IoD Chair calls for access to the £60 million Apprenticeship Levy Funding to create flexible & innovative employment opportunities

Institute of Directors NI Chair Gordon Milligan OBE has urged political leaders to approach Northern Ireland’s future in equal partnership with the business community.   

Speaking at the annual IoD dinner sponsored by the Bank of Ireland, Arthur Cox and the Charles Hurst Group in the Culloden Hotel on Thursday, Mr Milligan who has chaired the IoD for six years said:

“The recent international investment conference, the NI Investment Summit, which attracted global investors would have been unheard of in 1998 as would the trade delegation led by US economic envoy Joe Kennedy III whom we are looking forward to welcoming back next month,” said Mr Milligan.

“While we have further to travel as a society still dealing with the legacy of our troubled past, it is important to recognise the progress we have made in the last 25 years, and the opportunity that the next 25 years can bring,” he said.  “It is also important to acknowledge the role of some of our leaders, particularly our business leaders in the positive change we see every day.”

Gordon emphasised the opportunities being missed through the absence of political leadership.

“Similar to employers in GB, if businesses in NI had the same access to the £60m that we pay into the apprenticeship levy each year we would use this to create innovative and flexible employment opportunities for 24,000 young people not in employment, education or training; or for 32% of women of working age who are not in employment; or for the 63% of disabled people who are not in work.”

Mr Milligan acknowledged the enviable levels of business leadership available in Northern Ireland.

“I share in the celebration of this leadership through our Director of the Year Awards,” he said. “From established leaders such as Dame Rotha Johnson DBE, Sir Michael Ryan, Brian Conlon and Brendan Mooney, through to emerging leaders particularly in the tech sector and winners alike, they exemplify the best that NI has to offer across our family businesses, corporations, public and private sectors.”

He also acknowledged the work undertaken by many businesses and organisations to become socially and environmentally sustainable. “Our recent Shared Island funding enables us to take our ambition to the next stage,” he said. “In supporting our leaders across the island to move the dial on ESG (environmental, social and governance) not only are we addressing pressing global issues but also meeting the expectations of consumers and investors.”

“Times like these demand resilience and flexibility. They will reward the optimism that spots the opportunity for positive change, and it will reward collaboration and bravery.”

Mr Milligan will step down from his role as Chair of IoD NI in March 2024.

Lead sponsor, Paul Magee, Director – Corporate Banking Northern Ireland, Bank of Ireland said: “Once again we were proud to continue our support of the Institute of Directors and, in the current business climate, welcomed the opportunity to listen to business leaders and entrepreneurs across NI as we work with them to provide practical solutions and meet their needs.

“It was particularly welcome to hear from someone like Lisa Magee who is a shining example of the creativity and ambition which exists in Northern Ireland and as business leaders, we can learn a lot from how she has used her talents to present a better image of this region on a global stage.

“Thanks to everyone who attended the event and to our partners at the IoD for putting together such an excellent event.”

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