Policy Forum for Northern Ireland

We are continuing to organise full-scale virtual conferences which retain all the features of physical seminars, including full programmes, presentations with slides, panel discussions and live delegate questions and comments sessions, person-to-person and group networking, and a permanent record provided to all delegates afterwards. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time, so there are plenty of opportunities to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are.
For booking-related queries or information on speaking please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk, or call +44 (0)1344 864796.

If you’re already booked on, joining instructions can be accessed from five working days before your conference via the booking dashboard. Need help? You can contact our Delegate Relations team at delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk or by calling the above number.

Next steps for skills and apprenticeships in Northern Ireland

October 2020


Price: £95 PLUS VAT
Format: DOWNLOADABLE PDF


***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***


This conference will discuss the future of skills and apprenticeships in Northern Ireland.


It takes place with the ongoing development of a new skills strategy for Northern Ireland, to replace the existing strategy which concludes in 2020.


The discussion at a glance:


  • the new skills strategy - key priorities
  • UK-wide policy developments - the immigration framework and the impact of Brexit
  • Looking ahead - meeting the future skills needs of the Northern Ireland economy
  • apprenticeships - their particular role of in helping meet NI’s skills needs
  • COVID-19 - the impact of the pandemic on apprenticeships and skills development and those working in this area, including:
    • what can be learned - taking forward the experience of the way that providers have adapted to the delivery of skills and training
    • further support - what may be needed to accommodate the impact on stakeholders of the economic fallout of the crisis, as well as changes to skills demands and the working environment

A scan of policy developments:


  • a new skills strategy for Northern Ireland - being developed of to replace the Success through Skills - Transforming Futures, which concludes in 2020
  • Investing in Skills is crucial to future growth - highlighted by the Minister for the Economy as an immediate policy priority for economic recovery in light of the impact of COVID-19
  • Apprentice Recovery Package - £14.3 million from the Department for the Economy to replace the UK wide Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
  • Murphy announces funding for apprenticeships, education and social enterprises - allocation of £23.1m from the Northern Ireland Executive to address issues brought about by COVID-19
  • OECD Skills Strategy Northern Ireland - recently published and recommending:
    • Northern Ireland reduce its skills imbalances through improving careers guidance and reforming funding models
    • a culture of lifelong learning is created and the governance of skills policies is strengthened
  • Economy Minister announces skills and innovation support for social enterprises - extending eligibility criteria
  • UK points-based immigration system - details recently published by the UK government

Areas for discussion:


  • the new skills strategy:
    • key priorities and goals
    • skills requirements - where are the most significant gaps
    • meeting the needs of the NI economy into the future - options for further policy interventions to develop education, apprenticeships and a skilled workforce
  • UK-wide policy developments - the immigration framework and the impact of Brexit:
    • potential impact - of the UK government’s proposed immigration framework on organisations in Northern Ireland and attracting talent from overseas, and on the overall skills picture in NI
    • a local approach? - examining the potential for developing regional immigration policies to benefit the Northern Ireland economy
    • UK transition - how they are likely to affect availability of skills in individual sectors and in the economy as a whole
  • looking ahead - meeting the future skills needs of the Northern Ireland economy:
    • key future skills requirements - looking at the NI economy as a whole, as well as individual sectors, and the way forward for developing a workforce that is skilled to match those requirements
    • new technologies and automation - the impact on the composition of the workforce and the consequences of this for the NI skills and training landscape
    • education - what will be required going forward from post-primary, further and higher education for skills development and supporting and sustaining the talent pipeline
    • retraining and up-skilling the existing workforce - priorities including developing clear career pathways and the role for in-work training and skills development programmes
    • sector-specific skills strategies - priorities, and best practice for development and implementation
  • apprenticeships - and their particular role in meeting Northern Ireland’s skills needs;
    • standards and delivery - developing strong standards and excellence in apprenticeship programmes and ensuring that they deliver applicable and transferable qualifications and skills
    • uptake - the way forward for achieving parity of esteem for apprenticeships as a path towards a future career and how best to increase apprenticeship uptake in NI
    • the apprenticeship levy - addressing concerns around its functioning in NI, including whether funding resulting from the levy should be ring-fenced for apprenticeship programme delivery

The agenda:


  • Key priorities for The Skills Strategy in Northern Ireland
  • The future for apprenticeships - delivering skills
  • Developing the framework for Northern Ireland’s future skills system
  • Meeting Northern Ireland’s skill needs - priorities for businesses and sectors, funding, and delivering for City and Growth Deals
  • Developing a skilled workforce - effective pathways, parity of esteem, and up-skilling
  • Raising quality in apprenticeships - assessment, qualifications and promoting excellence

Policy officials attending:


Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from the Department for Communities; the Department for the Economy; the Department for Education; the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs; CAFRE; the Department of Finance; BDUK (Building Digital UK); the Strategic Investment Board; The Education and Training Inspectorate and the Northern Ireland Office.


This is a full-scale conference taking place online***


  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference



This pack includes

  • Dropbox video recording of the conference
  • PDF transcript of the discussion, including all speaker remarks and Q&A
  • PDFs of speakers' slide material (subject to permission)
  • PDFs of the delegate pack, including speaker biographies and attendee list
  • PDFs of delegate articles