will take years before


we get back to where we were. Chamber will continue pressing Stormont and Westminster for the necessary financial support which will be key as we get back on our feet. We will also be engaging constructively with our local Ministers and elected representatives but we will be firm in our asks for clarity, certainty, compensation, and a realistic and workable timeframe for reopening. With the successful rollout of the vaccine and Covid cases dwindling as I write, businesses must now be given an indication of when they can expect to open their doors again. I firmly believe the North West is now the prime location on the entire island of Ireland to set up a business. With a low cost of

living and a high quality of life, in close proximity to our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland and only 90 minutes from Belfast, the North West has never been more attractive to foreign investors, start-up companies, budding entrepreneurs, students, and families looking to set up base. The future looks increasingly bright for the North West. Coming out of lockdown, it’s vital that we support our local businesses as we look towards rebuild and recovery. Opportunities for growth and success are there. It’s time for us to grasp them. Dawn McLaughlin President of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce


Employment Law Commercial Law Litigation Property Probate


Derry~Londonderry, Strabane, Omagh, Manchester



O’Neills awarded prestigious Platinum Level Innovator status O’Neills Irish International Sportswear has been officially recognised by the Department for the Economy for its innovation strategy which was widely showcased during the COVID-19 crisis. The North West sportswear company was awarded Platinum Level Innovator status in the Innovate NI Innovation Accreditation Programme, the highest accolade available in the assessment process. Innovate NI is a Department for the Economy programme, helping local businesses innovate successfully. It is delivered by Invest Northern Ireland, local councils, and further education colleges. In March 2020, O’Neills transformed its production line to manufacture scrubs and gowns for frontline healthcare staff in response to COVID-19. The company has continued to focus on innovation, developing its range of healthcare products to supply health authorities across Ireland. The Strabane based company, which is Ireland’s largest sportswear manufacturer, was widely praised for its rapid response to the urgent need for PPE supplies to help protect frontline healthcare staff at the height of the global pandemic. O’Neills also announced that it is working in partnership with a leading UK supplier to manufacture high-quality reusable isolation gowns. The firm, which employs over 800 staff, has been recognised by the Department for the Economy for “demonstrating innovation by creating value from their idea.” O’Neills was previously a recipient of the Bronze Level Innovator certificate, however following a recent assessment through the Innovation Accreditation process, this has now been elevated to Platinum Level.


Chamber launches Learning Centre to support members The Londonderry Chamber has launched a new Learning Management System (LMS) for its members, totally free of charge.

O’Neills Irish International Sportswear has been awarded Platinum Level Innovator status in the Innovate NI Innovation Accreditation Programme, the highest accolade available in the assessment process

Kieran Kennedy, Managing Director of O’Neills, said he was delighted the company had set the standard for local business innovation. “Our business is based on over 100 years of innovative thinking, entrepreneurial spirit and empowering athletes to achieve their best. We are constantly innovating, thinking ahead, responding and improving.” “The innovation and drive of indigenous SMEs is inspiring despite the many new challenges facing businesses as a result of COVID-19. O’Neills are extremely appreciative of the immense loyalty and support from both our highly skilled workforce and our customers in helping us continually strive for success.” Economy Minister Diane Dodds said: “Innovation must be the cornerstone of Northern Ireland’s economic recovery. I believe the Innovation Accreditation Programme assists recovery by supporting businesses to invest in innovation and improve their global competitiveness. It underlines the importance of innovation for business growth and increases awareness of its value. It’s clear that O’Neills have understood this when it diversified in response to the demand for PPE. My congratulations to them on achieving this award.”

Developed in collaboration with local e-learning experts Learning Pool, the Learning Centre is a brand-new membership service which will allow business owners and employers to have more control over their compliance training and a variety of other soft skills in one easy, accessible location. The choice of training courses can be designed to suit the needs of any business in any sector or industry and is designed to suit the needs of the entire workforce, not just management or senior leadership. Signing up to the Learning Centre can take the load off managers by automatically reminding staff when they should repeat required training and managers can easily track their team’s completion progress by using a bespoke dashboard. “This is a really exciting initiative by the Chamber which adds real, tangible value for our members and helps them navigate the often tricky world of compliance, governance, and training”, says Chamber Events Manager Anna Doherty. “The Learning Centre has been developed in association with Learning Pool and will harness their fantastic expertise and skills in the world of e-learning and training. Our LMS spans a very broad and diverse range of topics which are vital to the efficient running of any business. Everything from mental health awareness and first aid training to social media management and cyber security, the Learning Centre will be of real value to businesses big and small and their staff.” Comprising a blend of foundation courses, compliance courses, and soft skills, the Learning Centre allows managers to set training sessions for their staff and automatically track their progress. The Learning Centre is specifically designed to be bespoke and can easily facilitate required learning which is curated for your business. Sign up is simple and training modules can be completed on tablets, smartphones, and laptops. To explore how the Learning Centre can benefit your business and support your staff as they learn and grow in their roles, get in touch with Anna at to discuss your training needs and to design a bespoke training package. For more information and for a full list of available courses, visit https://www.londonderrychamber.


NWRC receives Elemental Prescription in bid to improve student wellbeing North West Regional College has joined forces with the award-winning company, Elemental Software, in a ground-breaking new partnership which will revolutionise the way students can access support services and programmes. NWRC is the first Further and Higher College to adopt Elemental’s Digital Social Prescribing Platform, which will enhance student wellbeing and promote better ways of working. This marks a new chapter for the College who continue to champion innovation in health and social care through DIAL (Design Innovation Assisted Living), and as a Curriculum Hub for Health and Social care for FE colleges in Northern Ireland.

Finneen Bradley, Manager of NWRC’s Careers Academy, said the partnership with Elemental will provide the college with a clear, high-tech referral pathway to provide support when needed. She added: “2020 has been a difficult time for everyone. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the wellbeing and mental health of our students, so there has never been a more urgent need for the college to intervene and provide meaningful support for our students.” “The digital social prescribing platform will allow us to bring together all our internal services and will give our students greater access to resources available in the wider community. This will all be coordinated by our fantastic

(L-R) Shannon Doherty, NWRC Safeguarding Officer, Finneen Bradley, NWRC Careers Academy Manager, Leann Monk Ogzul, Jeniffer Neff and Helen McPeake, Elemental Software

Safeguarding team and the staff in our Careers Academy who have worked tirelessly to support our students at this time.” “The Elemental Platform will bring wide-ranging benefits to the student experience, allowing us to continually update and improve our services in the future. We thank the Elemental Software team for their support and their help in achieving this partnership.” Jennifer Neff, Chief Executive of Elemental Software, said: “We are delighted to partner with NWRC; the first ever digital

social prescribing FE College. Social prescribing is a growing movement that connects people with a range of non-clinical programmes, services, and events in their local community. It seeks to address people’s needs across a number of areas such as financial stability, accommodation, digital inclusion and physical activity.” “In the coming years, we look forward to working with NWRC students to ensure they have the support and non-clinical services they need for their health and wellbeing.”

MPA Recruitment continues international expansion with opening of Toronto office the US. This expansion forms part of the Derry-based company’s longterm ambitions to offer its premier recruitment and HR services to clients across the world.

MPA Recruitment’s new office in Toronto, Canada

Leading recruitment and HR service provider, MPA Recruitment, has announced the opening of a new office in Toronto, Canada as part of its continued international expansion. This new office will focus on providing contract and executive search recruitment services to the growing Digital Health and Renewable Energy sectors in Canada and

Speaking following this announcement, MPA’s North America Regional Director, Conall Anderson has said: “Toronto, along with many other Canadian cities, has become a hotspot for innovative Digital Health, Healthtech and Clean Energy businesses in recent years. MPA’s presence in Toronto will allow us to better service our current and new partners in North America by having a local presence on the East Coast. Our Canadian team will work to boost our global network by working with local partners,

bringing significant benefits to our clients and candidates alike.” MPA’S Director of International Business, Mark Canning, added: “In the last 12 months, the challenges posed by the pandemic have meant that we have had to pause our international expansion plans. This new office forms part of MPA’s continued expansion of its service offering to international markets, with plans in the coming 24 months to open further offices across the UK and Ireland, the US, Asia, and Australia.” “We are very proud of our Derry roots as a business and the growth journey we have been on across various markets outside NI in recent years; the opening of our office in Toronto plays a key part in the plans for significant international growth over the coming 5 years. This move has already been very well received in the Toronto market and will be very successful under Conall’s leadership.”



AwakenHub host event celebrating the next-generation of female founders AwakenHub is a female-founded community of women enterpreneurs across the island of Ireland and beyond. Set up in July 2020 by four leading Irish women, AwakenHub seeks to change the landscape for Irish women founders in a meaningful, open, and dynamic way. On March 23, AwakenHub held their ninth event of the Female Founder Series, NextGen Founders in Focus. This event featured a panel of next-generation female founders who shared how they have grown their startups to companies which now sell on an international basis. Alongside these events, AwakenHub offer mentoring and support opportunities to aspiring and successful women founders across Ireland and abroad. In less than a year, over 700 people have joined the AwakenHub community, illustrating the significant interest in advancing the shared interests of female entrepreneurs. AwakenHub co-founder Claire McGee, said: “Since our first event in July 2020, AwakenHub has grown from an idea among friends to a global community with support from women across Europe, North America and beyond. Our network is growing every day, and it is incredible to see women making connections, supporting each other, and expanding opportunities for themselves and their business through AwakenHub.” “The NextGen Founders in Focus event featured stories from 3 amazing young founders, including Ailbhe Keane, CEO of Izzy Wheels, Naomi McGregor, Founder of MoveTru and Annie Madden, Founder of FenuHealth. In the event, we explored how innovation can sometimes come from adversity and necessity and the importance of a strong network to sustain your growth. This event was very inspiring and, judging from individual feedback, people are very excited for our next #FemaleFounders event this Summer.” “The last 12 months have been very difficult, and lockdown has brought people together in ways we have not seen before. Our events have connected hardworking women entrepreneurs to like-minded others across the island of Ireland and for Irish women abroad. We look forward to reaching out to more female entrepreneurs and founders and offering them the network and opportunities they need as they grow their business.”

(From L–R) AwakenHub Founders Sinead Crowley, Mary Carty, Mary McKenna and Clare McGee


Sandwich Co to expand into Buncrana and Belfast North West-based Sandwich Co is set to open two new outlets in Buncrana and Belfast in the coming months as part of the company’s longterm expansion plans. Offering a wide range of bakery goods, breakfast food and sandwiches since 1991, Sandwich Co is well-known for the highThe Sandwich Co Belfast outlet interior quality dining under construction experience offered to customers across “I am very proud that the North West. To date, they despite the difficulties of have 3 outlets in Derry and the past year, we have been 1 in Coleraine, Letterkenny able to expand our business, and Omagh. Next month, opening new outlets in they are set to expand into Buncrana and Belfast. Our Belfast, opening a 100-seater new outlet in Belfast will be restaurant with a large our first expansion beyond outdoor seating area on the the North West, and we Boucher Road. Alongside hope that we are received this, the company will open and supported just as well a 40-seater Buncrana outlet as we have been here at situated at the heart of the home. shopping complex this year run by Kevin McCole. “I am delighted that Kevin McCole will be Owner/ Sandwich Co Owner, Paul Operator of our new McCole, said: Buncrana store, and I am glad that Sandwich Co is still “Like most other at its core a family business businesses, we have faced with my mother and father unprecedented challenges still very much involved. in the last 12 months. We hope that, when fully Currently, five outlets are opened, these new stores open for takeaway only and will have the same vibrant we also offer a personalised atmosphere as those back click-and-collect service in in Derry, Coleraine and all our stores. We are very others.” much looking forward to the Summer when we can hopefully re-open our indoor seating areas and welcome our valued customers back inside.

Home is where your heart is. Keep healthy & enjoy working from home. Working from home could become a challenge for many who used to go to the office every day. The furnishings, technology and the interior design of the environment can play a substantial role in making the change as pleasant as possible. In order to keep healthy at work in the home office, it is important to take the organisation of the work place and ergonomics into account. Work-a-sutra is the study of postures at work. An awareness and understanding of the different postures at work can help us to be more active and contribute to enhanced well-being. Within this article are some tips to help you to be more effective in the home office, to take care of yourself and to keep healthy at work.

An ergonomic task chair – the throne for a good posture When working for longer times at a desk, a good ergonomic chair is a must. It should be adjusted in an appropriate way so that the feet are flat on the floor and the angle between lower and upper legs is 90°. The backrest should be adjustable, flexible and able to support the user in each position. The head should be in a natural upright position, similar to when standing. Such an upright posture is good for concentrated tasks. However, if this becomes a static, long-term position, it might be harmful. Therefore, it is recommended to move around and to lean back on the swivel chair from time to time. This has a positive effect on blood circulation and reduces the pressure on the intervertebral discs.

TIPS TO TREASURE • You are not limited to the desk. Profit from a variety of options. Change posture, even if only for a short break, every 20, max. 30 minutes. • Choose an appropriate posture for the task you are performing. For example: phone calls can be done standing or walking.

Visit to view our full range of chairs & desks available to create your perfect home office.

• If you feel comfortable, you can even sit on the floor, as long as it is only a temporary position.

Visit our showroom at 101 Spencer Rd to see our new ranges. 11


a day in the life Name Finbar Madden

Age: 52

Hometown: Belfast

Organisation: St Columb’s College

Job Title: Principal

Describe what your job involves: My

job involves so many things that it’s actually difficult to pin it down. At its most basic it is all about trying to facilitate the growth, development and achievement of a community of people – pupils and colleagues. This year’s school closures have been challenging and, since January, it has been a herculean effort to keep everyone’s spirits up. Recent months have shown me that a successful school is not the work of any one person, it is the collective achievement of many teams and communities.

Describe in detail a day in your work: In Covid times, there’s no such thing as a ‘typical’ day! Of course, you make your plans for what the day ahead looks like – and then you quickly shred it! The day may begin with a Zoom meeting of the school’s Senior Management Team, providing us with an opportunity to blend strategic planning with the humdrum of everyday events. There are planned meetings – but there is also dealing with the unexpected – the one thing that you can plan for! Apart from my responsibilities within the school, there will always be engagements


with the Education Authority, the Department of Education, the Foyle Learning Community, the Catholic Heads’ Association, CCEA and so on. At this challenging time, my top priority though is to check in with pupils, parents and colleagues and make sure they have they support they need.

What has been your most memorable day in work? I have been privileged to be a witness of so many memorable days. Any day that our pupils achieve their potential – or go beyond it – is memorable. Every time that my colleagues facilitate success – is memorable. There are far too many – thankfully – and I look forward to getting everyone back in the classroom soon to enable many more memorable moments!

What is your greatest achievement? I’m not a great believer in selfpromotion. The school’s greatest achievement is working hard each day to enable our students to become the best versions of themselves; for me, there can be no greater achievement.

What’s the best advice you have ever been given in work? As you might imagine I am the recipient of plenty of advice day and daily! I think the best advice that anyone can receive is (with apologies for the affectation) a line from Hamlet – ‘to thine own self be true’.

What’s the most satisfying/fulfilling aspect of your job? Witnessing the wonderful achievements of our pupils in the work that they do – whether that be in the classroom, on the sportsfield, in the drama suite or wherever. I really cannot wait until everyone can get back to doing what they love when restrictions end.

