Press Release

Assembly Committees Back Science and Technology

Session: 2009/2010

Date: Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Reference: E&L03/08/09

Science, Technology, Engineering, & Maths (STEM subjects) hold the key to the future success of the Northern Ireland economy. That’s why Members from three Assembly Statutory Committees hosted a panel discussion of STEM experts in Stormont’s Long Gallery today to identify the way forward.

The Members of the Employment & Learning, Education, and Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committees and STEM experts from industry, science, technology, schools, and further and higher education sectors all agreed that Northern Ireland’s success in an increasingly global economy will depend on significantly developing our STEM skills base. All emphasised that these skills are essential to delivering productivity, innovative products and services and offering customers value for money in a global market.

Committee Chairpersons Sue Ramsey, Mervyn Storey & Mark Durkan confirmed their commitment to driving forward the STEM agenda with a proposal to issue a joint letter reflecting the panel’s views to the Ministers of Education, Employment & Learning and Enterprise, Trade & Investment.

A representative of MATRIX (the Science and Industry Body) highlighted the need to radically build on the Executive’s targets for STEM in its Programme for Government, ‘The development of the science base is vital to delivering an innovative economy. This will create opportunities in Northern Ireland for essential higher value-added employment’.

Panel members and the invited audience of STEM stakeholders welcomed the opportunity to voice their concerns and to call for effective and immediate action following the imminent publication of the STEM Review Report; action urgently required for economic recovery in Northern Ireland.


Notes to Editors:
  1. The STEM Report is currently being finalised for submission to the Ministers for the Departments of Education and Employment and Learning. When published, the Report will identify the recommendations on the way ahead. Early indications show that effective and quick actions will require a strong partnership between Business, Government and Academia.
  2. The Republic of Ireland, Scotland and England have already set in motion STEM strategies and policies to grow the STEM skills base. Experts attending the event discussed the emergence of the developing countries, particularly the so called BRICs ( Brazil, Russia, India and China) and the increase in their STEM education which is on a very great scale and is creating well educated workforces capable of exploiting their low cost base. This could be a substantial challenge to Northern Ireland.
  3. Increasing the STEM skills base is an imperative for growth in the NI economy. It was agreed at the event that the challenge for Northern Ireland is to encourage young people to study the various STEM subjects or Northern Ireland risks having a serious shortage of STEM qualified people at all levels in its our workforce.
  4. the Programme for Government STEM Targets applicable to the three Departments (Employment & Learning, Education and Enterprise, Trade & Investment) are:
  •  
    • increase by 5% the numbers studying STEM subjects in post 16 cohort by 2011
    • By 2011, to have implemented a joint DE/DEL strategy to address the shortage of skills in science, technology and mathematics disciplines.
Panel list

Joanne Stuart , Chairperson, Institute of Directors( Chairperson of panel)
Stephen Lusty , Chairman, Engineering Policy Group (NI), Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) 
Robin McGill , Chief Executive and Secretary, IET 
Damien McDonnell , Chairman, Matrix (NI Science and Industry Panel) 
Clare Passmore , Board Member, Matrix 
Alan Blair , Board Member, Matrix / Association of NI Colleges (ANIC) 
Sam McGuinness , Former Principal of Limavady Grammar School

Committee for Employment and Learning

The Committee Chairperson is Ms. Sue Ramsey MLA 
The Deputy Chairperson is Mr. Robin Newton MLA 
Committee members: 
Mr. Alex Attwood MLA 
Mr. Paul Butler MLA 
Rev. Dr. Robert Coulter MLA 
Mr. Alex Easton MLA 
Mr. David Hilditch MLA 
Mr. William Irwin MLA 
Ms. Anna Lo MLA 
Mr. David McClarty MLA 
Mrs. Claire McGill MLA

The Committee has a scrutiny, policy development and consultative role, and advises the Minister for Employment and Learning directly on the policies of the Department for Employment and Learning.

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