Business diary . . . events coming up

Martin Flynn, chief executive at OCN NI, launches the 2024 Learning Awards (DARREN KIDD)


Open College Network NI will hold its sixth Learning Endeavour Awards at Titanic Belfast on June 25, an initiative which aim to recognise and celebrate the achievements of individuals and their training providers, by highlighting the power of learning to transform lives for the better.

The awards, unique in Northern Ireland, bring together learners from a range of education and training providers, including representatives from the community and voluntary sector, further education, private training as well as schools.

OCN NI invites all recognised centres to participate in this celebration of educational achievement by submitting nominations for their exceptional learners via by Sunday March 24.

This year’s categories are Further Education Learner of the Year, Schools Learner of the Year, Third Sector Learner of the Year, Advancing Learning Through Innovation, Health & Well-being Learner of the Year, Inspiring Tutor/Teacher of the Year, Provider of the Year, Traineeship/Apprenticeship Learner of the Year (new for 2024), and the Hilary Sloan MBE Learning Endeavour Award.

Martin Flynn, chief executive at OCN NI, said: “We hope to welcome over 300 guests to the event, and this year we also have an enhanced bursary fund available for winners as well as highly commended participants of £20,000 so we would encourage entries from as many eligible learners and training providers as soon as they can.

“The annual awards ceremony provides a platform to honour the dedication and hard work of individuals who have pursued vocational qualifications through OCN NI, and our event serves as a testament to the transformative power of education in positively shaping lives and communities.”

Launching the 2024 Receptionist Awards are (from left) John McGrillen,chief executive of Tourism NI; NIHF president Eddie McKeever, Sharon Power Cowley, sales director at Net Affinity, and David Anderson, CX director Northern Ireland, insight6 (Chris Neely)


The Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) has launched its highly anticipated NIHF Receptionist Awards 2024, taking place at the Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel and Lodges on Wednesday May 22, hosted by Pamela Ballantine.

As part of a series of Key Awards, the ceremony is designed to honour and reward the outstanding skills of individuals contributing to the excellence of the hospitality industry.

NIHF president Eddie McKeever, said: “Receptionists are often the first and only point of contact for guests, contributing significantly to their overall experience.

“By recognising and celebrating their skills, we aim to highlight the importance of this department and the impact it has on guest satisfaction.

“Receptionists make guests feel special and set the tone for their entire stay. These awards are our way of saying thank you and recognising the amazing work they do. We want to show that hospitality is all about great people creating wonderful experiences for others.”

The awards, will take entries up until Friday March 29 at, feature three distinct categories - Receptionist of the Year, Most Promising Receptionist, and Reception Team of the Year.

The award selection process comprises three phases, including an assessment day at the Clayton Hotel, in-person interviews, and a ‘mystery shopper’ visit.

The awards are supported by industry partners including Tourism NI, Guestline, Net Affinity, insight6, Fermanagh & Omagh District Council and the Life Adventure Company.


Contemporary flexible working practices, and their potential to power productivity and a more inclusive labour market will be the focal point of the Labour Relations Agency’s (LRA) upcoming annual conference.

Taking place on March 14 at Stranmillis College, Flexible Futures 2024 will be delivered in partnership with the Department for the Economy and Timely Careers, a social enterprise which enables and empowers women who want to re-start or change their careers, to work in a more flexible way.

The business-to-business event will feature new insights and panel discussions from leading researchers, employers and policy advisors who will showcase the business benefits and best practice of flexible and remote working as it continues to redefine the workplace.

LRA chair Gordon Milligan said: “The restoration of Stormont and a fully functioning Assembly creates the perfect backdrop for our conference both in terms of timing and theme. Contemporary approaches to work continue to evolve and this event provides a platform to explore how we best adapt to maximise the benefits of flexible working in a way which is equal, diverse, and inclusive.”

The theme also carries forward the LRA’s commitment to developing a Good Employment Charter for Northern Ireland, with flexible working forming a key pillar.

IFEX 2024

Northern Ireland’s premier food, drink, retail and hospitality event IFEX returns to the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast from Tuesday to Thursday March 5-7, when more than 7,000 visitors are expected to attend

The event will shine a spotlight on the latest industry technologies, innovative ideas and new product launches alongside promoting some of the finest culinary talent the north has to offer.

Returning for its 26th edition, over 200 companies from Northern Ireland and further afield will be exhibiting, demonstrating a commitment to growing business in the foodservice and hospitality sectors.

Increasing its floorplan by an additional 40% and opening up a new hall, it’s hoped that the new look and bigger show will increase the visitor demographic and encourage more people from across the country to attend.

Championing best practice within the industry, IFEX is supported by leading industry associations including Hospitality Ulster, the Federation of Small Business NI, Retail NI, NI Hotels Federation, Guild of Fine Food, Chef Network, Restaurants Association of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Takeaway Association.

A business-to-business event, you can register to attend for free at