Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Part of a letter to the Clerk of the Committee from the Industrial Development Board for Northern Ireland


  Thank you for your letter of 12 October seeking the additional information that I undertook to provide when giving oral evidence to the Committee on 16 June in relation to the above.

  Your clarification of the status of the C&AG's Report on inward investment is helpful. However I have now been invited to appear before the Committee of Public Accounts on 24 November to give evidence on the Report. As this will provide an opportunity for IDB to comment in detail on the C&AG's Report, may I suggest that your Committee wait to see the published transcript of that Hearing. Should your Committee wish to have any of my points in that evidence clarified, I would be happy to do so.

  I attach the information sought by Mr McGrady as Annex A and by the Chairman as Annex B. Producing the job creation data for the years 1983-84 onwards has taken longer than anticipated. I shall forward it to you by 5 November.

  Finally, we will be publishing our 1998-99 Annual Report on 12 November and I shall arrange for copies to be forwarded to you for each Committee member.

29 October 1999

Annex A



Information Sought

  1.  How IDB determined which areas were designated as Targeting Social Need (TSN).

  2.  A geographical analysis of the projects and jobs which located in TSN areas over the period April 1995 to March 1999.


1.  Targeting Social Need Areas

  TSN is a core government initiative launched in 1991 which attempts to ensure limited resources are targeted principally on those areas and groups where need is most widespread and severe. A wide range of indices, compiled by Professsor Robson, University of Manchester, were used to determine such areas using 1991 Census data and unemployment statistics. The Department of Economic Development decided that, in implementing its TSN policy, IDB should operate at Council rather than Ward level. On this basis 10 Councils—Cookstown, Derry, Dungannon, Fermanagh, Limavady, Magherafelt, Moyle, Newry and Mourne, Omagh and Strabane—were designated as TSN areas. The Belfast City Council area also fell within the "Robson designation" but it was decided only the Making Belfast Work wards rather than the whole Council area be designated as TSN.

2.   Location of Projects (and associated jobs) to TSN Designated Areas: April 1995-March 1999

  Set out below are the geographical locations of the 37 new inward investment projects which located in TSN areas over the period April 1995 to March 1999, together with the associated job promotions.

Council AreaNumber New Inward Investment ProjectsAssociated New Jobs
Limavady1   759
(Collin Glen and Poleglass wards)
Newry and Mourne2 217

Annex B



Information Sought

  Further details on how IDB utilises Northern Ireland's educated workforce as a key part of its sales message.



  1.  There are three ways in which we address the different education requirements of companies in respect of potential employees and in adding emphasis to the high academic calibre of the local workforce.

Overall Message

  2.  Our key sales message emphasises the real quality of Northern Ireland's business environment and in particular the quality of the labour force. We do this under the headings "Right People", "Right Connections" and "Right Place". We also press the case that IDB is the "Right Partner" for the investor and strongly reinforce this overall message with testimonials from key investors. The attached general brochure (attachment A[4]), for the North American market, demonstrates this approach.

  3.  Our current website and also our detailed written presentations to investors—once they have clarified their project needs—are structured in a similar way.

Educated Workforce—General

  4.  The most telling statistic for potential investors is Northern Ireland's performance at "A" Level where Northern Ireland has produced results 21 per cent above the next best of the Great Britain regions (see bar chart opposite).

  5.  This performance is substantiated across a range of data. For example we have higher participation rates of young people at both secondary and tertiary levels than in Great Britain.

Educated Workforce—Sectoral

  6.  The above general message about our educated workforce is reinforced in our sectoral campaigns where we emphasise the specific relevant skills that are available.

  7.  In the call centre sector many employers are looking for good quality secondary qualifications rather than tertiary level. Recent investors such as British Airways, BT and Prudential have been very pleased with the calibre of their recruits in Northern Ireland compared to other regions of the UK.

  8.  Some call centres seek high levels of skill—for example in IT—and for these as well as software development projects, a key selling point is the quantity and quality of graduate companies such as Abbey National and Liberty Mutual have been able to attract and retain in Northern Ireland.

  9.  At present our universities produce nearly 1,000 graduates a year with computer science as a major part of their degree. The University of Ulster has the largest informatics faculty in the UK. As yet Northern Ireland's software sector can only employ a proportion of this output. While many graduates will naturally wish to leave Northern Ireland to gain experience, surveys indicate that many who have left in the past would have stayed given attractive career prospects. These are now being generated by new investment. We recently illustrated to a potential software investor the following table of growth in numbers of software students:


1998-991999-2000 2000-012001-02
Postgraduate750750 750750
Undergraduate2,4002,400 2,6003,000
HND/HNC500580 660660
T&EA Rapid Advancement120 250250250
Total3,7703,980 4,2604,660

  10.  In addition, with the Software Industry Federation, a database has been established of NI expatriates with IT skills, interested to learn about opportunities in Northern Ireland. Currently over 700 are on this register.

  11.  Our sales messages also feature prominently the skills in electronics, where Queen's University's Schools of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and of Mechanical Engineering have international reputations; and in Bio-medical Sciences where the University of Ulster's School likewise has achieved a five star rating. The flexibility and responsiveness of the Universities, not only in their business-related research but also in their willingness to develop their curriculum to address changing industrial needs is important. Seagate, for example, has worked with the University of Ulster and developed a MSc in Informatics suited to its particular needs.

  12.  A copy of our Software sectoral brochure is enclosed (Attachment C[5]) to show how we shape the general sales message indicated at pargraph 2 above into a sector specific message.

Educated Workforce—Company Specific Presentation

  13.  In the presentation mentioned at paragraph 9 above we highlighted in the following way to the investor the availability of experienced skills in Northern Ireland—

    Availability of Experienced Skills

    —  5,000 Software Engineers

    —  2,000 Electrical and Electronic Engineers

  14.  In every case we introduce potential investors to existing investors who can confirm our sales message, viz the good level of education and the willingness of employees to undertake whatever further training is needed to enable them to adapt to the investor's needs.

Attachment B

4  Not reported. Back
5  Not reported. Back

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