What qualities do you think make a good educator? Patience, aspiration, belief, optimism, humanity, humility, forgiveness – I could go on!

What can be done to improve skills and training in the North West? Investment – plain and simple!


Find Insurance NI grows Account Executive team

(L-R) Conleth O’Reilly; Keith Hamilton; Catherine O’Hara; Kieran Quigg; Heather Kee; Mark McSherry; David Nash; and Teresa Dickson

Locally owned, independent commercial insurance specialists, Find Insurance NI, have continued to grow their Account Executive team in 2021 spurred on by an expansion in demand for their services. Having worked as an Account Handler within the company for the past 10 years, Kieran Quigg has recently been promoted to an Account Executive. “Kieran is a diligent worker and has great experience working with highly complex risks within the construction and manufacturing sectors. Kieran will continue to be a great asset to the company in his new role and I would like to wish him every success”, says Colin Mullan, MD, Find Insurance NI.

and Teresa Dickson, who collectively have 100 years’ experience working in the industry. Each Account Executive is supported by an experienced Account Handler plus an in-house Claims Handler. Colin said:

Kieran joins a strong team of Account Executives who are based throughout NI. David Nash and Mark McSherry joined the company in 2019 and have had great success over the last 2 years. Their appointment supplemented an existing team comprising of Keith Hamilton, Heather Kee, Conleth O’Reilly

Despite the opportunities recent years have presented, like many other businesses, Colin and his colleagues have had to deal with challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit. Colin has praised the flexibility of his colleagues who have shown great adaptability in this difficult time. He said:

“I have great pride in the team that we have. They have vast experience and a great knowledge of insurance products across a wide range of business sectors such as motor trade, haulage, agriculture, construction, manufacturing, hospitality and much more. They each strive to provide their clients with the highest quality service, which has enabled the company to successfully grow year-on-year.”

The last 12 months have seen unprecedented challenges. We are very proud of all our staff and we value each one of them. They have shown great commitment and adaptability while balancing pressures of work and home life during a time when our clients needed us most. While we anticipate there may be further challenges to come, we remain optimistic that the Find Insurance team will continue to prosper.” Colin and the Find Insurance NI team look forward to working closely with businesses across the North West who may need commercial insurance solutions for their business. To get in contact with the Account Executive team contact Catherine O’Hara at Catherine.ohara@ or call 02871 314860. Their Home, Car and Small Business teams can be contacted on 0800 012 6367.



Allstate NI at the centre of North West communities of the future such as problem solving, systems thinking and automation to name a few. From a business perspective, this has resulted in a $4 million of savings which can be invested back into the business. The North West team has racked up an impressive number of awards in recent years including being recognised by Women in Business, CIPD Awards, and the IT Service & Support Awards.

Allstate provides a state-of-the-art search drone for Strabane’s Community Rescue Service

Allstate is Northern Ireland’s largest IT Company with over 2,400 employees across three sites in Belfast, Derry~Londonderry, and Strabane. The Strabane office opened in August 2004 with just 30 employees on board. This was a welcomed investment to the area at the time, which was badly hit by closures in the textiles industry. Allstate brought new and developing jobs and skills such as data processing, service industry jobs, software development, testing, customer service, technical support, technology, and IT skills to the area - making the North West and Northern Ireland an attractive employment and investment area for IT and other knowledge-led sectors. Fast forward to 2021 and there are over 470 employees based in Strabane. The team is largely comprised of Service Desk Support staff who provide a range of technical support services and solutions to Allstate Agents, employees, and insurance customers across the globe. Handling 1.5 million contacts per year,


their role is centred on transforming technology support to deliver efficient and effortless experience to Allstate’s agencies and employees. The Service Desk has continuously transformed its support model over the years, based on customer preference and evolving technology. The Service Desk, which was mainly a call centric support model in 2017, with only 2.5% of customers accessing via a digital platform, embarked on a ‘digital journey.’ With a customer centric approach, the Strabane Service Desk leads a strategic and global initiative, which has resulted in 91% of all technology queries now coming through a digital support medium such as a Self-Service portal and messaging. As a result, customers can avail of 24/7 support and have a vast array of support documentation at their fingertips. From an employee perspective, this has resulted in enhanced skilling and career development. Learning more about skills

Most recently, Learning and Development Lead Trainer Ronan Gilloway took home the prestigious Trainer of the Year award, whilst Strabanebased Stephen Lomas won Contact Centre Manager of the Year at the CCNNI Awards. The team also played a central role in taking home the Silver Award for Home Working Program of the Year, which recognised the resilience shown in adapting to Covid challenges. Allstate NI is also regarded as one of the best places to work in Northern Ireland and was the first company in NI to receive Silver Status from Diversity Mark NI as well as Workplace of the Year from Digital DNA. Allstate NI’s commitment to socially responsible policies and local communities was shown through the raising of vital funds to provide a state-ofthe-art search drone for Strabane’s local Community Rescue Service, which will be used throughout Northern Ireland. The Community Rescue Service is a charitable search and rescue organisation operated by volunteers from communities across Northern Ireland. Led by the Allstate NI Charities Committee, an Employee Fundraising Appeal was quickly established, raising £1,764. Reece McDaid, a Strabane based Divisional Lead, also put forward a Funding for Good application and was successful in securing £1,500 to support the service. Since 2018, Allstate NI’s Force for Good has provided £73,896 of funding to support community-focused projects across Northern Ireland.


Housing market staying strong despite pandemic challenges Despite its massive negative impacts on the global economy, the local housing market has remained relatively unscathed throughout the coronavirus pandemic. It could even be argued that the Northern Ireland property market has experienced a bit of a boom recently, with people eager to get on the housing ladder for the first time or being inspired by lockdowns to move to a new home. The most recent figures indicate that house prices in Northern Ireland rose by over 5% in 2020 despite widespread predictions and expectations that the pandemic would lead to a global housing market crash. For one local company, this has led to a surge in business. Claire Feeney is a Mortgage and Protection Adviser at Mortgage Solutions. “I’m busier than ever”, explains Claire. “I think it’s a mixture of people being stuck in their homes 24/7 now, needing more space, wanting a change of scenery, or finding out that their home just isn’t fit for what they need. The pandemic has also forced people who were maybe on the fence about buying a new home to finally act.” “The housing market has really defied everyone’s expectations in staying so strong. As soon as it became clear that the pandemic would have a massive economic impact, people in the industry were understandably concerned that the housing market would be hit, especially with the market being essentially closed between March and June last year. But it has rallied exceptionally and, since summer 2020, I don’t think I’ve ever been busier, leading me to opening my first Mortgage Solutions branch here in Derry last July.” Claire has nearly 20 years’ experience in property, having worked for an estate agency before joining Mortgage Solutions four years

ago. “I’ve put in the hard yards over the years, spending my weekends in show homes and new houses, building invaluable relationships with builders and developers, and I know the buying and selling process like the back of my hand.” A new member of the Londonderry Chamber, Claire’s passion for the property market is clear for all to see and she says her greatest pleasure is helping people secure the financing for their dream home. “There’s really no better feeling than helping a young couple buy their first home or a small family move to a new home. Claire Feeney, Mortgage & Protection Adviser, Mortgage Solutions Home ownership is crucial for so many of us and it’s a lovely feeling and will likely encourage buyers onto to play even a small part in helping the market. I don’t see any signs on people onto the housing ladder.” the horizon of it slowing down. Things like the end of the stamp duty holiday Recent announcements by the and the wind down of furlough may Chancellor have been aimed at have an impact further down the line supporting the housing market and but I am still fully expecting a very busy buyers, like the extension of the summer of buying and selling.” stamp duty holiday until July and the reintroduction of 95% mortgages. So For mortgage, protection, and how does Claire think the market’s insurance advice, prospects look for the foreseeable get in touch with Claire at future? “Short term at least, I think the market will stay strong. The Chancellor’s recent measures will definitely help



City Deal partnership can futureproof North West economy Photo credit: Patryk Sadowski

After the recent announcement of the agreement of the Derry~Londonderry and Strabane City Deal Heads of Terms, CONNECTED sat down with Ulster University’s Professor Liam Maguire, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment to discuss the deal’s exciting potential for the North West economy. The recent signing of the Heads of Terms of the Derry~Londonderry and Strabane City Deal has been variously hailed as transformational and a game changer for the North West. And given the level of investment and the planned capital projects, it’s difficult to disagree. Professor Liam Maguire is the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment at Ulster University’s Magee campus and is one of the leading figures in two of the City Deal’s flagship projects, the Cognitive Analytics Research Laboratory (CARL) and the Centre for Industrial Digitalisation, Robotics and Automation (CIDRA). “The Heads of Terms announcement in February was an exciting step forward and the planned projects will boost our economy, our health system, our collective wellbeing, and wider society here in the North West”, says Professor Maguire. “But now is the time to get down to the hard work of making the City Deal a reality for our local communities.”


The Derry~Londonderry and Strabane City Deal is a Professor Liam Maguire, Executive Dean of substantial funding package the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and which will provide over £250m the Built Environment to invest in significant infrastructure projects across the North West and enhance Western Health and Social Care the region’s skills base and Trust, North West Regional competitiveness, create up to 7000 College, and C-TRIC. jobs by 2032, and address societal issues like poverty, social exclusion, C-TRIC, the personalised medicine and deprivation. It will build institute, will lead on an industry on emerging technologies and and community facing project industries in the North West while entitled THRIVE (Transformation regenerating town and city centres for Healthcare Research Innovation in both Derry~Londonderry and and Value-based Ecosystem). Strabane and boosting important sectors like tourism and hospitality. Ulster University is leading on four projects within the deal’s Innovation The City Deal is led by Derry City and Digital Investment Pillar, aimed and Strabane District Council at transforming the city region’s in collaboration with strategic innovation and digital capability partners Ulster University, the


companies which lead the way in tech and future industry fields. I’ve no doubt that the City Deal can attract even more of these types of foreign investors to look at the North West as a place to set up base. “My aim through centres like CARL and CIDRA is to help companies and organisations – both indigenous and foreign - working in fields as varied as health and fintech to energy and public policy to improve their productivity and efficiency through collaboration with our researchers”, says Professor Maguire. “I often get asked ‘what practical, everyday difference do things like AI and automation make to the lives of normal people?’ and it’s getting easier and easier to explain. Something as simple as the tv shows or films that your Netflix account recommends to you based off your interests and viewing history, that’s AI in action.

CARL, CIDRA, THRIVE and the School of Medicine will position the city as a Hub for Innovation and Health

and capacity. But what does mean in reality for the North West? “As City Deal partners, I think that one of the most important pieces of work we have initially, is to translate this major announcement into what it means for normal people on the street, what it means for our businesses and our brilliant small companies across the North West”, says Professor Maguire. “Explaining what this means for our community, communicating the value it has for our SMEs, and what centres like CARL and CIDRA can offer to the local business community will be a big part of my role and I want to encourage as many local businesses as possible to get in touch and get involved with the work we do at Magee.” “The level of investment we’re talking about here is truly unprecedented for the North West and it’s crucial that we make sure that we absolutely maximise its potential. Investment in large-scale

infrastructure projects and funding for sectors like AI, automation, robotics, and diagnostics means the North West has a real opportunity to position itself as a global leader in future and emerging technologies and harness all the benefits which can come with this”, explains Professor Maguire. CARL, based at Ulster University’s Magee campus, is a key strategic project for the university which carries out research in the fields of AI and analytics and explores their real-life, practical uses. The City Deal funding and Ulster University’s own investment provides CARL the opportunity to vastly expand this research and focus on innovation which can be applied to enterprise and entrepreneurship more locally. “We already have a strong and established cluster of companies like Seagate, Allstate, Fujitsu, Pramerica, Optum and Kainos here in the North West and across Northern Ireland,

“There are real, practical uses of AI and automation which can be applied to both enhance innovation and enterprise here, and to create new opportunities, new jobs and build on existing skills”, says Professor Maguire. “We want to work intimately with local businesses of all sizes to explore the uses of AI and automation and what it can bring to our economy. “The City Deal brings together all these component parts which are crucial to equipping our economy for the future – government, higher education and skills development, the private sector, and the public sector.” Professor Maguire believes the potential of the City Deal is limitless. “It’s cliched but the possibilities really are endless if we can get it right over the long term. Through sustained partnership across Derry~Londonderry, Strabane and beyond, we can boost our economy massively, help our local businesses prepare for Industry 4.0, and attract new investment. There’s a real chance to address persistent issues which have affected our region like emigration and deprivation and to make the North West a location which has a high quality of life, a thriving business sector, a strong and diverse economy with highly skilled and well-paid jobs.”



2021 to be a year of opportunity for ventilation and heat pump specialists air cool engineering NI A ventilation system recently installed by the air cool team

The year ahead is to present strong growth opportunities for air cool engineering NI who specialise in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) services. Established in 1998, Limavadybased air cool engineering NI has grown to become one of the most reputable HVAC contractors across the UK and Ireland. Its 30-strong team works with multiple business sectors to support architects, property managers and construction companies in the design, installation, and maintenance of energy efficient HVAC systems. From offices in Derry to beauty salons in Donegal, for over 20 years the company has provided high-quality products to clients in the North West and beyond. In their 23 years, the company has consistently delivered high-quality installation and after-sales services to clients large and small. The air cool team offers bespoke services including the modification and


upgrading of existing services, the complete re-design and installation of new HVAC and heat pump systems, and maintenance services for your business’ air conditioning system. From management level to the on-the-ground team, each member of staff displays their commitment to providing the highest quality service to clients daily. Recently, the company has been awarded Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Quality Partner status for the fourth consecutive year. Only one other Northern Irish company has received this accolade, with none in the Republic of Ireland. Working closely with Mitsubishi Electric, the company has been able to use the latest, highquality technology in all client projects. The company is also in a prestigious position in being able to offer clients extended manufacturer warranties of up to 10 years on equipment. This year, air cool engineering NI Managing Director, Martin Mullan,

The company is one of only two Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Quality Partners across Ireland

expects to see a surge in demand for ventilation services as companies across Northern Ireland look to make their premises Covid-friendly. Speaking of the opportunities 2021 will bring to the company, he said: “This year, ventilation systems will be centrally important in the safe re-opening of the hospitality industry, offices, and close-contact services. As a company, we are committed to working with local businesses to offer them the ventilation solutions they require over the coming months as restrictions ease. Despite operating across the UK and Ireland, this year we are seeking to go back to our


roots and contribute what we can to the North West’s economic recovery. “As a trusted contractor, we hold industry-relevant certifications including Safe Contractor, REFCOM and Construction Line. Martin Mullan, Managing Director of air cool engineering NI Since our inception, we have been fully committed to consistently As specialists in the design of small and large delivering unrivalled quality scale building mechanical services, our team of product, workmanship, and combine experience and specialist knowledge assistance to clients throughout each individual project. We HVAC services your to provide bespoke heating, cooling and ventilation look forward to working with company needs in a solutions to meet your business’ indoor climatebusinesses across the North fair, transparent fashion that controlled requirements.” West and offering them the both meets and exceeds your specialist advice, professional needs. I look forward to working with more installation, and high-quality companies across the North West as we service that we have provided look to give them the best heating and now for over 20 years.” “Currently, one of our most popular ventilation solutions we have to offer.” services is the installation of heat pumps In recent years, there have in businesses. Heat pump technology is a If you are considering installation of heating, been significant advances in superior alternative to traditional heating ventilation or air conditioning systems into mechanical ventilation, heat systems in various ways, including energy your business, you can get in touch with air recovery and heat pump efficiency and year-round flexibility. Heat cool engineering NI via email at technologies. The company pumps omit very low carbon emissions, uses only the best equipment and because they provide both heating over the phone at +44 (0) 28 777 67114 available and, in its commitment and cooling, can be used whatever the or you can visit their website at to deliver bespoke heating weather.” solutions to clients, has built a reputation as one of the best “At air cool engineering, we understand HVAC service providers around. that times are tough for local businesses Kelley Hasson, Office Manager and cash flow is very volatile. With our at air cool engineering NI, flexible service agreements and competitive added: pricing structure, we seek to offer the



