Skills Strategy needs to have stronger focus on vital role of childcare and early education to the economy
Employers For Childcare has responded to the Department for the Economy’s consultation on a ‘Skills Strategy for Northern Ireland: Skills for a 10x Economy’. While we welcome the ambition of the Strategy, to tackle social and educational inequality and crease a more prosperous, resilient Northern Ireland, we identify key areas that must be expanded and given greater attention for the Strategy’s objectives to be achieved:
- Stronger integration of the vital role of childcare throughout the strategy
- Extending education related initiatives to include early education and childcare
- Developing, and bringing forward, work on the ‘Better Jobs Pledge’
- Recognition of the Social Enterprise sector.
Under each area we make specific recommendations, accompanied by an evidence base providing a rationale for their inclusion.
Stronger integration of the vital role of childcare throughout the strategy
While we welcome the commitment in the strategy around the expansion of childcare support to those wishing to participate in lifelong learning, the broader – and vital – role of childcare in addressing skills imbalances, reducing economic inactivity, supporting women in particular to access and remain in the workforce, and driving economic growth, is missed. We urge the Department for the Economy to place greater value on the role of childcare as a key element of our economic infrastructure.
Extending education related initiatives to include early education and childcare
The Strategy recognises the importance of investing in education, reflecting that a broad base of good educational achievement and skills is fundamental to our society and economy. However, there is insufficient recognition of the importance of starting this investment as early as possible to secure longer term, transformational change. Early intervention – prior to compulsory school starting age – provides opportunities both for children’s educational development and to address social deprivation. This needs to translate more clearly into commitments within the Strategy.
Developing, and bringing forward, work on the ‘Better Jobs Pledge’
The Strategy rightly recognises the role for business leaders and employers in achieving its ambitious objectives. Employers can benefit from the recruitment and retention of a skilled workforce by implementing flexible and family friendly working policies, making jobs more attractive and feasible for those with caring responsibilities. We therefore welcome the proposal for the introduction of a ‘Better Jobs Pledge’. However, it is important that the definition of a ‘better’ job is more clearly defined and articulated.
Recognition of the Social Enterprise sector
The Strategy fails to include any specific mention of the Social Enterprise sector. We strongly advocate for the importance of Social Enterprises and Social Value to be considered within the Skills Strategy to promote job opportunities, upskilling and work within this growing and thriving sector.
Find out more
You can download our full response, including our specific recommendations, at the top right of this page.
To find out more about this consultation visit the Department for the Economy’s website here.