SDLP on plans for jobs and the economy

SDLP on plans for jobs and the economy

Claire Hanna addressed an audience of businesspeople today (Thursday), where she outlined the SDLP’s core principles ahead of the assembly election.

The MP for South Belfast was speaking at an event hosted by Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber), part of a pre-election series delivered in partnership with SSE Airtricity.

Speaking in the Europa Hotel, she said, “The SDLP’s message is very simply, people first because after several very turbulent years, we want to prioritise the things that matter in people’s lives. A healthy economy and access to work is a key part of that. For everybody’s wellbeing and stability, it is a core function of the assembly to be creating the conditions for decent jobs, fixing the skills pipe-line, giving young people a reason to stay here and come back, supporting the transition to net zero and a cleaner environment.”

Discussing skills and talent, she commented: “We need a radical swerve towards tech skills, including a very real-time input from industry to make sure skills are fresh. We need to fix the flaws in the Apprenticeship Levy and create different pathways into work.”

NI Chamber’s Vice-President, Gillian McAuley also spoke, stressing that the incoming Executive should focus on areas of strategic importance including promoting Northern Ireland internationally, skilling up for a green and digital future and speeding up planning decisions, saying:

“To achieve any of this successfully, we need to see all of our political representatives around the Executive table, focusing on creating the conditions for a flourishing private sector.

“At NI Chamber, we believe that Northern Ireland is a unique place and that our focus should be on what makes us a uniquely brilliant place to work, live and do business. As a region, we enjoy unrivalled access to both the EU and UK markets, creating opportunities for exports, FDI and international collaboration.  We have a youthful, highly skilled workforce with high levels of wellbeing in a cost competitive location, which is recovering rapidly from the pandemic. By working collaboratively, we have a tangible opportunity to lead in the innovation and operation of digital and green technologies as we aim for net zero 2050 – or earlier.

“As we gather this morning, Northern Ireland has a window of opportunity to excel in a number of spaces. The next set of Ministers and MLAs must get to work quickly, put party politics aside and deliver the certainty and stability that businesses, their employees and everyone in Northern Ireland deserves.”

Mark Ennis, Chairman, SSE Ireland added:

“The recent passing of Northern Irelands’ Climate Bill by the Assembly will be critical in driving investment in low carbon infrastructure and green growth. The Bill sets a target of 80% renewable electricity by 2030, something which shows just how pivotal the energy sector will be in reaching our decarbonisation objectives.

“The new Energy Strategy, published at the end of 2021 by the Department for the Economy highlights the need to drastically improve the energy efficiency of our homes and businesses. The Strategy sets a target of 25% energy savings by 2030, equating to 50,000 retrofits a year. SSE Airtricity wants to be at the forefront of delivering this change in Northern Ireland, offering a ‘One Stop Shop’ solution for customers in undertaking retrofit projects to make their homes warmer, more environmentally friendly and less costly to run. The prize for doing all of this will be a sustainable energy system, which reduces costs for consumers and our exposure to global fossil fuel prices, and ultimately increases the attractiveness of Northern Ireland to international investment.”

The 5 Leaders; 5 Days series continues this week and next, with upcoming events featuring Doug Beattie, UUP; Naomi Long, Alliance and Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Fein. To register for a place in the audience please visit the NI Chamber website.

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