11th May 2012
Higher education vital says Farry
Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry has stressed the importance of higher level qualifications when it comes to securing employment.
He was addressing representatives from the National Union of Students and the Union of Students in Ireland (NUS-USI) at their annual conference in Fermanagh recently.
“The Northern Ireland Skills Strategy which I launched last year clearly indicates Northern Ireland will have a much greater need for higher level skills through to 2020. I believe higher education has an important contribution in this respect,” he said.
"Therefore one of the first issues I faced when I assumed office last year was the decision around the future of tuition fees. I ensured the maintenance of the level of funding of the higher education sector in conjunction with the decision to confirm the freezing of tuition fees in real terms, for local students attending local institutions.
"I have also secured the resources to facilitate an additional 700 places locally through to 2015. These will all be in STEM subjects. Ultimately, we have managed to maintain a situation where the state, rather than the individual, continues to fund the balance of the student costs. It is important that students’ access to higher education continues to be based on their ability to learn, rather than their ability to pay.
"Indeed, I remain very concerned at the current levels of unemployment in Northern Ireland, including in particular the levels of youth unemployment. I do think that it is important to stress the considerable differential in unemployment rates between those with higher level qualifications and those without. So despite current problems, this demonstrates that there is a real premium in accessing higher education. This is not something of which we should lose sight.”
The Minister has also recently attended Schrader Electronics Graduate Team Building Day at the Belfast Activity Centre, Barnett’s Demesne.
Acknowledging the importance of employer graduate placements to the economy, the Minister said: “I would like to commend Schrader Electronics for providing a significant number of graduate student work placements, and for its continued commitment to supporting the local economy.
“These students are gaining important skills and experience for their future careers and also making a valuable contribution to the company. In the past, many students that have completed work placements with the company have later returned to secure permanent positions on the company’s Graduate Development Programme.”