Employability and Skills Conference embraces and explores the future of work in the borough

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Get Future Ready Employability and Skills Conference
Get Future Ready Employability and Skills Conference speakers and panellists L-R Councillor Paul Berry (Chair of ABC Council’s Economic Development and Regeneration Committee), Adrian Farrell (ABC Business Partnership Alliance), Ana Desmond (Ulster University), Wendy Austin (Event Host), Kieran Dougall (Queen’s University Belfast), Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Councillor Paul Greenfield, Charlene Stoops (ABC Council Deputy Chief Executive), Michael Harris (Department for the Economy), Tracy Rice (Southern Regional College) and Kim McAllister (Almac).

The pinnacle event in the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s February Get Future Ready campaign – an employability and skills conference – was held today at the Seagoe Hotel in Portadown.

Hosted by Wendy Austin, this event was attended by over 150 local employers, citizens, community representatives as well as stakeholders from across education, training and employment organisations.

Ana Desmond, Assistant Economist from the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre gave a breakdown of the labour market and skills landscape, setting the scene for the conference. Michael Harris, from the Department for the Economy highlighted the benefit of apprenticeships with Kieran Dougall reflecting on his experience on the Higher Level Apprenticeship scheme. Adrian Farrell from the Business Partnership Alliance spoke directly to the needs and challenges of the retail and hospitality sectors.

The keynote motivational speaker was Barry Winkless, who explored future work solutions outlining the need for a change in the mind-shift to fully harness the collaborative advantages in leading people and teams as the workplace evolves over time.


Speaking at today’s event, Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Councillor Paul Greenfield said:

“On behalf of council, I was delighted to address such a wide range of people at the Get Future Ready Employability and Skills Conference today in Portadown; and I welcome the start of this very important conversation within our borough.

“Today’s event brings into sharp focus the need for a strong collaborative and joined-up approach to the delivery of employability and skills initiatives across the local economy. It is only by working together that we can truly understand and address local labour market needs to ensure the realisation of an effective skills pipeline of talent that supports local people and local businesses.

“Through the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Labour Market Partnership, I would like to reaffirm council’s commitment to working with all stakeholders to drive inclusive and sustainable investment in employability and skills right across the borough.”


Before closing remarks by Councillor Paul Berry, Vice Chair of the Council’s Economic Development and Regeneration Committee, there was a panel discussion on recruitment trends, attracting, onboarding and retaining top talent involving Mary Meehan, from Manufacturing NI, Harry Hamilton from NI Food and Drink Association, Kim McAllister from Almac and Tracy Rice from Southern Regional College (SRC) who shared new and innovative approaches for the future of work.

The event finished with an important opportunity for the delegates to network and make connections for future business.

The Get Future Ready: Employability and Skills series, part of the Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon Labour Market Partnership, was delivered by Banbridge District Enterprises, in partnership with SRC and with support from Craigavon Industrial Development Organisation (CIDO) and Armagh and Mayfair Business Centres.