Loganair safeguards City of Derry Airport’s Liverpool route Loganair has announced it will step in to safeguard the popular air link between City of Derry Airport and Liverpool following Ryanair’s recent decision to step back from the route. The new Loganair service, with flights starting at £44.99 one way, will commence from 24 May. The Glasgow-based company - now the UK’s largest regional airline - will initially offer flights on four days of the week: Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Weekday flights will leave City of Derry at 10.50 arriving Liverpool at 11.50, and return from Liverpool at 12.20 arriving City of Derry at 13.20. The frequency of flights will increase to daily from late June. The new flights will be operated by Loganair’s dedicated team of pilots, cabin crew and engineers already based at City of Derry Airport (CODA), at which Loganair was the very first operator when the airport opened for business in April 1980. The basing of the 49-seat Embraer 145 regional jet at CODA already supports 15 direct jobs for pilots, cabin crew and engineers in the area. This new route follows close on the heels


of confirmation by the Department for Transport of continued funding for the City of Derry to Stansted PSO route. In a further clear signal of its commitment to the airport, Loganair will also be increasing flights linking CODA with Glasgow from late June. Services will gear up from four days per week to daily as extra flights on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are introduced to the timetable. The move will secure the long-standing airbridge between City of Derry and Scotland despite Ryanair’s decision to withdraw its flights from CODA to Edinburgh. Loganair’s Chief Executive Jonathan Hinkles said: “Frequent air links are essential for so many aspects of working and family life, even as we work to re-build and recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Loganair already serves both City of Derry and Liverpool airports, and when the opportunity arose for us to connect these two important destinations in our network following another airline’s withdrawal, we were only too pleased to step in to safeguard these connections.” “Loganair’s ability to grow at City of Derry is in no small part thanks to the exemplary reputation for reliability and service established by our locallybased team. I’m most grateful to all of them for maintaining our London services without interruption over the difficult last

12 months. It’s wonderful to be able to recognise their superb efforts today by re-doubling our commitment to City of Derry’s air links.” Steve Frazer, Managing Director of City of Derry Airport, said: “We are pleased that Loganair have again shown their commitment to regional connectivity from the North West of NI. Increasing the frequency to seven days a week from the end of June will give maximum choice and flexibility to both business and leisure travellers”. Paul Winfield, Director of Aviation Development at Liverpool John Lennon Airport, said: “This route is an important link between our two cities and their regions beyond, having already proved popular by travellers flying in both directions. As we plan ahead for a return to normality after the difficulties of the past year, domestic air travel is likely to recover sooner and this route will help travellers to once again be able to enjoy all that’s on offer from our two great regions.” Loganair offer an all-inclusive fare system, so passengers can bring a 15kg hold baggage and a 6kg hand luggage bag on their journey. In addition, there is complimentary refreshments on board, discounts available on child and student fares and passengers can sign up to the Clan Loganair loyalty programme which rewards frequent flyers with points to be used towards a flight of choice. Find more details on: For more details on City of Derry Airport:



This publication has received financial support from the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation “EaSI” (2014 - 2020). For further information please consult: 21


chamber life Despite new lockdowns and new Covid restrictions, life at the Chamber has been as busy as ever with a series of virtual events, our AGM and a new President, our first flagship event of the year, frequent engagements with local elected representatives and Ministers, and some exciting announcements for the North West. The New Year brought with it new trading arrangements with Europe and new, stricter lockdown restrictions. But it didn’t stop our regular series of webinars, networking events, workshops, and regular engagement with key decision-makers and stakeholders. It’s also been an optimistic start to the year for the North West, with the sign off of the Heads of Terms of our City Deal, the continued successful rollout of the vaccination programme, the publication of the Executive’s roadmap to recovery, and the Economy Minister’s Economic Recovery Action Plan. At the end of 2020, we held our 135th Annual General Meeting, hosted virtually however for the first time in our history. Local accountant Dawn McLaughlin was appointed the 78th President of the Londonderry Chamber on 10 December, taking over from Redmond McFadden. Dawn will be supported in her role by Allstate NI Director, Vice President Aidan O’Kane. Speaking at the AGM, Dawn thanked Redmond for his fantastic efforts in representing the North West business community throughout 2020 and said, “I am very proud to have been elected President of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce and I would like to thank the membership for trusting me with this position. I am under no illusions as to


Chamber President and Vice President Dawn McLaughlin and Aidan O’Kane

the serious challenges facing our local business community over the coming 12 months, with Covid and Brexit sure to dominate our focus. Our first event of the year was our Brexit update on 19 January with experts Deirdre Maguire from Intertrade Ireland and Seamus Leheny from Logistics UK. This was a very timely and useful event which unpacked the NI Protocol, laid out what the new post-Brexit changes mean for businesses in Northern Ireland, and discussed the free trade agreement made between the EU and the UK on Christmas Eve. Next up on 21 January was our innovation and skills event held in collaboration with our partners at North West Regional College. This informative webinar explored Chamber President Dawn McLaughlin the range of support and funding programmes available to businesses and employers to help meet skills gaps and upskill their a New Year Economic Outlook on 26 workforces. January. Conor took members through the impact of the pandemic on the economy Conor Lambe, Chief Economist at Dankse in 2020, offered some predictions for Bank, provided Chamber members the year ahead, and discussed whether


Londonderry and Letterkenny Chamber met with Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney as part of ongoing political engagement

Strabane District Council’s Stephen Gillespie, and a talk on diverse thinking from motivational speaker Andrew Toogood.

Chamber Vice President Aidan O’Kane

it was too early to talk about ‘green shoots’ in the economy. This was a very worthwhile event from one of Northern Ireland’s foremost economists and members learned much about the impact of the past 12 months on the economy on a macro level. We saw out January two days later with our Catalyst Co-Founders event. Co-Founders is a unique 10-week programme for anyone curious about firsttime entrepreneurship or early-stage startups. Into February and Chamber ran, in partnership with Helen McDonnell from IndigoLife Coaching, a Midweek Mindfulness series every Wednesday morning at 8am. This was a perfect opportunity for members to calm and destress halfway through the week and set themselves up to tackle the rest of the week. On 16 February, we held the first of two online digital marketing webinars with Grofuse Digital. SEO Masterclass, hosted by Denis Finnegan, taught members about the untapped potential of SEO to drive paying customers to their websites and increase sales. A week later, Denis ran a Winning at E-Commerce event which explored how to maximise online sales and increase online revenue, crucial during the pandemic when more people than ever are shopping online. March saw Chamber’s first flagship event of the year, our President’s Annual Lunch. Sponsored by O’Neills Irish Sportswear, online guests heard keynote speeches from Invest NI CEO Kevin Holland, a timely City Deal update from Derry City and

Speaking after the event, Chamber President Dawn McLaughlin said, “This year, we have an opportunity to bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic and focus on boosting our regional economy again. This will only be possible if the Executive and UK Government provide businesses with the support and confidence they need going forward … We must now see the Executive delivering for North West businesses who are still reeling from the devastating impact government restrictions have had.” To help businesses get to grips with the changes brought about by Brexit, we facilitated an update webinar on the Trader Support Service on 16 March. The TSS provides guidance on moving goods between GB and NI and we heard directly from some of those involved in running the service, an excellent learning opportunity for members and a chance to raise any issues they’ve faced at the highest level. On 18 March, we hosted an Authentic Leadership through Practical Mindfulness session with Eamon McCay from Frylite. Led by Helen from IndigoLife Coaching, the event focused on what authentic leadership means to him. Helen will also lead a six-week series from mid-April on how to build trust and compassion within your workforce, for the good

of both the business and your employees. Finally, Chamber has been frequently and actively engaging with our elected representatives and Executive Ministers since the start of the year on a number of different issues. Representatives from the Chamber have met with Economy Minister Diane Dodds, Finance Minister Conor Murphy, and Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon to discuss the impact of Covid on businesses and the economy as well as to press for more clarity on restrictions and improvements to our regional infrastructure and connectivity. We also met with the Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney as part of a joint engagement with our partners in the Letterkenny Chamber. We have also kept up frequent engagement with our local MP Colum Eastwood, and Foyle MLAs Sinéad McLaughlin, Gary Middleton, and Martina Anderson. We are grateful for their ongoing support and look forward to meeting with them again soon.

Look Forward EURES Cross Border Tax Briefing on 22 April SONI Webinar on 29 April President’s Annual Dinner on 8 October







Directly with current and potential customers, stakeholders and key influencers

Your profile and deliver some of your key messages to a captive business audience

Government policy whilst networking with key influencers and business leaders

21-22 The Diamond, Derry / Londonderry BT48 6HP, TEL: 02871 268001







Joining forces to provide top-quality training for the North West Two of the North West’s leading training organisations have joined forces to create a new training and employment partnership. 21 Training, a merger between Customised Training Services and Strabane Training Services, launched on 1 April and will be based across the entire North West region in Strabane, Derry~Londonderry, Coleraine, Omagh, and Enniskillen. Led by Strabane Training Services Managing Director Mia Coyle, with O’Neills Sportswear’s Kieran Kennedy as Chairman, the new training organisation combines the Kieran Kennedy, 21 Training Chairman, and Mia Coyle, 21 Training Managing Director expertise and resources of two of Northern Ireland’s most successful and wellequipped skills and training organisations. The especially at a time when our more and more people need new partnership will boost its reach and availability services are more in demand than skills training. across the North West and further afield, allowing ever before Our ambition has the new organisation to support even greater always been to be the biggest “We are excited to bring numbers of jobseekers and young people with the and the best training organisation together these two innovative latest training, expertise, and access to vocational in the North West and this organisations and talented and personal development programmes. partnership absolutely confirms teams to create a dynamic new that.” training organisation which “I have been on the board of Strabane Training can meet the ever-evolving Services for over 30 years and our strategy has The Covid pandemic and its needs of the communities we been to enhance the programmes available to severe impacts on the economy serve”, says Mia. “We will young people and grow geographically”, says have led to a significant increase deliver a supportive learning Chairman Kieran Kennedy. “Customised Training in unemployment, with thousands environment where learners Services has had many years of success working of people of all ages finding can gain nationally recognised with the unemployed and young people. They themselves out of a job. The qualifications and employers will cover a much wider area across the North and pandemic has also seen a find a partner who works to meet therefore this is a perfect fit for both organisations. dramatic rise in people needing their business needs. to reskill or upskill to meet “We have held very constructive discussions with demands within the economy. “21 Training’s mission is the Board of Customised Training Services who Mia, who has over 20 years’ simple”, explains Mia. shared our vision of upskilling our young people experience in the education and “We want to improve lives and unemployed to create jobs both here in training sector, says this merger through skills development Strabane, the North West, and further afield. It has come at the perfect time as and overcome barriers to made perfect sense to combine our energies,


(L-R) Gemma McClure (Training Manager, Strabane); Stephanie Boyd (Training Manager, Derry~Londonderry); Tomazina Harkin (Apprenticeship Manager); Kieran Kennedy (Chairman); Mia Coyle (Managing Director); Debbie Deans (Business Development Manager); and Sonya Duggan (Finance & Administration)

learning and employment. The North West is a region which has been disproportionately blighted by economic inactivity and unemployment. Our new organisation gives us fresh impetus to address these challenges in collaboration and partnership and provide an even better service for jobseekers and young people.” Led by a commitment to support people aspire, evolve, and achieve, 21 Training will be a forward-thinking organisation which offers bespoke and individual personal development programmes which prioritise getting people into sustainable and secure employment which align to their unique skills, values, and interests. “The merging of these two already complementary organisations makes great sense and will ultimately deliver a stronger and more strategic approach to meeting local training needs”, says Kieran. “Training has never been more important as we face a challenging employment landscape across communities in Northern Ireland. We

are combining a formidable skill set to create an even stronger offering to our young people, jobseekers, those seeking to gain new skills, or upskill in their roles and employers.”

of their own, we can support people overcome barriers to employment, and we offer a wide range of training programmes and qualifications for a variety of industries and sectors.”

21 Training will work intimately with employers across the North West to identify skills gaps, areas of improvement, and seek to connect workers with employers. The past 12 months have highlighted the urgent need to develop and nurture new skills within our economy, particularly digital and technological skills. As we look to rebuild, new skills like these will be at the forefront of our economic recovery efforts.

“We’re passionate about supporting communities and households, getting people into secure employment that they excel at and get fulfilment from, and addressing historic economic challenges facing the North West”, says Mia. “This is an exciting partnership which will totally enhance the services we offer and will allow us to help and support even more people. We want to work with as many local businesses as we can to help them address their skills challenges and to get as many local people into work as possible.”

“A widespread evolution of skills and training across Northern Ireland is vital if we are to build back stronger than before. The pandemic has changed the world of work more than we could ever have imagined and new and emerging skills are needed”, says Mia. “Our new organisation has the expertise and resources to support people who have recently found themselves out of work at no fault

For more information and to find out how 21 Training can help your business, get in touch at



catalyst’s generation innovation programme What is Generation Innovation? Generation Innovation energises the imaginations and aspirations of young people in Northern Ireland by increasing their knowledge of 21stcentury skills and awareness of exciting future careers in innovation. The programme aims to inspire and upskill all students who participate to develop an innovation skillset through a deepdive into ‘design thinking’. Generation Innovation provides students with a meaningful work placement building their confidence and ability to put their newfound skills into practice. The Work Experience Programme is for ambitious 16-18 year olds interested in upskilling for the jobs of the future. Students receive Design Thinking training over the course of five days, learning how to work as part a new team made up of students from across Northern Ireland, develop new solutions and communicate their ideas. Their new skills are then put to the test to solve a company challenge, developing


a solution before pitching it to the partner company and their fellow students. The 2021 Programme will engage with 600 students in June for a fully virtual work experience programme, working with some of the most successful and dynamic companies in Northern Ireland. Delivered online, students will improve skills such as communication, team building, resilience, problem-solving

and creativity. They will be presented with a challenge and will use their newly acquired skills to come up with an innovative solution for a real-world problem using a design-thinking methodology. Over the five days of programme, students are guaranteed to learn in a fun, energetic and highly engaging way that will inspire and empower them for the future. Close-contact pictures taken pre-pandemic

​ ​

Want to get involved?

