November 19, 2019 dmh


Skills Northern Ireland 2019: Education and Business Breakfast Meeting

Wednesday 20th November 2019  at the Titanic Quarter Campus of Belfast Metropolitan College 

Sponsored by the Edge Foundation, a major Education and Business Breakfast Meeting took place on 20/11/19 bringing  together leading educationalists, employers and policymakers from across N.Ireland to explore how best to reduce Northern Ireland’s skills gaps and skills mismatch.

A series of thought provoking presentations included:

  1. The future of work and skills, by Olly Newton, Director of Policy and Research at the Edge Foundation. Olly highlighted since 2011 onwards “skills shortages are large and have grown significantly…with high costs to the economy and society”. More employers are looking for “technical and transferable skills” and “the labour market has already experienced rapid change…with more to come.” Olly also showcased some international examples focused on “developing solutions” and closer to home in England he talked about “School21″.
  2. Forecasting future skill needs 2018-28, by Mark Magill, Senior Economist, Ulster University.
  3. The 14-19 Review: Update, by James Hutchinson, Department of Education (DoE). Mark provided an update on the ‘Transition of Young People into Careers (14-19) Project’ a joint Departmental review between DoE and the Department for Economy established in January 2019. The Project is currently finalising the baseline (current position) in respect of the work streams and has begun a period of stakeholder engagement to test assumptions and identify/substantiate key challenges.

The Business Breakfast also included this year’s research findings on “Young people in N. Ireland: Their perceptions of careers, choices and future prospects” by Dr Deirdre Hughes and sponsored by City & Guilds Of London.


The report:

  • explored young people’s career decisions and preferences, including sources of information used
  • identified their expectations of earnings and perceptions of employers’ expectations
  • assessed their levels of confidence in gaining employment and concerns about securing a career pathway after                            they leave school or college;
  • investigated young people’s perceptions on the potential impact of the UK’s planned departure from the                                   European Union; and broadly compared responses from an earlier November 2018 report.

An online survey was distributed to all schools and colleges from 1st September 2019 – 15th November 2019. The number of respondents was 928 young people, representing 41 schools and colleges (over 1/5 of the total) from across all six counties in the province.

50% of respondents are female and 48% are male and 2% preferred not to specify their gender.

• 31% (n=290) of respondents were 15 year olds; • 29% (n= 266) were 16 years old; • 17% (n=161) were 14 years old; • 14% (n=130) were 17 years old; and the remainder 5% (n=45) were 18 years old; and • 4% (n=34) were 19 years old.

Some selected examples of findings – refer to the Executive Summary and Report for a more detailed overview.

Of 928 young people, 60% (n=553) 7 stated that they knew about their career choices, compared with 51.5% of the 2018 cohort. A percentage increase of 8.5%.

Top ten career preferences: Engineering as identified by 9% (n=84), followed by teaching 7.5% (n=70) and nursing with 5% (n=46); others opted to work in medicine 4.5% (42), some chose hair dresser/beauty therapist and the same number selected working in the legal profession as barrister or lawyer 4% (37) of young people. IT technician or software engineer was the next most popular choice followed by the building trades plumbing, electrician and/or builder.

This year, careers in food and hospitality and social care featured only in a few of the responses. 4.5% (n=42) said they were either “unsure”, “don’t know”, “undecided”, or plan to do “something”.

• 85% (n=789) of young people intend to stay on in education and only 15% (n=139) are either keen to take up an apprenticeship pathway or go into employment  e.g. 38% (n=352) reported they intend to go to university; while 35% (n= 325) have considered staying on to 6th form; and 9% (n=84) are going into Further Education. Only 8% (n= 77) declared their intention to take up an apprenticeship, and 7% (n=65) have indicated a preference to go into employment.

• 52% (n = 477) of respondents stated that “the variety and interest in the job” is what influences them most in their career choices. 32% (n=300) identified “salaries” as the next important factor and 30% (n=275) indicated they valued “doing something that helps others”.

