Greater business and education collaboration could drive economic growth in the north, says report

Greater collaboration between the business and education sectors could help drive prosperity in the north, according to a new report.
Gareth McKeown

GREATER collaboration between the business and education sectors could help drive prosperity in the north, according to new analysis from Deloitte.

The Power Up Report, which covers the entire UK, states that Northern Ireland's low productivity rate could see significant improvement if education is aligned more closely with the jobs being created and some business incentives are linked to jobs with long-term economic value.

The report notes that the economic output gap between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK has widened overthe last 20 years with gross value added (GVA) per hour 85.1 per cent of the UK average and below where it was in 1997.

Deloitte partner, Peter Allen believes it is possible to reverse the trend.

“We have a wealth of talent and a strong track record of innovation in Northern Ireland, and by working collaboratively we can create an ecosystem which harnesses this effectively," he said.

“The public and private sector leaders who were interviewed emphasised that greater coordination between the education sector, business and government will be needed to optimise growth and overcome the problem of low productivity growth.”

"There was optimism that the productivity challenge can be met and economic performance can be raised, but to do that incentives to improve education and support job creation and investment must all work in the same direction," Mr Allen added.

The report highlights the north as an area with market-leading skills in ICT and financial services, but more could be done to align education with the needs of business to ensure a stronger pipeline of labour with the required skills.

Interviewees also suggested adapting the way Invest NI is asked to measure success. At present Invest NI looks to support jobs that will last for more than two years and pay above the average wage.

However, there was some support for changing the metric to take into account the net present value of each newly created job – for example if it lasts for 20 years it will be of greater value than if it lasts for two – and apply a multiplier to give weight to particular sectors where Northern Ireland can grow swiftly and sustainably.

Other suggestions on improving productivity included reducing tuition fees - either by subsidising or through business support, investment in infrastructure and reform of the block grant and public sector procurement.

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