Generation Innovation is passionate about preparing the young people of Northern Ireland to thrive as the leaders and innovators of the future - If you are a student interested in taking part in the June Generation Innovation Work Experience Programme, or a teacher seeking more information, you can register your interest here at or get in touch with



Neurodiversity Training International bringing a difference to consultancy and training Neurodiversity Training International, founded by the autistic best-selling author Jude Morrow, was established in August 2020 in the North West. The company provides consultancy services with a difference, offering both public and private sector companies the service and expertise they need to boost revenue and develop autistic talent within their ranks. NTI is a CPD Accredited training provider which delivers full assistance with web design, campaign building, social media presence and more; helping non-profits build a truly helpful organisation that the autistic community will support in full. Founder and CEO of NTI, Jude Morrow is committed to changing the narrative surrounding autism. Displaying communication and social difficulties early in life, Jude was diagnosed with Asperger Type Autism at the age of 11. Despite having educational challenges, Jude progressed through secondary school and graduated from the University of Ulster with an honours degree in social work in 2012. Through his social work and experience as a motivational speaker and autism advocate, Jude brings a wealth of personal and professional perspectives to his consultancy work. He said: “Autism ‘Awareness’ training is dead! The only thing it does is highlight the negative and outdated stereotypes regarding autism


Jude Morrow, CEO of Neurodiversity Training International

and autistic people. With NTI, we can help you deliver an autistic-led session for your school, workplace, professional group or non-profit. A session which, unlike ‘traditional’ autism training, will champion autistic people and challenge the stereotypes burdened on them.” “Working alongside global companies across the UK, US and the UAE, our company has helped bring a wealth of organizations into the Neurodiversity market. From idea, to concept, to production, to marketing, I have helped companies develop products that have the full backing of the autistic community. Adopting the Neurodiversity approach has allowed our clients to generate further income, boost credibility and accelerate growth.” In the past, Jude has toured groups locally and internationally to show that autistic people can live to grow happy and successful lives. He firmly believes that it is attitudes, perceptions and prejudices of autistic people that need to change, not the people themselves. He is the author of the globally acclaimed “Why does Daddy Always Look So Sad?”, published by Beyond Words, publisher of “The Secret”. Recently,

on 8 February, he shared his global view for Neurodiversity at TEDx Derry/Londonderry with a speech entitled “You have the chance to be a hero for autistic children – take it.” In the coming years, Jude and the NTI team look forward to working closely with companies and schools from the North West and beyond to help them successfully utilise autistic talent, not simply highlight deficits. He said: “Autistic people are among the most gifted people in the jobs market, and yet they are labelled as having a disorder which needs to be suppressed. This narrative is outdated, unhealthy and wrong. I look forward to working with local businesses and providing them with the Neurodiversity training and support they need going forward.” You can contact Jude via email at or visit the company website:


Dalradian Helps Create A Green Economy ‘Sustainable Development’ and ‘Green Growth’ are phrases which are becoming increasingly familiar, but what practically can firms do to help support the Government drive to achieve Net Zero carbon targets? For its part, last year Dalradian achieved Carbon Neutral status, offsetting all carbon emissions by supporting a water purification programme in rural Cambodia. This was an important corporate milestone for the firm which is planning to develop an environmentally responsible underground gold-coppersilver mine in west Tyrone, with the aim to be Europe’s first carbon neutral mine. This year, Dalradian has gone one step further and achieved Carbon Neutral Plus status. Working with Carbon Footprint Ltd, a leading sustainability and climate change solutions provider, Dalradian has donated 700 broad leafed native species trees to seven schools across Northern Ireland. This is in addition to the company’s existing Carbon Management Plan to actively reduce carbon emissions. In support of this, Dalradian has taken delivery of its first electric vehicle, upgraded its office heating and lighting system to reduce electricity use and switched to 100% renewable electricity supply. By minimising its emissions on an ongoing basis and offsetting the remainder via certified projects, Dalradian can render all its operations as net zero carbon (i.e. carbon neutral). Oonagh McKenna, Dalradian’s Sustainability & Community Relations Officer, said: “As a company we are committed to being environmentally responsible.

Planting more trees will capture carbon and enhance the natural environment, increase biodiversity, and provide a boost to physical and mental wellbeing.

dioxide from the atmosphere.

“It is fantastic that we have been able to deliver green spaces for pupils. As the trees develop, they will provide a whole range of outdoor cross curricular learning opportunities from science through to art.

“Planting trees is a simple but very effective and sustainable way to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

“We hope to continue this work with schools closer to the mine to develop similar environmental projects.” In Northern Ireland, forest cover currently sits at just 9 percent, behind the UK average of 13 percent. Only 200ha of woodland is planted per year instead of the 900ha recommended recently by the Committee on Climate Change. The tree planting scheme also helps support the wider STEM curriculum and falls within pupils’ ‘World Around Us’ and biology lessons. The scheme assists teachers and children to explore issues around climate change and the need to plant more trees to help remove carbon

Dr. Wendy Buckley, Client Director at Carbon Footprint added:

“Combined with the support of the company for the Cambodia Water Project, an internationally recognised offset project, Dalradian is now recognised as a Carbon Neutral plus organisation.” In 2020, Dalradian was certified as PAS 2060 Carbon Neutral for 2019 and is currently working towards its Carbon Neutral certification for 2020.

For more information visit or contact our Community Relations team on 028 81648012.



Leading economic rebuild and recovery through collaboration The next generation of Northern Irish business leaders need greater and more advanced skills than ever before. In an increasingly complex and volatile world shaped by our ongoing response to the pandemic, graduates need to exhibit leadership skills, problem solving capabilities, flexibility and agility, and a mental toughness and resilience. As we look towards Covid-19 recovery, possibility and opportunity are key words that Ulster University Business School at Magee is embracing for business renewal, innovation, entrepreneurship, and true business collaboration. With aspirational plans for growth and advancement, the Business School will offer a differential role in the local higher education sector in helping create new value and acting as a powerhouse for business recovery and regeneration. Dr Sandra Moffett is the head of the Ulster University Business School at the Magee campus and is keen to create links and pathways across the North West business community for graduates. “We have the expertise and resources to really give local businesses the tools they need to rebuild post-pandemic”, she says. “For example, we know there is a skills shortage in the North West, something which has been amplified by the impact of Covid. Local firms tell us all the time that the local workforce is lacking in key specialised skills that they need in their businesses. So it’s our job to work with industry, identify what is missing, and work to train our future workforce in these skills. “But it’s a two-pronged approach and you can’t have one without the other – develop the future workforce


Dr Malachy O’Neill, Provost, Magee; Dr Sandra Moffett, UU Business School; Stephen Kelly, Manufacturing NI; Jennifer McKeever, Airporter; and Chris McLean, UU Business School

and equip them with the skills they need to thrive, and bring greater investment and good, meaningful jobs to the North West.” The Department of Global Business and Enterprise at Magee provides full time, part time and postgraduate courses which prepare graduates for the ever-evolving world of business. Focusing on areas like business, accountancy and finance, business computing, and analytics, the Department currently has over 600 students based at its campus in Magee. “We focus on entrepreneurial education and applied learning. We teach our graduates how to think and do, by translating thought into action”, explains Dr Moffett, who says students are exposed to global business trends to develop future managers with the instincts of an entrepreneur. “By focusing on global and disruptive education models,

we offer a much more hands-on and practical approach to our students. We encourage students to take part in work placements and internships as much as possible and we are very keen to deepen our links with businesses across the North West.” Business engagement will be a key priority for Dr Moffett post-pandemic and she is keen to get as many organisations involved as possible. “We want to get out there and speak to local businesses and understand what we can do to support their needs. There is a fantastic, thriving business community in the North West, whether it’s manufacturing, hospitality and tourism, or the burgeoning professional services sector. Building relationships with companies like FinTru, Alchemy Technologies and Allstate has been crucial to the development of our business provision, and we are seeking to create a panel of expert business advisors in 2021.”


Dr Sandra Moffett, Head of Ulster University Business School at Magee

Stronger collaboration with other educational institutions is equally vital for Dr Moffett. The Business School already has links with Harvard Business School and Babson College in the US, offering it a unique position within the UK and Ireland. “In the face of Brexit, we have also moved quickly to develop a partnership with the Letterkenny Institute of Technology. We work with partners in both LYIT and NWRC to open opportunity for a collaborative and co-created curriculum and we hope to explore this further over the coming months and years.

Dr Malachy O’Neill, Provost, Magee; Clodagh Hegarty, UU Business School; Mark Redmond, American Chamber of Commerce Ireland; Chris Downing, Sage; and Dr Sandra Moffett, UU Business School

“We want the North West to act as one cohesive educational region, regardless of what side of the border we fall on, to ensure we share our resources and expertise, make the most of funding opportunities, and develop innovative courses. Brexit is undoubtedly a major challenge for education but through collaboration like this we can help minimise whatever barriers may come of it.” Young Enterprise Northern Ireland event held in Magee, sponsored by UU Business

Dr Moffett has big plans for Magee’s business School and Allstate NI school but recognises that this will only come through deep and sustained partnerships with business. “In September 2021 “Our future plans for we will see two new exciting undergraduate the Business School are programmes being offered here at Magee. A ambitious and achievable newly created BSc (Hons) International Business but, to fully maximise their will provide knowledge, skills, and insight into potential, we will need global trade and export/import management, buy-in and collaboration customs and border management, SME from local businesses. internationalisation and development, and We have an exciting and international finance. dynamic environment in the Department which we know “The new BSc (Hons) Marketing will also replicate has the potential to create real the very successful programme offered at the benefits for our students, the Jordanstown campus to build on marketing, economy, and wider society. advertising, branding, and social computing in We have a talented and the North West. These two exciting courses highly expert faculty of staff, will further build on the reach and skills of Ulster undertaking world leading University Business School at Magee. research and consultancy

projects in many diverse fields. “I’d encourage any business who wants to explore avenues to strengthen their relationships with us to get in touch. We can mould creative, resilient, talented future leaders who have the skills the business community needs to continue to succeed in the future, and especially as we emerge from the pandemic - but this will only happen through collaboration and wide-ranging partnership between education and business.” Close-contact pictures taken pre-pandemic



A year of growth for e-learning specialists, Learning Pool Over 15 years ago, Learning Pool was founded by Group CEO, Paul McElvaney, from his kitchen table in Derry, Northern Ireland. Since then, the company has grown from a humble team of five to an international firm with more than 260 employees across the UK and US. Learning Pool’s specialism is online workplace learning solutions that they provide to some of the world’s biggest brands and government departments - Sky, HSBC, Vodafone, and The FA to name a few. They currently serve over 1,100 organisations worldwide with 5.5 million learners in 27 countries across the globe.

Learning Pool Group CEO, Paul McElvaney

personalised, and cost-effective solutions.

In recent years, the company has risen to the challenges posed by the tech industry to continue its remarkable growth. Speaking of their expansion, Paul said:

Learning Pool’s success and development to date can largely be attributed to its highly talented team. Paul notes:

“The tech sector moves at a rapid pace, and my team and I face the constant challenge of continually innovating and expanding our products. In the last four years, I have worked hard to drive our innovation agenda by leading our acquisition agenda. We have just completed our fourth acquisition in as many years by bringing Colorado-based LMS specialists, Remote Learner, into the Learning Pool group. Alongside our other new partners, such as the Oxfordshire-based HT2 Labs, a blend of organic growth and global acquisitions have seen us grow significantly in recent years.”

Our number one priority is ensuring that the company is a desirable place to work, and we pride ourselves on our high-performing and open culture at Learning Pool. Everyone knows exactly where the business is headed and, since everyone is working towards a shared goal, there is a real ethos of togetherness within the company. Despite the company expanding significantly, bringing colleagues from both sides of the Atlantic, I take pride in the great workplace culture we have created.”

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, online learning has never been more crucial. With both public and private sector workers forced to work remotely, more and more organisations turned to technology-enabled teaching and learning to train and educate their employees rapidly yet effectively. Learning Pool has helped companies adapt quickly and efficiently to these changing working environments by providing powerful,


The company has received numerous accolades acknowledging its success, including the Gold Accreditation from Investors in People. Achieving Gold confirms Learning Pool as among the top-ranking organisations for its unique culture and continuous improvement initiatives. The

company is also recognised by Deloitte as one of the Top 50 fastest-growing businesses in Ireland and they also won Gold for ‘Community Commitment’ at the International Corporate Social Responsibility Awards in 2019. Looking ahead, Paul knows that the company is set up for success and growth. He said: “I firmly believe that in the technology sector, the only constant is change. The key to our success at Learning Pool has been our constant willingness to innovate, improve and move out of our comfort zone. In the coming years, we will look to help more clients deliver exceptional performance with pioneering online learning platforms, creative content, and powerful analytics. Throughout the last 15 years, Learning Pool has always stuck by the fundamental principle of putting our clients first. I look forward to seeing where the next 15 years take us.”


Council and industry working together to boost skills Derry City and Strabane District Council is working together with local businesses to build the necessary skills pipelines for the North West economy. Through the council’s Education & Skills Delivery Partnership, government, schools, HE, FE and industry work collaboratively together to identify skills gaps, signpost young people to the appropriate skills development, and nurture the workforce of tomorrow. Columb Duffy, Senior Manager at Allstate NI in the North West, is the Chair of the Partnership’s Digital, Creative and Financial Technologies Sub-Group. He says making sure the next generation of workers is as informed as possible about their choices is a major part of the group’s work and aims to connect young people directly with industry.

“Industry and businesses have the expert knowledge that our school leavers need as they begin to think about their careers. What this partnership is about is developing a local talent pipeline of bright and eager young people to work and live locally and to address skills gaps in the North West”, says Columb. “We want to equip them with the information they need to make the most informed and sensible choices, map out the pathways available to them, and make them think a bit differently about the career and work choices available to them”, Columb explains. “Visit our interactive digital map ( where over 100 companies are listed offering careers in the digital, creative and fintech sectors on our doorstep. It’s becoming more and more the case that a university degree isn’t the be all and end all for school leavers and, for many jobs now, there are many different pathways

Columb Duffy, Senior Manager at Allstate NI

including the apprenticeship route which may make more sense. “For example, Allstate runs a ‘modern apprenticeship’ program that features job rotation, so apprentices get exposure to a variety of teams to help them discover their strengths, plus an honours degree when they finish, while getting paid and having fees and books paid by Allstate. “I would encourage any local employers who want to address skills issues in their business to get in contact with us.” Get in touch with Columb Duffy at



(L-R) Grainne Boyle, Eamonn Moore, Penny Brennan, and Michelle Gallagher of People 1st at the launch of the WISE project in 2019

Award-winning People 1st continues vital employment and training work across North West Award-winning employment and learning organisation People 1st continues to provide high-quality training and employment services to clients across the North West. One of Northern Ireland’s leading training companies, People 1st works closely with partner organisations, the Department for Economy, and the Department for Communities to offer a range of high-quality occupational training and qualifications to over 2,500 learners per year. Established nearly 30 years ago as “Dairy Farm Training” with 2 staff, People 1st now employs over 106 staff and over 60 associates across


its 8 offices in Northern Ireland and 3 in Donegal. The company’s commitment to excellence has been reflected in its numerous award wins, including Deloitte Best Managed Company Platinum Status, Aontas Star Award winner 2019, Regiostars Finalist 2019 and Investors in People Gold Standard. People 1st work closely with organisations across the North West, including Derry and Strabane District Council and Donegal-based organisations including the DEASP, Department of Justice and the ETB. In Derry~Londonderry, the company was a key partner in the Council’s “Get Apprenticeships”

campaign, and the People 1st team ran the Waterside 2019 halfmarathon to raise awareness of this. In Donegal, the company runs multiple employment programmes which provide excellent recruitment services to local employers, assisting companies access government funding for the recruitment of ROI-based employees. Other services include job-matching clients, assistance with job descriptions, selection and shortlisting and interview assistance. One of its largest programmes, ApprenticeshipsNI, is catered for


changing decisions to improve their everyday lives. In the Republic of Ireland, the company also works closely with the Department of Justice to deliver a Gender Equality programme, the WISE Project (Women’s Integration Skills & Employment). This project is co-funded by the Irish Government and European Social Fund (ESF) as part of the ESF programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning.

