Education Minister, Peter Weir, has addressed delegates at the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) conference in Londonderry.
The Minister was invited to speak at the Digital Age and Skills Development session which provided him with the opportunity to garner support from local government to work collaboratively with education partners.
The Minister said:
“The most important asset we have are our people. Education develops young people not only as individuals but as contributors to society, the environment and the economy.
“We need to ensure our young people acquire and develop the skills necessary to enable them to respond to the challenges of the future. Employers also have a key role to play. Work experience should not be viewed as an added extra, it should be central to the careers programme in every school.
“Local councils have a role to play to facilitate better engagement between employers and schools in the local area to ensure that schools are aware of the skills needs of the local economy.
“Engaging with the education system locally should be part of local economic development.”
The Minister continued by highlighting the challenges facing the schools estate. He said:
“We have a substantial schools estate in Northern Ireland with 1,061 schools, across five sectors and an estimated capital value of around £4billion. Through my Department’s capital works programmes there has been significant investment in our schools in recent years. However we need to find new ways of working if we are to continue to improve the fabric of our education system.
“It is essential that we work closely as we develop our respective investment plans and programmes to explore and exploit opportunities for collaboration in investment. We need to maximise the benefits to the wider community from a joined up approach and I believe that schools could become community hubs.”
Concluding the Minister said:
“I want to build on this early engagement with each Council so that moving forward, wherever possible, we harmonise our plans for investment and secure actual Best Value for the people of Northern Ireland. I welcome the connections established to date and look forward to further partnership working in the future.”
Notes to editors:
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