Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry today commended a college-led innovation programme that has helped 520 companies develop new skills, boost jobs and improve profits.
Funded by the Department for Employment and Learning and delivered by Northern Ireland’s six regional colleges, the InnovateUs Programme provides fully funded specialist support to help equip small enterprises with new skills to support innovation that can boost productivity and competitiveness.
The second year of the programme has helped up-skill more than 550 employees, created or safeguarded 66 jobs and directly contributed to a £2m increase in sales for participating businesses.
Speaking at South West College in Dungannon, Minister Farry said: “My Department is focussed on supporting further education’s links with small businesses, and on promoting this innovative programme as part of the Department’s key strategic focus on economic development. Further Education colleges deliver a range of support and programmes to upskill existing employees and enable those in the workforce to gain new skills, talents and competences.
“InnovateUs, the Employer Support Programme, provides opportunities for small businesses to acquire the skills to engage in these innovation activities, enabling them to develop new products, new services and new ways of working. These projects have covered areas such as ICT, renewable technologies, engineering and creative and digital media delivering tangible impacts to businesses including cost savings, increased sales and access to new markets.”
Dr Jill Cush Innovation & Development Manager, South West College InnoTech Centre, said: “Colleges hold an extensive range of expertise and technologies and understand the issues and skills shortages facing businesses. The InnovateUs Programme is about putting these resources within the reach of small nimble firms. By tailoring our training and support towards key sectors, participating companies have been able to find new ways to solve industrial problems and bring new ideas and products to market. The third year of InnovateUs is now underway and we’re already helping to advance a number of very technical projects, but it is not too late for more companies to become involved.”
Tyrone-based MCD Engineering Ltd signed up for the InnovateUs Programme to find a solution that would help reconcile 3D design data in order to analyse and identify potential obstacles. Oliver Mc Elduff, MCD Engineering, said: “The response developed by South West College, which included a bespoke and comprehensive training course, has both improved our quantitative analysis of assembly designs and part components, and our ability to tender for new work. MCD has since received further CAD training through InnovateUs to bring new products to the market and we plan to build on our new capabilities.”
Further information on the Department for Employment and Learning’s Skills to Succeed campaign encouraging the public and employers to find out what programmes and assistance is available on http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/skills or by calling 0300 200 7876.