The People 1st team after completing the Waterside 2019 half-marathon

adults aged 16-24 who are employed and want to upskill and obtain accreditation in their occupational area. The ApprenticeshipNI programme is designed with employers in mind and seeks to offer quality training that your employees will need to get ahead. Speaking of the programmes on offer across the North West and the rest of Northern Ireland, Managing Director Bernadette Daly has said: “Over the last 29 years we have worked hard to help our clients see their ambitions become reality. At People 1st, we firmly believe in the importance of community-led engagement, which is why we work closely with local-based providers across Northern Ireland. In the North West, we are especially focusing on the hospitality industry, including professional cookery, retail, and customer service. As part of the Department for the Economy’s apprenticeship recovery package, employers can receive up to £3700 per apprentice. “The most gratifying aspect of my work is seeing the impact that our programmes have on young people’s lives. People 1st has had over 57,000 learners achieve

accredited qualifications in all sectors from hospitality, customer service, construction, hairdressing, marketing and many more. Looking ahead, I hope that we can offer high-quality learning solutions to more learners and companies across the North West in need of employment and training assistance.” People 1st also provide tailored corporate services to companies of all shapes and sizes. This includes an ICQ Level 5 Diploma in Management in Leadership, which it has offered to private sector employees seeking to upskill and expand their career potential. The company also offers a wide range of 3–6-hour Innovative Training Solutions workshops covering areas such as team communication, recruitment, performance management and more. Alongside this, the company offers Training for Success, a programme which equips 16–18-year-olds with skills required for the workplace, LEMIS+ an initiative designed to help unemployed people overcome barriers to employment, and the Community Family Support Programme, which supports families as they make life-

Speaking of the crucial work the company does in local communities, Director Ronan Heenan, said: “Through our series of programmes and extensive range of corporate training services, we pride ourselves on meeting the needs of a diverse range of customers from all corners of Northern Ireland. Even with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, our incredible team adapted well and never stopped its incredible work in local settings. From Belfast to Donegal, despite the challenges faced, we have continued to engage in strong, strategic local partnerships to ensure our services reach all those in need of assistance. “Currently, we provide our services to over 800 private, public, and third sector businesses alongside school leavers and jobseekers. From our management to our tutors, each member of the People 1st team is committed to providing excellent learning opportunities for all learners across Northern Ireland. I look forward to working more closely with companies in the North West as they look to grow their employment and training potential.” To get in touch with People 1st, please contact Business Development Manager Dan Carlin at or by phone at 02871940997. Close-contact pictures taken pre-pandemic



MPA Recruitment continues rapid growth with UK-wide NHS partnership Northern Ireland based MPA Recruitment has continued its rapid growth after securing a UK-wide contract with NHS Scotland and England via the Workforce Alliance Framework. Founded in 1997, MPA Recruitment is one of the largest staffing providers in Northern Ireland, employing over 2500 people each year, throughout six offices in Derry-Londonderry, Belfast, Omagh, Armagh, Ballymena, and Coleraine. The company recruits across 15 different sectors including healthcare, energy, administration, accountancy, and construction and engineering. The company now also has a presence in the Middle East and India and places candidates in full and part time employment in cities like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, and Riyadh. Amongst various other accolades, MPA Recruitment has been named in the established Recruiter’s Fast 50 as top Multi Sector Recruitment Company in the UK in 2019 and 2020. MPA is the first Northern Ireland company to top the Multi Sector list and this accolade recognises its exceptional growth over the last three years. Alongside this, in 2020, the


Paul McQue, CEO of MPA Recruitment

company was named in the London Stock Exchange Group’s sixth annual report on ‘1000 Companies to Inspire Britain’, which identifies the UK’s fastest growing businesses. MPA is the only recruitment company from Northern Ireland to be recognised in this report.

MPA Recruitment is already the largest supplier of Healthcare staff to the public and private sector throughout NI. This award will see MPA expand its business within several branch openings throughout Scotland and England over the next 24 months. The company will support NHS Trusts with


their permanent and temporary staffing across Nursing, Allied Health, and Healthcare Assistant positions from its Derry HQ and offices throughout NI, Canada, the Middle East, and India. CEO of the MPA Group, Paul McQue said: “The team and I are delighted to announce MPA Healthcare’s appointment to the NHS Workforce Alliance Framework Agreement. The Workforce Alliance is an initiative of the NHS to create a more sustainable workforce model and is built to address the staffing crisis with more modern, cost effective, single framework client strategies that are built on a strict adherence to compliance and continuity of care throughout the NHS. Our appointment will bring benefits to our clients, candidates, and to MPA. We are excited and grateful for the opportunity to significantly grow our relationship with the NHS. “MPA Healthcare will play a bigger role in providing healthcare staff to not only support the NHS, but also the wider UK public sector in their future recruitment strategies. This partnership will include Crown Commercial Service (CCS), the largest public procurement organisation in the UK. The Workforce Alliance also leverages the extensive experience that the NHS Procurement in Partnership has in the NHS. “Our award-winning team, led by Ciara Campbell and Nicky McConville, has played an instrumental part in this achievement. We pride ourselves in investing in our people and as a result we are more productive, happier at work, and able to offer better value-added experience to our customer base, one that’s now stretching globally. “It’s in our strategic plan to grow significantly over the next two to five years. We will continue our branch expansion throughout the UK as well as our international growth plans throughout 2021. It’s just an extremely exciting time for MPA Recruitment. We’ll be working just as hard to maintain this growth with our client partners and candidates.’’ As part of this partnership, MPA will be an approved supplier to the new Clinical & Healthcare staffing framework for the NHS

Ciara Campbell, Operations Director, MPA Recruitment

Workforce Alliance. This Alliance was created to address the staffing crisis in the NHS which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. It seeks to eliminate the unnecessary duplication of effort in recruitment and empower the NHS to create a sustainable workforce model. Ciara Campbell, Operation Director of MPA Healthcare, added: “MPA has been supplying the NHS for more than 15 years here in Northern Ireland. This UK wide contract with the NHS Workforce Alliance means that our partnership with the NHS will be stronger than ever before. Having been named as the Fastest Growing Multi Sector

Recruitment company in the UK in 2019 and placing in the top 10 in 2020, this will enable us to continue our growth story into 2021 and beyond. “MPA will be working in partnership with the Workforce Alliance who are the only public sector managed framework body in England. This award will enable us to continue supporting the public sector via the provision of personnel from a highly experienced pool of clinical & healthcare staff, which has never been more critical than in the current climate.”



Award Winning NWRC meeting the Covid-19 challenge Twelve months ago few could have foreseen what 2020 would bring as businesses, schools, and colleges were forced to close their buildings and the world was faced with the challenge of a global pandemic. Offices remained empty and face-to-face meetings were suspended as kitchen tables and home offices became a new temporary hub of innovation and skills development for North West Regional College’s (NWRC) Business Support Centre (BSC) team. NWRC BSC, which has spent the last six

years supporting local employers and the economy, has continued to work effectively during this time, on its core aims of developing skills, fostering innovation, and driving applied research.

The team’s focus remains on supporting local business through upskilling, and encouraging innovation by driving forward new ideas and concepts.

It’s been an award-winning year for the BSC team, winning the award for Best Employer Engagement at the Times Educational Supplement (Tes) Further Education Awards 2020, with the judges stating that the BSC had given College staff and students “a real chance to engage with employers, while simultaneously responding to the needs of businesses.”

A new Digital Marketing Leaders course has recently been launched, as well as a fully funded Level 3 qualification from the Institute of Export and International Trade, helping local businesses navigate Brexit. Two Assured Skills Academies, offering preemployment training and the skills needed to compete for new employment have been completed, and the NWRC continues to grow and develop their range of courses through Skills Focus and upskilling. Leo Murphy, NWRC Chief Executive and Principal commended the NWRC BSC team who have continued to support industry. He said: “Our Business Support Centre team will continue to play a major role in the regeneration of the North West and we look forward to lending our support and expertise as we continue to build and grow the local economy. “We look to the future, and the recent signing of the Heads of Terms for the City Deal and the Inclusive Future Fund Investment Plan, the largest investment ever in this City Region, hoping this will be a catalyst for change. “

Pictured with the TES award are L-R Dr Fergal Tuffy, Technology Innovation Manager at NWRC BSC, Philip Devlin, Product Design Centre Manager, Stella Graham, Manager Foodovation Centre, and Sinead Hawkins, Business Skills Manager. (Pic Martin McKeown)


Dr. Fergal Tuffy, Technology Innovation Manager at NWRC BSC

L-R Dr Fergal Tuffy, Technology Innovation Manager at NWRC BSC, Patrick McKeown, Director of Finance and Economic Engagement, NWRC, Philip Devlin, Product Design Centre Manager, Stella Graham, Manager Foodovation Centre, Leo Murphy, Chief Executive and Principal of NWRC, and Sinead Hawkins, Business Skills Manager. (Pic Martin McKeown)

said: “When we opened our Business Support Centre in 2015 it was as a direct response to the North West economic and employment challenges. “Today, it has supported more than 1,800 companies, providing bespoke upskilling and training opportunities, and is working with local employers to source funding for innovation and applied research projects. The centre has a specialist team of 23 staff, who keep abreast of new technologies to keep their industry knowledge and skills up to date. “With the arrival of Covid, we, like many others, utilised our Product Design Centre facilities to make over 2000 units of PPE. Along with our curriculum teams, more than 470 employees from 190 businesses were trained online to level 2 or above via the Department for the Economy (DfE) Skills Focus programme. Furthermore, over 120 specialist interventions to assist businesses and entrepreneurs in developing new products, processes, and services in food and drink, engineering, and product design, IT and augmented reality. For example we assisted chefs to develop their own products and restaurants

and takeaways to develop products for supermarket and online retail, leveraging DfE’s InnovateUs and Invest NI’s Innovation Voucher programmes. The College is also collaborating with local councils on various skills interventions in the computing, engineering, and hospitality industries to provide employment opportunities for those out of work.” Furthermore, the NWRC has introduced a series of free short courses, as part of the DfE Covid Skills Interventions Programme. This is offering local people whose work, livelihood, or well-being, has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic the opportunity to upskill or retrain and receive an accredited qualification. The NWRC has secured £500k funding from DfE with a range of courses in Green Technologies, Leadership and Management, Manufacturing, Digital Technologies, and Healthcare. Dr. Tuffy continued: “Our focus is to develop the skills of people, both those in employment and those affected by Covid, as we attempt to support the rebuilding of the North West economy. These courses support people to develop new skills in sectors that we feel

will be important to economic recovery post-Covid. “Covid-19 has changed the way the world operated pre-2020, with many workforces prompted to adopt a new model of working, while also adapting to a virtual and digital world. “The college has continued to deliver fully funded courses for businesses that can be accessed via mobile phones, computers, and tablet devices, funded by the Department for the Economy’s Skills Focus Programme. Upskilling is key for every business. It enables businesses to support their staff on furlough and also for owners or directors to develop new skills to move forward positively with a new way of doing business. “Our aim at NWRC is to continue this work by developing skills, fostering innovation, and driving applied research, coupled with supporting the wider college community to ensure an industry-relevant professional and technically skilled curriculum, all with the aim of growing the economy in Northern Ireland.” You can contact the Business Support Centre



Future Intelligence: Young Researchers at Ulster University are learning skills for tomorrow’s world Establishing Derry as a hotbed for innovation and digital technologies through the Derry and Strabane City Deal will influence the skills and innovation agenda in the region. Ulster University is supporting young people to embrace career pathways in artificial intelligence and smart manufacturing to prepare for tomorrow’s world. “A major opportunity exists for companies in the North West because we are moving into a new technological and data driven era”, according to Dr Justin Quinn at Ulster University. “There are so many new skills to learn. Through the development of innovation centres in the Derry and Strabane City Deal, our vision is to develop the ‘global engineer’ for the North West. This is someone who knows about technological solutions in the context of history, geography, global politics, and many other factors. They apply that diverse knowledge to their thinking. We

Courtney Gallagher, PhD Researcher at the School of Computing, Engineering and Intelligent Systems, Ulster University


believe that global and innovative outlook, applied locally within industry, will enable the North West to compete on the global stage.” “During my degree I did a placement at Abbott Diabetes Care in Donegal Town. I was afforded many opportunities to apply and develop my engineering skills”, says Courtney Gallagher, Salman Ahemd, a 2nd year PhD researcher supported by the a PhD researcher at Dr George Moore Studentship in Data Analytics at Ulster University’s ISRC at the Magee Campus Magee. “It was so interesting to find challenging industry-led data analytics myself at 20 years of age to be the problems.” only female engineer working on the packaging line. I have gained a “AI is one of the top emerging wealth of skills at Magee that have technologies that is critical to the future been invaluable to progressing success of Allstate”, according to Dr my career. I am now doing a PhD Kathryn Harkin of Allstate NI. “Having in Engineering with a focus on world class AI research expertise, such as computer modelling and material Ulster University’s CARL, on our doorstep science. In the future, this research helps to ensure Allstate develop innovative will help industry to save time, money solutions, leveraging emerging techniques and resources.” and safeguarding our competitive position in the global market.” Ulster University’s young researchers are also applying their skills to Salman Ahmed, a 2nd year PhD collaborative projects with industry researcher supported by the Dr George partners. Allstate NI is a key industry Moore Studentship in Data Analytics is partner supporting the City Deal a key researcher in this project. He said innovation projects. “Language is easier to learn and comes more naturally in adolescence because it’s Professor Damien Coyle of Ulster a repeatable, trained behaviour—much University says “We are pleased to like walking. However, it is very difficult be involved in industry-led AI and for computers to learn and process data analytics challenges, supporting text and natural language. That is why local and global partners to improve natural language processing is gaining productivity. Our research with momentum. I am excited about learning Allstate NI has a focus on advanced AI techniques and having the opportunity AI and natural language processing to work with one of America’s leading (helping computers to understand insurance companies in Derry and within a speech). This is a key example of leading research centre – the experience how academic researchers can assist to date has been exceptional.” companies seize the opportunities that AI can afford. It is also beneficial For more UU ‘Skills Stories’ visit for a PhD researcher to engage with industry and learn how to tackle


A world of opportunities awaits you with a career in Tourism, Hospitality and Culinary Arts from LYIT Career opportunities, both across the island of Ireland and abroad, are almost limitless in the sector. The structure of the programmes at Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT), allows learners to undertake work-based learning projects and the Department of Tourism has a track record in helping facilitate and support learners in their career progression.

programmes. The programmes are designed for all types of learners returning to study. They are offered on a full or part-time basis and have been developed in collaboration with regional and national tourism enterprises. Students and graduates find placement and employment opportunities around the globe with an enviable near 100% graduate employment rate.

