MLAs briefed on available NI careers guidance

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MLAs were briefed on the current careers guidance available for students in Northern Ireland and advised on what improvements could be made, on 6 February 2013.

Representatives from Gems NI, Young Enterprise Northern Ireland (YENI), the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) and Etain Software appeared before members to give evidence on the employment committee's inquiry into into Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance.

YENI chief executive Carol Fitzsimons explained her organisation worked with young people advising pupils on how to succeed through enterprise.

She explained that the organisation worked with people between the ages of five and 25, and had reached out to more than 100,000 students across Northern Ireland.

Ms Fitzsimons said there was a demand to extend YENI's services although this was not possible due to funding restraints.

Susan Russam, the chief executive of Gems NI, a body which helps those in long-term unemployment, said she wanted careers guidance in schools to be better resourced.

She also said she would like it to have a "proper place in the curriculum" and to begin from as early as mid-primary school.

Committee chairman Basil McCrea said that GEMS NI had made statements which have "got our attention".

Gordon Parkes, NIE's HR director, said he did not believe the careers service was helpful to many young people.

"How can we say the careers service is working if there are people experiencing skills shortages and at same time there are people unemployed?" he asked.

He blamed a skills shortage in the electrical and engineering sector on an aging workforce, a growth of renewable energy and a lack of attractiveness in this job area.

His comments were reiterated by Kirsty McManus of the CBI who described the careers system as "broken".

"We have youth unemployment at 20% and we have employers here who can't fill vacancies," she said.

Department for the Employment and Learning officials also gave a briefing on a Local Employment Intermediary Service (LEMIS) which has been in existence since April 2007.

Department official Sam Bailie explained that LEMIS was a community employment service under the control of the department but was "run by the community for the community".

Sinn Fein's Phil Flanagan said he had been an MLA for 18 months and had never heard of the service.

Mr McCrea said he wanted the officials to come back to explain LEMIS fully.

Chris Lyttle of the Alliance Party said he would like the committee to hold a showcasing event to highlight the service.

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