  • Google was reported as the most frequently used browser 66% (n=609).
  • NI Direct cited as the most used website 25% (n=228), followed by the Skills NI website 20% (n=187).
  • A combined total of 28% of respondents (n=256) stated they use social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Snapchat Stories. A small number cited websites such as: Indeed, My World of Work, Cascaid, Queens University Belfast, UCAS, Prospects HE, JED – The Job Explorer database. A few don’t know which resources to use and some do not use any at all.
  • Young people most commonly turn to their parents or guardians for help with their career decisions (36%, n=337), and careers advisers (22%, n=201). This has changed from last year where the most popular response was careers teachers. In 2019, this was the 3rd most popular choice (15%, n=140). But we do not know from this survey, the frequency of contact and/or how helpful these interventions might have been.
  • In their first year of work after leaving education the majority of respondents 50% (n=457) indicated they think their salaries will range between £10,000 – £20,000. A further 35% (n=323) report their salary would be between £20,000 and £29,999.
  • After five years in work, young people anticipated their salaries to rise, with 35% (n=327) expecting to earn a salary of between £30,000 – £40,000. 34% (n=309) believed their salaries would exceed £40,000, with 15% (n=136) expecting their earnings to be circa £50,000.
  • 59% (n=538) of young people identified “reliability” to be most important to employers; 51% (n=456) of students identified “having a positive attitude”; 46% (n=425) rated equally “having good qualifications” and “having good communication skills” as third highest in their selections. “Being good at numeracy” was ranked lowest by 17% (n= 153). This is compared to the responses to the same question in 2018 where young people ranked “good qualifications” to be most important to employers. This indicates that the gap is narrowing between young people’s perceptions and employer expectations.
  • 71% (n= 660) of respondents indicated they are confident about securing their ideal job when they finish their education. • The main factors that concern young people about securing work after they complete their education is there may “not be enough jobs” as identified by 35% (n=321) of respondents. This is followed by concerns that they might “not have enough experience” raised by 32% (n= 298) of respondents. 26% (n=241) are concerned they might “not earn enough to pay rent and bills.” Of least concern was not having the correct ‘soft skills’ including interview practice 22% (n=200). Almost 6% (n=58) are concerned that they will not gain sufficient qualifications or they “might not be good enough compared to others”.
  • These findings suggest that more needs to be done to raise awareness of careers education, information, advice and guidance to help overcome confidence issues and concerns about getting a foothold into meaningful learning and work. Learning and work decisions are becoming ever more complex because of increasing choices and change happening in how people work and what skills employers demand. Also, thriving in the ‘gig economy’ requires different skills to working for an employer in a traditional way8 and young people need to be well prepared for this.

Findings are designed to inform government policymakers, the Education Authority and other allied bodies, including education leaders and teachers, employers and careers advisers and area learning communities on what matters to young people when it comes to careers, choices and future prospects. See: PRESS RELEASE Skills Northern Ireland Opening Day Press Release FINAL DMH (2)

  • Helen Bready, Director, City & Guilds of London Institute responded to key findings from the survey. She highlighted concern regarding the differing perceptions of females and males when it comes to apprenticeship opportunities and ideas of salaries year and years on. Helen talked about insufficient level 2 opportunities and the need to improve young people and parents’ awareness of differing technical as well as academic routes to success.
  • Paula Leathem, Senior HR Business Partner at NI Electricity Networks (main sponsor of SkillsNI 2019) indicated it is “extremely important young people possess the right skills and competencies required by employers.” The current position is “far from satisfactory with NIE Networks and many other employers unable to source appropriately skilled individuals to fill substantive roles.” She demonstrated there is still “a skills mismatch which we all need to continue to address together. Skills NI gives us all the opportunity to work together collaboratively and showcase what Northern Ireland has to offer our young people.”

Copies of the ppt slide presentations 

BBC News interview 20:20 mins in –

BBC Radio Ulster ‘Good Morning Ulster’ this morning – interview c. 1.17 minutes in –


Leave a reply