The courses range from short certificate programmes to degree level qualifications in culinary arts, hospitality, tourism, food science and technology, industry-based programmes and preparatory

Nathan Gillespie has been shortlisted in the Forbes Global Travel Awards 2021. Nathan takes his place alongside other honourees from Hong Kong, Panama and the US. Graduating in 2019 with a BA (Hons) in Hotel,

Nathan Gillespie

Restaurant and Resort Management, Nathan completed placements in different hotels and gained a range of experience across all aspects of hotel operations. A consummate professional, Nathan represented LYIT at National Competitions and since graduating has worked in Ashford Castle, Co. Mayo where he has had the opportunity to work closely with management during the current pandemic and resulting lockdowns. To find out more about the various tourism and culinary programmes available at LYIT visit



Apprenticeships key to recovery and growth In the space of a year, the world of work has changed dramatically, and possibly forever. The pandemic has exposed existing frailties or blind spots in our economy, thousands are sadly out of work, and the way companies are sourcing and hiring their employees is constantly evolving. Getting people back to work as the economy reopens and recovers, especially those whose jobs may be gone, will be one of our biggest challenges. Bounce back cannot happen with large parts of the population unemployed. In many instances, however, this will require workers upskilling or reskilling as we seek to capitalise on new sectors or industries. Apprenticeships and ‘earning and learning’ schemes will be vital in this respect. Richard Kirk, CEO of apprenticeship marketplace Workplus, says apprenticeships should be central as we emerge from Covid and its economic impact. “The economy and many businesses across Northern Ireland have been shaken in this last year and, as we emerge from the pandemic, priorities will be markedly different: we need more people into work, and we are likely to see a change in demand across the sectors. The apprenticeship system is the best way to connect those two priorities.” “Part of our mission here at Workplus is to grow the apprenticeship culture and make it easy for employers to find apprentices. Apprenticeships are no longer limited to traditional trades, they now span a breadth of sectors and disciplines, including IT, business administration and accountancy, to name but a few. Moreover, the variety of apprenticeship levels available in


Richard Kirk, CEO, Workplus

means that are open to all academic abilities.” Richard started Workplus in 2015 as part of an effort to address the skills gap and drive forward employer-led apprenticeships in Northern Ireland. Since 2015, Workplus has expanded to support 70 employers in a variety of different sectors. The company now connects employers with bright, focused, and ambitious people who benefit from workplace experience, good pay, and access to training and professional networks which will kickstart their professional careers and transform their lives. “The employer-led focus is an important emphasis. Ensuring employers are front and centre makes the apprenticeship about meaningful employment and talent pipelines for growing sectors, not simply a college or university course. Collaboration is also at the heart of Workplus, we’ve achieved so much in relatively short time through

bringing employers together, identifying new opportunities and working with education providers to create new pathways.” “From the apprentice side, we’ve seen a real appetite from school leavers as well as people looking to reskill or upskill. And that is where Workplus acts as a bridge we connect employers and prospective apprentices, providing a single place for applicants to apply, as well as ensuring a simple, thorough selection process for employers.” “Workplus recently joined the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce and we’re delighted to now be part of this network. I started my career as a civil engineer and most of my work was based in Derry, so I have real fondness for the North West.” “While there have been challenges, there are also opportunities including the Derry~Londonderry & Strabane City Deal which will accelerate growth and create

Workplus connects employers and apprentices

welcome the commitment to make them available to even more people and sectors by amending agerelated eligibility criteria. We believe passionately that apprenticeships should be open to everyone, regardless of age or experience, used as ways to both get onto the career ladder and retrain or reskill”, says Richard.

Employers are developing talent through apprenticeships

new employment openings in the region.” Despite the serious economic challenges due to the pandemic, Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s recent UK Budget committed to create 40,000 new traineeships in England, investing a further £126m in the schemes. So what does Richard think this will mean for Northern Ireland? “It was good to see the Chancellor commit so much funding for apprenticeships and traineeships, a clear recognition

of the potential that they both have as we look to rebuild and recover postpandemic. Government support is crucial in both promoting and funding apprenticeships. Moreover, the variety of apprenticeship levels available means that they are open to all academic abilities. “Closer to home, we warmly welcome the Executive’s and local Ministers’ active promotion and recognition of the importance of apprenticeships. The Economy Minister’s recently published Economic Recovery Action Plan recognises the role of apprenticeships in creating a highly skilled, relevant and agile workforce. In particular, we

“Apprenticeships will be critical to our economic recovery, offering a welcome blend of learning and practical experience, and allowing employers to develop their employees on a longerterm basis with the exact skills they need for their business. With sustained government support and buy-in from both public and private sector employers, apprenticeships can drive the post-Covid rebuild, recharge our economic growth, and lift people out of unemployment.” For further information visit or contact Richard at Close-contact pictures taken pre-pandemic

To mark NI Apprenticeship Week, Londonderry Chamber of Commerce and Workplus will be holding an apprenticeship webinar on Wednesday 28th April at 11am. Further details available on the Chamber website.



Mayor Cllr Brian Tierney signing the City Deal Heads of Terms Agreement in the Guildhall

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Brian Tierney talks to CONNECTED about the recent signing of the City Deal Heads of Terms I was hugely proud to sign the Heads of Terms for the Derry~Londonderry Strabane City Deal that marks the single largest ever Government investment in this region. The signing of the Heads of Terms is a hugely significant milestone and sets in motion the next stages of the journey to allow Council and its key delivery partners, the Ulster University, the Western Health and Social Services Trust, the North West Regional College and C-TRIC, to continue to work together to bring about growth, investment and prosperity. This £250m investment from the UK and NI Governments allows us to work with our partners in the business and academic sectors to deliver a City Deal that will bring about a transformative boost to the region’s economy. We are excited to move on to the delivery phase, which will see this Government and partner-led investment rolled out into our region later this year.


Key to the success to date has been the collaborative approach to securing the City Deal and the joined efforts of the key delivery partners, key stakeholders and, civic and political leaders in getting it over the line. A huge amount of work has also been done to ensure the City Deal projects align closely with the short term to medium term economic needs of the region. We have already made considerable progress towards our goal of achieving inclusive growth and we believe that the City Deal will allow us to deliver a step change in the implementation of these ambitious plans. Among the strategic projects included in the £250m investment package is the delivery of Centres of Innovation and Research at Ulster University in artificial intelligence and data analytics (CARL) and robotics and automation (CIDRA), together with the key smart/digital City and Region initiatives, as well as the delivery of The School of Medicine at the Magee campus and the creation of a Health Research Institute (HRI) in the city and the expansion of C-TRIC at the Altnagelvin Area Hospital site through a pioneering health-innovation project entitled THRIVE.

Key projects in the City Deal include the provision of mixed use civic, health, leisure and educational facilities as part of a major regeneration of Strabane Town Centre, the creation of an interactive maritime attraction and an enhanced walled city tourism experience. A major regeneration investment along the riverfront of the Queens Quay in Derry will also take place, closely linked to the expansion of Ulster University. The provision of an integrated, Council-wide, multi-skills employment pathways intervention support programme will be interlinked across all these projects. The City Deal has the potential to bring an additional 7,000 jobs by 2032 and lever additional millions in investment over the next decade. We aim to increase our output growth with a GVA (Gross Value Added) of £230m per annum and see an additional £126m in wages. I strongly believe that a funding package of this scale and magnitude will be felt across the wider North West region and beyond. While we do face a number of challenges, I am confident all partners will continue to work collectively to build on the region’s positive assets to reinvent ourselves and be primed for a new and buoyant future.

CITY DEAL & INCLUSIVE FUTURE FUND Delivering Inclusive & Sustainable Growth for the Derry~Londonderry & Strabane City Region 47


RiverRidge invests in plant to convert black bin waste into Vehicle Fuel Waste management company, RiverRidge is to begin the next stage of an innovative vehicle fuel synthesising project, which will convert elements of household black bin waste into compressed biogas that can then be used to operate compressed natural gas vehicle engines. It represents an investment of £25m, with construction expected to commence subject to being ratified by RiverRidge’s Board and investors this summer. Once constructed, the complete treatment process will have the capacity to convert 90,000mt of waste per year into over six million kgs of compressed biogas – enough to fuel over 270 articulated vehicles annually. The company has already invested nearly £3m by building and commissioning the first stage of the project that extracts and cleans elements of biomass from household black bin waste. It uses advanced biological treatment technologies to extract methane from elements of household black bin waste that is currently either sent to landfill or exported as a feedstock in inefficient waste to energy facilities outside of the UK. Trials conducted by RiverRidge using the proposed technology have been ongoing for the last 12 months and have now proved its capacity to generate both a renewable transport fuel, as well as a high-quality soil enricher. RiverRidge CEO, Brett Ross, commented, “The RiverRidge Group along with Full Circle Generation currently has the infrastructure in place to manage over 80% of Northern Ireland’s black bin waste tonnages each year. This project significantly improves the quality of outcomes from our infrastructure by diverting further tonnages away from landfill into products which have far less of an adverse impact on our environment.” RiverRidge, which employs nearly 300 people, is Northern Ireland’s leading waste management


A representation of the plant which will convert elements of household black bin waste into compressed biogas that can then be used to operate compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle engines

company and currently manages black bin waste volumes for a number of local authorities. The company played a leading role in developing Full Circle Generation. The £100m plant uses gasification technology to create electricity using a fuel produced from household black bin waste. Brett Ross continued, “The company continues to focus on ensuring that little-to-no black bin waste finds its way into landfill, but is rather used productively to either efficiently produce energy or products that can replace traditional raw materials. At the same time, we keep a keen eye on the disposal costs associated with our solutions and try to ensure they always remain at an affordable level for hard pressed local authorities.” A compelling aspect of the project will be its ability to convert the methane extracted from the waste

streams it uses into a usable vehicle fuel. The company has begun discussions with several large-scale transport users that are interested in using the renewable fuel along with natural gas network operator, Firmus Energy. RiverRidge COO, Cecil McBurney, stated, “This project represents the most important step our company and Northern Ireland will take in ensuring waste is used effectively to improve human health and decarbonise our economy. “While biological treatment of waste is not new, the use of the technology to treat household black bin waste is. We believe that once operational, Northern Ireland will be at the forefront of black bin waste treatment in both the UK and Europe.”


Strabane BID boosting local businesses Strabane Business Improvement District (BID) Company is a business-led partnership dedicated to making Strabane a better place to live, work, visit and invest. BID was set up as a means of regenerating Strabane town, increasing footfall and improving the trading environment. It seeks to give more control to businesses and stakeholders to have their own input on what they want to see, and how they can deliver it. The majority of businesses involved are small to-medium size but BID provides a platform that empowers and supports all local businesses, gives a strong collective voice, provides vital access to information and guidance, and acts as a support mechanism. Priorities include destination marketing, event development and supporting businesses which will benefit the local economy and boost visitor numbers to Strabane town centre. Strabane BID is chaired by Kieran Kennedy, Managing Director of O’Neills, with local publican Michael Kelly operating as vicechair. The board of experienced, successful and diverse business people work as a collaborative group alongside Derry City and Strabane District Council and other stakeholders to look at creative and wideranging initiatives, events and activities that promote the town centre and ensure money is being redirected back into the economy to the benefit of local businesses. The InStrabane gift card scheme was launched in 2018 and has been an extremely successful project that has kept consumers spending locally, with over 70 businesses now involved. 2020 saw annual gift card sales exceed £50,000, with Strabane BID also agreeing to extend the date on cards which had expired during COVID-19 restrictions by another 12 months. This has been a significant boost to local businesses, with every penny of this money assisting in the recovery process as

we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Public engagement has been another important priority for Strabane BID and one channel through which this has been achieved is the InStrabane social media. Through promoting businesses and opportunities, alongside promotional giveaways, they have successfully engaged both businesses and the public to extend their social media reach. Coming through the COVID-19 pandemic, investment, prosperity and support for local businesses is to be of vital importance in the coming years and the signing of Heads of Terms on the Derry~Londonderry and Strabane City Deal signifies a significant investment in the town. In the coming years, the partnership will seek to expand business growth and improve the competitiveness of the local economy. Looking ahead, BID Chair Kieran Kennedy said: “BID’s aspiration in 2021

is to build on the foundations laid down so far but we recognise that we are living in a challenging and changing environment, one in which we must be ready to react quickly to the changing needs of our business community. “We want to be listening to local business and acting to their benefit, both in a local and national capacity, to ensure we are aiding, supporting and driving forward post-Covid recovery as well as driving forward the much welcomed City Deal investment.”

Close-contact pictures taken pre-pandemic



CRASH Services lends its support to initiative to help children with home schooling in North West CRASH Services, who opened a regional office in the North West two years ago, has donated £3,000 to the New2You Centre for the Derryware Donations project. The upcycling innovation scheme will ensure children in socially deprived areas are able to continue with home schooling during the current lockdown restrictions. Derryware Donations, a joint venture by local IT specialist and teacher Eoghan Barr and the New2You Centre at Pennyburn Recycling Centre, is encouraging people and businesses to search out devices such as laptops and tablets that they no longer use, which will be refurbished and equipped with the necessary software required for remote learning through Google Classroom. The much-needed initiative will use the money provided by CRASH to acquire batteries for refurbished laptops, which will then be distributed to children in the local area. This will help to alleviate the pressures of home learning for some families, as well as addressing the shortage of devices to facilitate homeschooling. Nuala Griffiths, manager at New2You, said: “We are extremely grateful to CRASH Services for their very generous donation. The project has continually grown in demand and every bit of help we receive is greatly appreciated. “Through support from individuals and local businesses, we can ensure children in the local area are able to continue with their home-schooling.” Eoghan Barr said the scheme had received a great response since it was launched in the Derry and Strabane areas


– so far, 94 devices have been distributed to families. “Home-schooling has created enormous pressure for families and parents, who may not have the resources to buy a new device, or the hardware required, but this initiative has enabled children in many local families who are in need, to continue their education with Google Classroom,” he explained. Jonathan McKeown, from CRASH Services, said the company was only too happy to support the local community since opening its Derry branch over 18 months ago. “When we heard about the Derryware Donations project, we wanted to help out”, he said. “It’s a fantastic way to assist families during such a challenging time, so we are delighted to be able to get involved with the scheme.”

Jonathan McKeown, Chief Executive, CRASH Services

Four of the laptops have been given to families through SureStart Shantallow. One family has eight children, four of whom are of school age and need a device each to do their work. “It has been extremely difficult for them to cope with the needs and demands of all the children with very limited resources”, says Liz Bonham, Family Support Coordinator. “These will help make a big difference in these homes where both parents and children have

been struggling to cope with the demands placed upon them by the Covid restrictions and home schooling.”

Find out more about the scheme at For details of CRASH Services, visit



business advice with our advisers who can signpost in the right direction. Great support is also available on both sides of the border from the likes of Intertrade Ireland, the Federation of Small Businesses, Government Departments, Local Enterprise Offices, Council Economic Development Offices, the CBI, and IBEC to name but a few.

Joe Lavery

EURES Cross Border Partnership Ireland – N Ireland Coordinator THE EURES CROSS BORDER PARTNERSHIP POST BREXIT So, after four years of talking and negotiating, Brexit has finally happened. Before the global pandemic, Brexit seemed to be the only thing that was on the news – or so it appeared.

The EURES Cross Border Partnership will continue to provide support for cross border workers, jobseekers, and employers on the island of Ireland. We can provide information that will help you make the next move, or we can point you in the direction or help you make the contact that will assist you. Please feel free to contact us at any time or search our information on

And then, on the 1st January 2021, it happened. For many, it was a bit like the Millennium bug way back when everyone was so worried about what the world would look like on New Year’s Day.

