Dáil Éireann - Volume 646 - 07 February, 2008

Written Answers. - Cross-Border Projects.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps taken by his Department and statutory agencies such as FÁS and Enterprise Ireland in 2007, to promote north-south cooperation on labour market policies and workplace issues. [4079/08]

  Deputy Micheál Martin: I am committed to working with my counterparts in Northern Ireland to implement all-island initiatives where there is mutual economic benefit including in the area of labour market and skills. This area of North/South co-operation was identified in the Comprehensive Study on the All-Island Economy, published in 2006, as a means to optimise the skills pool on the island for continued prosperity in the knowledge economy.

There is well-established co-operation between my Department and its agencies with their Northern counterparts. FÁS and the Northern Department of Education and Learning (DEL) have developed ongoing cooperation at both official and project levels through a variety of cross-border initiatives. These include research and analysis into skills needs and how to address them, for example through the Northwest Workforce Development Forum, set up as a cross-border entity to examine the needs of the North-West’s economy and identify growth sectors and skills needs; joint planning of courses and events; joint participation in Redundancy Clinics for cross-border workers being made redundant; developing and implementing a pilot training project in the North West for those most at risk of unemployment through lack of relevant work skills; cross-border Jobs fairs, joint advertising of all FÁS/DEL listed vacancies, and cooperation in recruiting where large numbers of vacancies are involved.

In the area of labour market skills forecasting, I have asked the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs to liaise with their counterparts, the Northern Ireland Skills Expert Group, to examine the possibility of implementing an all-island approach. I am aware that both Expert Groups intend to produce an All-Island Statement of Skills Demand and to organise an All-Island skills conference this year. I understand that work is progressing well on both these initiatives.

The Enterprise Ireland strategy for 2008-2010 ‘Transforming Irish Industry’ targets the development of leadership and management capability of client companies as a core enabler for success and scaled international growth. These management development initiatives are designed to support company capabilities in strategy and leadership, sales and marketing, innovation and entrepreneurship. Enterprise Ireland liaises with Invest Northern Ireland on these management development programmes and facilitates participation from Northern Ireland companies on these initiatives, as appropriate. Another initiative is the “Transform — Ideas Into Businesses Programme” which is a one-year full-time business incubation programme funded by the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation and run by Enterprise Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland.

InterTradeIreland, the all-island trade and business development body, has been collaborating with Skillnets, the enterprise led learning networks body, to promote North/South co-operation in this critical area and is assisting with the delivery of a series of cross-border Skillnets in the following sectors: — Software, Wireless, Polymers, Food and Drink, Digital Media and Construction. InterTradeIreland is also working with Forfás and Northern Ireland partners on a proposed Managerial Skills Benchmarking exercise to be undertaken on an all-island basis in 2008.