Policy Forum for Northern Ireland

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you 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 contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

Next steps for skills and apprenticeships in Northern Ireland

TO BE PUBLISHED October 2020

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

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

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

Areas for discussion include:

  • key priorities for the new skills strategy
  • immigration policy and the impact of Brexit
  • meeting the future skills needs of the Northern Ireland economy
  • the particular role of apprenticeships in helping meet NI’s skills needs

Of course we also expect discussion on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on apprenticeships and skills development and those working in this area, including:

  • what can be learned and taken forward from the way that providers have adapted to the delivery of skills and training
  • any extra support that might be needed to accommodate the impact on stakeholders in light of the economic fallout of the crisis, and changes to skills demands and the working environment

Developments that are relevant to the discussion:

  • Ongoing development of a new skills strategy for Northern Ireland, to replace the existing strategy which concludes in 2020
  • Recent publication of the OECD Skills Strategy for Northern Ireland which recommends:
    • 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
  • Publication of the Northern Ireland Skills Barometer last year, which amongst other conclusions identified key skills shortages in STEM-related subjects
  • Details recently published by the UK government on the proposed points-based immigration system

The discussion in detail:

Key priorities for the new skills strategy

  • the new skills strategy currently under development, including consideration of what should be its key priorities and goal
  • key skills requirements in the NI economy and where the most significant gaps exist between the requirements and the current skills landscape
  • what more might be needed in terms of policy interventions to develop education, apprenticeships and a skilled workforce in Northern Ireland to meet the needs of its economy in the future

Immigration policy and the impact of Brexit

  • potential impact of the UK government’s proposed immigration framework on businesses and organisations in Northern Ireland attracting talent from overseas, and on the overall skills picture in NI
  • implications of the proposed points-based approach, as well as examining the potential for developing regional immigration policies to benefit the Northern Ireland economy
  • Brexit and the EU withdrawal agreement, including how they are likely to affect availability of skills in individual sectors and in the economy as a whole

Meeting the future skills needs of the Northern Ireland economy

  • key future skills requirements of the NI economy as a whole, as well of those of individual sectors - and the way forward for developing a workforce that is skilled to match those requirements
  • the impact of new technologies and automation on the composition of the workforce and the consequences of this for the NI skills and training landscape
  • what will be required going forward from post-primary, further and higher education for skills development and supporting and sustaining the talent pipeline
  • priorities for retraining and up-skilling the existing workforce - including developing clear career pathways and the role for in-work training and skills development programmes
  • best practice for developing and implementing sector-specific skills strategies

Apprenticeships and their particular role in meeting Northern Ireland’s skills needs

  • next steps for developing strong standards and excellence in apprenticeship programmes and ensuring that they deliver applicable and transferable qualifications and skills
  • 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
  • addressing concerns around the functioning of the apprenticeship levy in Northern Ireland, including discussion of issues such as whether funding resulting from the levy ought to be ring-fenced for the delivery of apprenticeship programmes.

The agenda:

  • Key priorities for upskilling and training in Northern Ireland
  • 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.

This one is no different. Places have been reserved by officials from the Department for Communities; the Department for the Economy; the Department for Education; BDUK (Building Digital UK); and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

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

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

Shortly after every Policy Forum for Northern Ireland seminar, a briefing document is produced. This is distributed to all delegates on the day as well as to our policymaker contacts in government, and to stakeholders more widely.

A seminar publication provides a timely record of proceedings, and acts as a guide to the latest thinking on current policy issues for those unable to be at the event.

This publication includes


Contributions from keynotes and panellists, including accompanying slides*
*Subject to approval

Delegate Pack

Information from the day, including delegate list, biographies and agenda


Transcript of questions and comments posed to speakers from attending delegates


Supplementary articles from speakers
and delegates