New regulations for employers will, of course, provide different challenges and opportunities. There is a plethora of information available to support employers and businesses with the new regulations and these can be accessed via our website or can be discussed


So, what do you do to ensure you clear some headspace for you as a manager? Whether its exercise, meditation, music or spending time with family (or on your own) it is imperative that you recognise and prioritise these things. Once you look after your own stress then you are in a better place to support your staff. In my experience, to support staff, we need to ensure that people feel valued and listened to. Just hearing someone’s concerns does not mean that you have to go into fix-it mode. So many managers I coach often feel overwhelmed when staff come to them with problems as they feel they must fix them all. Often staff just need to either vent or feel that they can be heard. Humility is a real strength when supporting staff and can be displayed by admitting that you do not have all the answers, that you are human. You can build rapport and integrity when being genuine. You may not have all the answers, but you can listen and allow staff to be heard.

Brexit will, however, have an effect on the lives of many in the border region although we are not exactly sure to what extent just yet. The Common Travel Area agreement between the UK and Ireland will ensure that, for cross border workers and jobseekers, there should be no major changes in how they go about their business of working or seeking employment.

In response to this question, I am reminded of the flight safety drill when the air steward staff tells us to place the oxygen mask on ourselves before attending to others. It is so important to prioritise your own good mental health and stress management when supporting others.

Helen McDonnell

IndigoLife Coaching – Principal Coach HOW CAN I SUPPORT MY STAFF WHEN I AM UNDER PRESSURE? As the impact of the pandemic continues to emerge, there is more and more awareness of people’s poor mental health. This can be overwhelming when managing staff.

The past year has really highlighted that no matter what is happening, or not happening, communication is key! By communicating regularly with staff, it allows them to feel involved and valued and leaves less room for ambiguity. It also allows for any issues to be picked up quicker and addressed sooner. To summarise: • Prioritise your support networks. • Listening does not always mean fixing. • Communication is key, even if you have nothing new to communicate. • Humility goes a long way, admitting you do not have all the answers can be very liberating for all.


Gareth Reid

Manager, Des Reid & Co Chartered Accountants PROTECTING YOUR CASH FLOW DURING THE PANDEMIC

businesses have had to reassess their services and product offerings. It’s important to have frank and honest conversations about the future and explore how to become a leaner, more efficient operation. Can you cut back in certain areas? Are you regularly over servicing clients beyond their service fee? Have you carried out an emergency cash flow forecast in response to the pandemic? Do you need to spend so much on office supplies and other miscellaneous supplies? Now’s the time to review your outgoings and spending and be ruthless in what you can cut back on. For more information, get in touch with Gareth Reid at gareth.reid@

No matter what sector or industry your business is in, protecting your cash flow has been the number one concern of all business leaders during the pandemic. In our roles as accountants, we have seen first-hand the steps taken by businesses throughout the past 12 months to protect their cash positions and ensure a healthy cash flow. Understanding what steps you can take to manage your cash flow during a period of crisis like the Covid pandemic is critical to ensuring your business can weather the storm and survive. Here are some simple steps you can take to protect your cash flow over the coming months as we look towards reopening the economy. Furlough scheme – Given that wages and salaries are one of a company’s largest expenses, the furlough scheme has been absolutely invaluable, both for protecting jobs and protecting cash flows. While there is an employer contribution involved concerning pension and national insurance, the furlough scheme has taken a massive burden off the shoulders of employers and business owners.

Denis Finnegan Digital Director, Grofuse

GROFUSE’S TEN SEO TRENDS FOR 2021 Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a very effective digital marketing activity to attract consumers to your online platforms - if you use it right. Here are some SEO trends to anticipate for 2021:

Contact your finance provider – It’s important to speak regularly with your bank or finance provider to understand what funding and financing options are open to you. Banks and lenders have responded appropriately during the pandemic and are being more flexible to the needs of businesses. If you’re worried about interest rates or loan repayments, speak to your bank or provider as soon as possible.

1. Voice Search Optimisation Voice searches performed in Google are up 35x since 2008. Smart SEOs are optimising some content for voice search. When this happens, Google usually picks a page that contains a) the question and b) the answer. To optimise for voice search, consider your keywords and identify longer phrases that people use in everyday conversation. Voice searches tend to do better with longer, more naturalsounding phrases - when people type, they tend to abbreviate.

Internal audit – Best laid plans went out the window last March and many

2. Mobile-Friendliness Indexing In 2019, Google rolled out mobile-first

indexing, meaning the search engine looks primarily at the mobile version of a website, considering this the ‘primary’ version instead of the desktop version. 3. Fulfil the Google ‘EAT’ Principle to rank higher Previously, Domain Authority was primarily about links. Today, Google also evaluates your site based on Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T principle). To rank, content needs to be written by people that are very knowledgeable on given topics. 5. Long-Form Content will improve SERPs Long reads of 3,000-plus words get three times more traffic and four times more shares. Incorporate lengthier content to achieve higher search rankings. 6. Featured snippets will become more prominent Featured Snippets are a shortcut to gaining prominence in Google - and they’re very brief, usually only 40-60 words. Snippets are the box at the top of the SERPs, above the actual results. Gaining ranking for a featured snippet is a great way to get on the first page of results. 7. Predictive Search is expected to improve Google Discover, launched in 2017, is another one of Google’s AI-driven tools. The content recommendation tool identifies user behavioural patterns and gradually observes these habits. 8. An effective SEO Strategy will need to include video Optimise your video for SEO, Google uses your title, description, and tags to figure out what your video is all about. Embedding video content into your blog posts can significantly reduce your bounce rate and improve engagement. 9. Image Optimisation will play a larger role in search Use high-quality, relevant images, and make sure to customise the file name, labelling the photo file so that it’s relevant to the content on the corresponding page. Use alt tags, which crawlers use to classify images. Finally, add images to your site map, where they are even easier to crawl. 10. Local search listings will play a larger role in SEO strategies Most people use search engines to find localised goods and services. Local SEO is important - and it’s evolving. This evolution is in part because of the rise of zero-click searches. Contact our team today: NI +44 2871 228820 to explore how SEO can benefit your business.



Employee Health & Wellbeing at Allstate Northern Ireland Allstate NI are known for always putting employee health and wellbeing at the forefront of their values. As they approach their one-year anniversary of remote working, we look back at how they have supported all aspects of their employees’ wellbeing. From the outset, it was acknowledged that each employee may have different requirements for flexibility when working from home. The company encouraged all employees to work a pattern that suited them and allowed for extra flexibility. To look after their physical wellbeing, well known fitness instructor Mr. Motivator provided Allstate NI with fun, high energy, motivational fitness sessions for the whole family. It was an opportunity for the family to come together, take time out of their day for something light-hearted and positive, while also supporting their physical wellbeing. From a mental health perspective, the Allstate NI Mental Health First Aid team organised a ‘Time To Talk’ session, where employees talked openly on a panel session about their mental health experiences and shared resources. Allstate NI were proud sponsors of

U105’s ‘Voices of Hope’ campaign that ran during March, an on air series offering a range of support for isolated and lonely listeners, funded by the Audio Content Fund. The company hosted their first ‘Home School Hacks’ sessions on 9th February for their employees. The two sessions focussed around tips for effective home-schooling for parents of primary and secondary school children. Marcella Wilson and Sarah Workman from Donaghey Primary School and Juliette Barber from St. Cecilia’s College spoke alongside a panel of Allstate parents about how to cope with home schooling as working parents and shared their personal experiences. The company also prioritised financial wellbeing for their employees. They regularly sent pulse surveys to employees to gauge how they were feeling about the effects of Covid-19

and working from home and used the results to implement two new support programs. In November, Allstate introduced a company-wide initiative called the ‘Good Office Program’. This entitled every employee to spend a fixed sum on equipment like desks, chairs and monitors to help them work from home more effectively. This enabled employees to have an excellent, permanent home office set up to keep in place even when they return to the office, so that hybrid working can be effective and productive. In December, Allstate launched the Covid Holiday Support Scheme, for employees and their families, with the aim of helping those who had suffered financial hardship in their personal lives, as a direct result of Covid-19. This global programme was well received across all locations. As Allstate NI prepare for the future of work and a return to office plan later in the year, wellbeing and flexibility is something that will remain at the core of their plans.




Down Memory Lane Kevin Watson Founder and Managing Director, Kevin Watson Group What age are you? I am 53 years old. I have been in the Built Environment industry since the age of 18.

Where in the city are you from? I was born in Slaughtmanus, and I now reside in Tamnaherin a couple of miles away just outside Eglinton village. A beautiful part of our city.

Explain what your business does. Kevin Watson Group work across Northern Ireland and the UK in the social, private, and commercial sectors of the construction industry. We have wide-ranging expertise within our ranks and are trusted providers of traditional procurement and design and build projects. Put simply, we build buildings.

What is your title and how long have you been in post? I am the Managing Director of Kevin Watson Group. I founded the company in 1987 while working in London. With 36 years’ experience, I am still learning in an industry that is rapidly evolving both in technology and methodology.

Tell me how your business began. While working in sites across London, I realised the breadth of opportunity for renovation and maintenance work across the construction industry. I soon began to take on my own projects and, in 1987, I decided the time was right to set up Kevin Watson Group. The business had very humble beginnings - our first telephone number was that of a public telephone box! Since then, we have worked hard to accrue a strong reputation as a key player in the UK construction industry.

What was the city like outside your windows in that era? How has it changed? Aged 20, I moved to London due to the lack of work and opportunity here at home. Since then, that has all changed. Nowadays, young people can access a wide range of apprenticeship schemes across various fields, giving them a strong pathway into future employment. It is amazing to see how far the city has come, and I know that the future is


bright for the construction industry across the North West.

Has the ethos of the business changed over the years? Since 1987, our philosophy has remained the same: Striving for excellence and continuous improvement. The client is our sole focus, and in every project, we seek to deliver and exceed their expectations. In the construction industry, attention-todetail is everything, and we always ensure that in terms of quality, performance, programme and cost, we are consistently providing the best possible outcome for our clients. In today’s business model, investment in staff is also incredibly important. We have recently built a new bespoke office, and I take pride in the fact that KWG continues to be such a great place to work for all of our employees.

What’s the best bit of business advice you have been given over the years? Happy wife, happy life! On a more serious note, advice that has stuck with me is: deliver quality and the money will take care of itself.

Has the way you do business in the city changed much over the years – examples of anything that is better now? The construction industry evolves at a rapid pace, and we have worked hard to always stay ahead of the curve. How we deliver our product has improved drastically over the years which has been facilitated by the improved education infrastructure in the North West. With better education and training programmes, we have better quality project outcomes.

Construction methods have also improved in terms of environmental sustainability and, as a company, we continue to limit our carbon footprint as much as possible.

What can businesses learn from the past to build a strong future? I firmly believe that our young people are our future. The construction industry has lots of opportunities for hardworking young people, but without strong engagement with schools and colleges, we may not get the highly trained and skilled workforce that we need going forward. Businesses must work with the Government to develop a cohesive strategy to grow the construction industry with a particular focus on investment in future skilled trades.



Northern Ireland’s Clean Electricity Grid – SONI proposes plans for unprecedented change by 2030 SONI the Electricity Transmission System Operator for Northern Ireland operates and plans the transmission grid. This includes interconnection with neighbouring grids and the operation of the wholesale electricity market. SONI fulfils an essential role to consumers, the economy and to the environment. Northern Ireland surpassed its target of providing 40% of our electricity needs from renewable sources by 2020. SONI along with their colleagues at Northern Ireland Electricity Networks were central to this success. Achieving this meant the connection and integration of 1,600 megawatts of energy from renewable sources being accommodated on the system. The next decade will result in even greater change in order to support the journey to Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050. To reach Northern Ireland’s Net Zero commitments the power system must be transformed. What happens over the next decade will be critical. It is because of this that SONI has launched a public consultation on ways to deliver a clean electricity grid for Northern Ireland by 2030.

SONI Managing Director Alan Campbell

interested in Northern Ireland’s energy future to consider the approaches, provide feedback through the public consultation and be part of this decade of change:

from the Department of the Economy show almost 50% of the electricity used last year came from renewable sources; we have been proud to play our part in this success, but we have much to do.

The grid operator is seeking feedback on Shaping Our Electricity Future; a new report that details four innovative approaches to fundamentally change the grid in order to achieve Northern Ireland’s clean energy ambitions while maintaining an affordable and secure supply for consumers.

“SONI has a central role to play in the transition to cleaner electricity. The Economy Minister has stated an ambition for Northern Ireland of at least 70% electricity from renewable sources by 2030. While future energy policy is being developed, the change needed to the electricity system must begin today.

SONI Managing Director Alan Campbell is asking every one

“It is important to reflect on what has been achieved to date, latest figures

“The amount of renewable generation connected to the transmission grid will need to double in a decade and so the grid itself requires unprecedented change. It must be made stronger and more flexible in order to carry increasing amounts of clean energy like wind and solar. This will mean more connections and while we will make every effort to utilise the existing grid, inevitably we will need more infrastructure; overhead lines,



underground cables, pylons and substations. The change will affect every one of us and will sometimes be difficult. It is because of this that we are hosting a public consultation to find an agreed approach. Every one of us should have a say.” SONI’s four approaches for transforming the grid could result in up to twenty significant grid development projects. These would transfer renewable electricity from the north and west into the demand centres of Derry/Londonderry and to the east, to the Greater Belfast area. SONI points out that this is only one approach and details the potential use of new technologies to limit the number of projects needed. SONI is also suggesting that offshore wind and policies to influence the location of generators and future large energy users such as big industry and data centres, could impact the scale of change to the grid. The four approaches in Shaping Our Electricity Future will focus on delivery of renewable targets, but will also look to managing the projected increase in demand for clean electricity from the heat and transport sectors. The approaches are: 1. Generation-Led: Government policy would influence where renewable energy is generated –

favouring locations where the grid is already strong 2. Developer-Led: In this approach, we continue to connect new sources of renewable electricity as requested in any location 3. Technology-Led: This approach uses technical solutions to make the grid more resilient so it can better handle the variable nature of renewable energy 4. Demand-Led: Government policy determines where future large energy users such as big industry and data centres would locate in Northern Ireland. Each of the four approaches require investments in grid development projects throughout Northern Ireland, with costs ranging from £113 million to £535 million. Further details on each of the approaches are available at consult. According to Alan Campbell, “whole system change is required” and the SONI MD says the roadmap produced as a result of the Shaping Our Electricity Future public consultation will help individuals and organisations to navigate it:

the Shaping Our Electricity Future final report, which we intend to launch in autumn, will be the roadmap to decarbonising the power system. It will support Northern Ireland’s renewable energy commitments over the next 10 years and out to 2050. It will feed into the Economy Minister’s

development of a new energy policy and will ultimately deliver NI’s future clean energy targets. “Our approaches aren’t set in stone and we need collaboration and co-operation from a range of bodies including government, the regulator, business and industry, consumers and communities. The public consultation and the final report are about finding the optimum solutions in the face of climate change. That benefit speaks for itself but this work will also support the green recovery from the pandemic and deliver a more regionally balanced economy.” Between now and 14th June, SONI will hold a series of workshops, meetings and forums to inform people and gather feedback that will directly influence the final roadmap. Find out more about the public consultation and how to have your say in Shaping Our Electricity Future by visiting consult. You can also participate by emailing or via post to Shaping Our Electricity Future, SONI, 12 Manse Road, Belfast, BT6 9RT.



