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Pictured at the launch of Skill Up at Northern Regional College's Newtownabbey campus are (l-r) John D'Arcy, Open University; David Jones, Queen's University Belfast; Jeb Berkeley, South Eastern Regional College; Jill Cush, South West College; Andrea Kearney, Southern Regional College; Rachel Burns, Belfast Met; Sinead Hawkins, North West Regional College; Mel Higgins, Northern Regional College; and Economy Minister Gordon Lyons.
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Economy Minister, Gordon Lyons, recently launched Skill Up, a new initiative to deliver free training places, in an investment of up to £23million.

Supported by the Northern Ireland Office, Skill Up will fully fund the local further education colleges and universities to deliver approximately 15,000 training places in over 250 subject areas for qualifications ranging from Level 2 up to Level 7.

Launching Skill Up the Minister said: “I am very pleased to announce Skill Up. With support from the Northern Ireland Office, my Department will fully fund around 15,000 training places across the local FE colleges and universities over the next three years, representing an investment of up to £23million. Up to 7,000 places will be available in the first year.

“Since May 2020 my Department has funded more than 7,000 training places for people whose careers were affected by the pandemic. These courses were fully taken up and helped many people to upskill and reskill to boost their career prospects and employability. Skill Up will build on that success, with courses even more accessible – if you meet the entry criteria, you can apply.

The Minister added: “Investing in skills is a key facet of the economic recovery, post-pandemic. Skill Up will invest in courses that are directly linked to priority areas for future economic growth, meaning people can equip themselves with the skills they need for jobs in new and emerging sectors, in line with my Department’s 10X Economic Vision and Skills Strategy.” 

Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis, said: “I am delighted to announce the three-year programme, Skill Up – The Flexible Skills Fund. This programme, made possible through a £15m investment from the UK Government, with up to £8m contributed from the Department for the Economy, again shows the UK Government's commitment to supporting and protecting the interests of people and businesses in Northern Ireland, and levelling-up across the United Kingdom.

“Such investment will boost the skills of the people of Northern Ireland and reduce the skills imbalance in key growth areas such as Digital, Green Technologies, Life and Health Sciences, Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering and Health and Social Care. 

“It will also support a range of educational opportunities from entry level to master’s qualifications, at no cost to the individual. This will be particularly welcomed by those whose employment was impacted by Covid-19 and who, thanks to UK Government ambitions, will have the opportunity to gain new skills leading to better employment opportunities. 

“This significant announcement is part of the wider £400million New Deal for Northern Ireland fund that will foster economic growth and build a stable and prosperous future for Northern Ireland.”

Tracy Rice, Head of Business Engagement at SRC commented “We welcome the Skill Up investment and the opportunities it will provide for people to upskill and reskill at SRC. This support will help many people to take steps to improve their skills and employability and ultimately contribute to the recovery of the Northern Ireland economy.”  She continued “Courses are free and are available in a diverse range of areas such as Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering, Childcare, Computing, Digital Marketing, Green Technologies, Health and Social Care, Leadership and Management, Life and Health Science and Graduate Programmes. Applications for a number of the courses are now open and can be accessed on the SRC website on”   

For further information, contact SRC’s Business Support team today on 028 3839 7778 or email

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