New group formed to tackle skills shortage for Mid Ulster's manufacturing and engineering sectors

L-R: Roisin McCabe (Specdrum), Shane Nugent (Nugent Engineering), Ciara Kilpatrick (Invest NI), Leigh Falls (Nugents), Clement Cuthbertson (MUDC), Dominic Young (Steelweld), Maria Curran (MEGA project director), Alan McKeown (chair Mid Ulster Skills Forum), Darragh Cullen (Edge Innovate), Colm McGrath (Northern Hydraulics), Sinead Gaynor (Mallaghans), Paul McCreedy (MUDC), Clodagh McGovern (Mallaghans)

A NEW body is being launched to tackle skills shortages for engineering and manufacturing firms in Mid Ulster.

The Manufacturing Engineering Growth Advancement (MEGA) group has the backing of Invest NI and the Mid Ulster District Council. It follows research last year which identified 4,700 vacancies across Mid Ulster in 2016/17 linked to a shortage in skills.

The body will comprise employers in the area, who with the backing of government and the education sector, will develop a new strategy geared at attracting, retaining and upskilling the region’s engineering and manufacturing workforce.

The body will be officially launched on Tuesday (November 19) at the Glenavon House Hotel, Cookstown.

MEGA project director Maria Curran said the group will seek to guide a new range of people into a career path in the advanced manufacturing and engineering industry, which she said will in turn boost the local economy.

“Our launch event will provide an excellent opening platform to garner invaluable insight to the industry, into strategies for growth and development in Mid Ulster and the opportunity to network and engage with key stakeholders in building new collaborative ways to further advance Manufacturing and Engineering in the region.”

Alan McKeown, chair of the Mid Ulster Skills Forum, which carried out last year’s skills report, said he hoped it will encourage more businesses to collaborate to tackle strategic issues in the sector.

“This an excellent demonstration of how companies can collaborate in a pre-competitive way to tackle significant strategic issues facing their industry. I am confident that as we continue to implement our Mid Ulster Skills Action Plan we will see many more examples of just how resourceful Mid-Ulster business leaders can be in developing innovative solutions to problems that would be impossible for any single company to resolve on its own.”

One of the firms involved is Edendork-based Edge Innovate.

Managing director of the machinery manufacturer said that companies based in Mid Ulster represent almost half of the global manufacturing of crushing, screening, recycling and materials handling equipment.

These companies compete fiercely with each other right across the world, nevertheless their strategic leaders having fully embraced the idea of working collaboratively to address the skills and people shortages we all face,” he said.

“We firmly believe that through MEGA we can attract more people into manufacturing as a whole. Indeed, we have set ourselves some ambitious targets including reducing labour turnover, attracting more females into the industry and reducing the number of companies who have difficulty in recruiting staff.

“We believe that more people need to be exposed to the opportunities that exist on our doorstep within the manufacturing and engineering sectors. Industry in Mid Ulster offers high quality, highly paid careers that are sustainable in the long term – here at home.

“We need to train, educate and upskill our people for the challenges and opportunities that we face today, tomorrow and into the future.”

Tuesday’s event will feature a Q&A session with an expert panel and a host of guest speakers.

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