‘Great Place to Work' initiative gathers momentum in Newry

Pictured at the launch of the ‘A Great Place to Work’ strand of the Newry Mourne and Down Labour Market Partnership are (from left) Piotr Chmielowiec (Re-Gen), council chair Michael Savage, Colm Gribben (Viltra) and Louise McCooey (MJM Marine)

NEWRY Mourne and Down Council (NMD) has launched the ‘Great Place to Work’ strand of its Labour Market Partnership (LMP), which comes in response to research indicating that there are more than 1,200 job vacancies in the area.

Funded by the Department for Communities, the partnership aims to promote NMD as a great place to work, to support people to access work, and to help provide the relevant skills for existing and future vacancies.

Businesses were invited to complete a survey to help them to shape the strategy for the new LMP, and the 50 firms which returned responses currently employ more than 11,000 people combined.

The research indicated that many businesses are working hard to attract and retain talent, with incentives such as flexible working, four-day working weeks, and investment in culture and employee wellbeing.

And 72 per cent of businesses in the area - including globally-known names - say they have already had some level of engagement with Southern Regional College or South Eastern Regional College to consider recruiting apprentices.

Newry, Mourne and Down Council chair Michael Savage said: “This research backs up what we are hearing on the ground from businesses. We need more people active in the labour market in the district, and this 'Great Place to Work’ initiative is aimed at helping to bridge that gap.

“We need to start at school level to make sure young people are aware of the opportunities locally. We have 88 per cent of the respondent businesses saying they are interested in hiring graduates and 78 per cent interested in apprentices or higher-level apprenticeships. This shows we have many highly skilled opportunities locally.

“NISRA data for 2021 shows that we have more than 3,500 unemployed people in the district and 28,000 economically inactive people, for various reasons. This includes scenarios such as caring or family commitments, and people with disabilities. There are figures to show that many of these people want to work if they were presented with the opportunity.

“Our business community is telling us that nearly 65 per cent of companies would be interested in providing career pathways and opportunities for people with caring responsibilities who require flexibility; nearly 70 per cent can offer support for employees with English as a second language and nearly 60 per cent would provide the skills and support to help someone who has been long term unemployed to get back into the labour market. This shows that there are opportunities and options for people who maybe feel removed from the labour market or reluctant to return.

“Our job seekers (38 per cent) are telling us that there is a lack of opportunities locally while 35 per cent cited a lack of confidence to apply for a job and 24 per cent said they did not know where to look. This tells us that

there is a disconnect somewhere between the labour market and job seekers.

“We hope the Labour Market Partnership can work with the many stakeholders involved in this space locally to try to bridge that gap. We want to provide information to job-seekers about the opportunities available - more than 1,200 of them in the district; and to support businesses to get the skilled and unskilled talent they need to fill current and future vacancies to help deliver growth.”

To date the partnership has supported a range of employability training academies including for HGV drivers and a health and social care workers, providing training for those looking to start a career in these sectors.

It will also be hosting a free job fair on Thursday in the Canal Court Hotel (10am until 3pm).

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