Craft Training Ltd





1. Amanda Creagh Amanda Creagh has joined Craft Training Ltd as a Sales & Recruitment Consultant. Amanda has a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry in the Northwest having held senior management positions with Da Vinci’s Hotel and the Waterfoot Hotel. Amanda’s role with Craft Training will see her liaise with the business community and young adults aged 16-24 years providing opportunities and partnerships via the Apprenticeship NI Programme throughout the province. Amanda looks forward to utilising her skills and experience to recruit our future traders throughout N. Ireland and promote the continued expansion of their 4 Training Centres in: Derry, Strabane, Omagh and Cookstown offering the very best training facilities in the Province.

McCay Solicitors 2. Charlene McNabb Charlene McNabb LLB has joined McCay Solicitors as an Associate Solicitor in the Property & Probate Team working between the firm’s Strabane office and its new office in Omagh.

Enterprise North West 3. Rachel Gallagher Enterprise North West recently appointed Rachel Gallagher to the position of Business Consultant and Digital Lead. Rachel has over 10 years’ experience in IT and Digital Marketing. Rachel has worked across financial and business sectors, in numerous different businesses. In her new position as Business Consultant and Digital Lead with Enterprise North West, Rachel will be working across a wide range of business development and growth programmes and will be responsible for supporting SME clients to identify and implement digital transformation strategies in their businesses. Rachel will be based at Enterprise North West’s head offices in the North West Business Complex, Skeoge, joining the 10-strong team, which has significantly grown over the last number of years. Her appointment comes as part of Enterprise North West’s long term future growth plan, helping to drive economic and social growth across the North West. In her studies at Ulster University, Magee, Rachel earned a BSC Honours Degree in Information Communication Technologies and a Diploma in Professional Practice.


FinTrU 4. Emma Pollock Emma has over 16 years’ experience in Technology and Leadership roles, spanning Financial Services, Telco and Cloud Storage domains. Prior to joining FinTrU, Emma was Global Head of Communications Surveillance R&D and Head of Global Functions Technology at Citi Belfast. She was responsible for a group of 200 people across Technology and Operations, supporting corporate functions such as Compliance, HR and Risk & Finance in addition to delivery of a Big Data/Behavioural Analytics platform to perform surveillance across Trade and Communication data sources. Emma was also a member of the Citi Belfast senior leadership team, responsible for growth and development of the Citi Belfast site. At FinTrU, Emma is a member of the Executive Leadership team with responsibility for leading the Technology strategy for the company. She will lead the Technology Department, which is currently based across both Belfast and the North West.


Braidwater Group 5. Aisling McGinley Braidwater have recently appointed Aisling McGinley to the role of Senior People Manager. With significant operational and strategic HR experience, Aisling is working closely with the directors to develop systems and people in line with the group’s creative and ambitious culture. 6. Ciara McGilloway Ciara McGilloway has joined the Braidwater team as our Residences Co-ordinator. In this role, Ciara is responsible for the day to day running of units within the group’s Private Rented Sector (PRS) portfolio including all operational and compliance matters. 7. Michael Sweeney Michael Sweeney has been promoted to the role of Planning & Technical Manager in the pre construction team at Braidwater. Michael has been with the company for 4.5 years. With increased responsibility, he will be managing the resolution of many of the project challenges, engineering and otherwise, and will take charge of delegating and managing other members of the team to deliver the housing pipeline programme. 8. Criona O’Hara Criona O’Hara has recently progressed with the Group, from a Site Administrator position, to the role of Assistant Site Manager. With increased responsibility, Criona looks after construction programming, handover scheduling, and has oversight of general day to day site activity.








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Diamond Corrugated

Dawson Hinds Creative Space 9. Catrina Myers Catrina Myers has recently joined the team at Dawson Hinds Creative Spaces in a Sales & Marketing role. After several years working in the Hospitality Industry, Catrina was ready for a new challenge. She firmly believes that people buy from people, regardless of what you are selling, so is confident her transition from hospitality to retail will not cause her too many issues. Originally hailing from Co Tyrone, Catrina obtained her degree in Hospitality Management from Ulster University. The skill sets she has developed in this industry will easily be transferable to her new role. Catrina will primarily focus on the new range of Home Furnishings introduced into Dawson Hinds Creative Spaces over the past 12/18 months in addition to the great variety of office furniture for what it is more renowned for. Catrina hopes to help establish Dawson Hinds Creative Spaces as one of the top home furnishing suppliers both locally, within the city and surrounding areas, as well as throughout Northern Ireland and further afield and looks forward to welcoming people through the doors in the very near future.

10. Michael Gault Diamond Corrugated has recently appointed Michael Gault to the position of Sales Director. Michael has significant experience of the Corrugated Packaging Sector having been Sales Manager with the company for over 13 years. He has extensive knowledge of industry in general and brings innovative skills to the role combined with a dedication to customer needs. Michael is a key driver in the continued growth of the company. 11. Tom Coulter Tom has been appointed Sales Manager and brings a decade of knowledge and experience from working in various industries. He has a successful background and track record in sales followed by a strong ethos of customer care. Tom will support existing and new clients within the company. 12. Martin McGoldrick Martin has been appointed Warehouse & Transport Manager and brings 20 years’ experience to the role. Responsible for managing the safe and


efficient receipt, storage, and despatch of warehoused goods. Martin will also manage the transport activities by overseeing the company’s fleet of trucks. 13. James Harkin James brings 27 years of global manufacturing to his position as Quality & Continuous Improvement Manager. Responsible for internal quality processes and external customer quality communication. James will also lead improvement activities throughout the business with his key skills. 14. Eugene Sheerin Eugene has recently been promoted to Process Co-ordinator & Health & Safety Manager. He has considerable experience within the business including five years running a High-Definition Printing line. A versatile professional, Eugene continually strives to develop his knowledge base and skill set.



Welcome to The Chamber CONNECTED is highlighting some of the Chamber’s newest members. Let us introduce you to the wider range of members that the Londonderry Chamber represents across the North West. Will your business be featured in the next edition?




Welcome to new member Children in Crossfire is an international NGO focusing on providing education and healthcare to some of the worlds most vulnerable children, in Ethopia and Tanzania. To find out more visit

Welcome to new member Naíscoil na Daróige aims to break the cycle of inter-generational social and economic deprivation by providing first class educational experiences and fostering a love of learning in the children, raising awareness around culture and self-identity. We do this by striving to provide the equivalent of a full time Irish immersion nursery school place (albeit currently) without statutory recognition and equivalent funding.

Welcome to new member Mortgage Solutions. Claire Feeney launched Mortgage Solutions Derry/Londonderry in July 2020 offering mortgage and protection advise to those looking for their first or forever home. With years of experience in Estate Agency, Claire is passionate about helping clients find, and secure the finance for their dream home.

Welcome to new member Neurodiversity Training International. Neurodiveristy Training International is a CPD Accredited Training provider, that offers an inspiring alternative to negative autism awareness training to schools, workplaces and autism groups.

Welcome to new member People 1st is. People 1st an award winning employment and training organisation. They offer a range of government funded training, employment support initiatives and innovative training solutions across Northern Ireland and Donegal. Their commitment to excellence has been reflected in awards won including Deloitte Best Managed Company Platinum Status, Aontas Star Award winner 2019, Regiostars Finalist 2019 and Investors in People Gold Standard.

Welcome to new member Seasonal Outdoor Services Ltd. They provide a range of facilities services to public and private sector properties throughout Ulster.

To find out more visit

Specialising in environmental services such as grounds maintenance, invasive weed control, drainage services, winter gritting and road sweeping. They also provide property maintenance services to clients including joinery, plumbing and electrical works . Our clients can rest easy knowing that one company can ensure their properties are safe and well presented throughout the year. With an in-house team of competent, trained staff and a vast range of equipment they can provide a professional service with prompt response times when required.

Welcome to new member tax4tech. They are dedicated to the provision of R&D Tax Relief advice, including the preparation of R&D Tax Relief claims. Their mission is to help every company claim its full entitlement to R&D Tax Relief - a valuable source of funding for R&D.

Welcome to new member Velvet Interiors. Velvet Interiors is an interior design consultancy working in both home design and commercial design throughout Ireland.

Welcome to new member Workplus. Workplus is the easier way to find apprentices. They help employers access the best apprentice talent through its online marketplace.

They are featured on The List by House and Gardens with the best in their industry. They are also finalists in the Irish Fit Out Awards 2020 for their work in office design.

To find out more visit –



How does your membership benefit you? By Donna McWilliams, D.A. Forgie

For businesses of all shapes and sizes, the past 12 months have been a case of information overload, trying to quickly understand hastily made announcements, new wideranging legislation, and huge changes to the way they trade and do business across the UK and beyond. For one local business, the Londonderry Chamber has been vital in making sense of the chaos of the past year. “We’ve really found the Chamber’s guidance and advice absolutely crucial in cutting through the noise and confusion of 2020”, says Donna McWilliams from D.A. Forgie. “As soon as the pandemic reached our shores, the Chamber was out very quickly with accessible and reliable information which was easy to understand and clearly laid out the potential impacts on businesses. At a very stressful and anxious time, it was great to know that the Chamber was there for its members and would support us as much as they could.” D.A. Forgie is a Limavady based Construction, Agriculture, and Garden equipment dealer which specialises in high quality machinery and provides to customers and clients across Northern Ireland. With over 40 years’ experience of selling farm and plant machinery, D.A. Forgie is one of the leading dealers throughout the island of Ireland, and the wider global market. “The Chamber made it easy to understand what constituted an essential business, who had to close and who could remain open, what businesses needed to do to safely operate, and disseminated the almost-hourly


updates coming from Stormont and Westminster”, explains Donna. “Through the Chamber membership networks also, we could procure vital items of PPE and hygiene equipment. At a time when there was a real scramble across Northern Ireland to secure PPE, in every sector and business, we found these networks really important in helping us purchase masks and gloves and at a reasonable price from local suppliers. “As a company, we also found the regular webinars and online events throughout the last year really useful. Everything from staffing and HR to understanding what the new Covid legislation meant in practice was covered and went a long way to helping us get to grips with the ever-evolving situation.” Covid, of course, wasn’t the only headache for local businesses last year, as the Brexit situation rumbled on until Christmas Eve. Given just over a week to prepare themselves for the incoming

changes in the New Year, Donna says the Chamber was a massive help to businesses getting ready for change. “Again, the Chamber’s role in getting quick and reliable information out to members, especially businesses like ours which rely on overseas and cross-border trade, was invaluable. We also had a specific issue with a supplier and we found the Chamber was a huge help in finding a speedy and positive resolution. Using their expertise and knowledge, they helped guide us in the right direction and allowed us to fix the issue. “With the constant uncertainty which still exists around Brexit, we know that the Chamber will continue to be a big help for us over the next few months. And as the economy reopens and government support schemes wind down, we’re glad to have the support of the team at the Chamber, giving the company confidence as we collectively get back on our feet.”


Building authentic Leadership in the Covid-era Helen McDonnell, Principal Coach of IndigoLife Coaching

In the last 12 months, each of us have faced unprecedented challenges to our mental health and wellbeing. Beyond the health effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have encountered drastic changes in how we work, live, and communicate. Professionally, working from home has its perks, but studies have shown that it increases stress, reduces productivity, and makes the working day much longer. Without a change in leadership style, managers will continue to be ill-equipped to deal with the ‘new normal’. To deal with these challenges, our perception of leadership needs to change. Authentic Leadership does not seek to impose stress, but rather looks to build trust and compassion within the workplace. With a compassionate style of leadership, you can build a more meaningful, understanding workplace

culture in your business resulting in increased focus, engagement, and productivity. From April, I will be holding an Authentic Leadership course with the Chamber focusing on practical mindfulness. Mindfulness is about adopting an attentive, non-judgemental awareness of Helen McDonnell, Principal Coach of IndigoLife the present moment. During the Coaching six-week course, you will learn how to introduce mindfulness into your daily life, yielding wide-ranging of others. By practicing mindfulness, benefits for your mental health and we can work to make our workplaces a leadership skills. more empathetic and compassionate place. Most of all, to meet the Now more than ever do we need challenges we face today in the Covidauthentic, compassionate leadership. era, we must change our approach With authenticity comes a deeper to leadership and not react with the self-awareness, increased leadership mindset of yesterday. confidence and a greater understanding



The Final Word Dr Sandra Moffett, Head of Department at Ulster University Business School

Over the past year, we have seen the value of collaboration in action. In response to the pandemic, our elected representatives have worked together for the greater good, businesses have worked in partnership with colleagues and competitors to deliver food packages and vital supplies to some of the most vulnerable in our communities, and community organisations of all kinds have worked in tandem to deliver for local people. Despite the upheaval caused by the pandemic, education at all levels has worked collaboratively to continue supporting our students and our staff over the past 12 months. Shifting to virtual teaching overnight was a challenge shared by primary, secondary, further, and higher education alike but one which educators rose to superbly. Keeping students engaged, socially and in a learning capacity, required sustained and committed collaboration between staff, between family members, and between students themselves. Post-Brexit, greater North West collaboration stretching across the border between our local educational institutions will be key to our region’s success. The recently announced Derry~Londonderry and Strabane City Deal, which injects over £250m into key capital projects locally, has real potential to transform our society and our region. It is also a real boost to the capacity and capability of our local university. Ulster University’s Magee campus is at the forefront of some of the Deal’s major plans and will enhance our region’s growing expertise in emerging technologies like AI, automation, health and life sciences, and robotics. Partners and organisations involved in the City Deal will work hard to ensure the projects benefit the entire North West City Region, from Derry and Strabane to Letterkenny and Buncrana. Ulster


University is eager to forge new links and relationships with other institutions and already we are working closely with North West Regional College and Letterkenny Institute of Technology to co-create and co-design fresh and innovative courses and curriculums which span the entire North West region. By combining our expertise, our energy, and our resources, we can offer enhanced teaching and learning opportunities to our students to develop better, more well-rounded graduates ready for the ever-changing world of work. Collaboration on skills and training, which represent some of the most significant challenges facing our economy right now, will be even more vital as we seek to recover from the pandemic and rebuild our economy. Agile graduates with more vibrant and diverse skillsets than ever will be a key cog in this recovery effort. We can mould the next generation of the workforce through sustained and meaningful partnership and cooperation. This spirit of collaboration can also be found between our elected

representatives and in our governments. Two recent announcements by the Irish Government in particular, namely the Shared Island Fund and the extension of the Erasmus exchange programme to Northern Ireland students, are examples of common-sense cooperation in practice. The Taoiseach’s Shared Island Unit builds on existing all-island, crossborder initiatives and in particular will invest in higher education, research and development, and innovation. The decision to also extend the Erasmus programme to students in NI is an excellent decision which ensures our students avail of the same opportunities as their counterparts across the island. The importance of collaboration and partnership cannot be overstated as we rebuild and recover from the pandemic. Strong cross-border links with our colleagues in Donegal and beyond are as vital as ever. There are significant opportunities at our fingertips for the entire North West and it is crucial we grasp them – together - for the benefit of the region.

44 Spencer Road Derry - Londonderry

Find Insurance NI, Derry Chamber’s Commercial Insurance Corporate Partner




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Home is where your heart is. Keep healthy & enjoy working from home.

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101 Spencer Road, D e r r y, B T 4 7 6 A E . 68

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