Skills swap unveiled in Ballymena
A new UK-wide skills initiative which would see staff members loaned to other organisations has launched in Ballymena.
Tuesday, 27 November 2012
Skills Exchange UK uses an online database where employers upload their details about their workers.
Then if a company needs to make cuts or is in a position where it could take on extra staff, the website can be used to select or advertise workers.
David Lennan, deputy chair of Skills Exchange UK, said all local businesses can share skills with one another.
"Staff will be swapped between organisations on a seconded basis," he explained.
"All the actions to enable that to happen are within the exchange are online and available, so it's a very simple process for companies to register their membership, and put up staff profiles.
"It's something that a local employer can do by sharing skills with other local employers," added Mr Lennon
Ballymena became the first Skill Exchange hub when the scheme was unveiled on Tuesday and in the next six months three more hubs will be set up across Northern Ireland. By the end of 2013 there will be 35 Skill Exchange hubs across the UK.
That means staff will be able to travel to work opportunities across the UK, widening the possibility of employment.
Ian Paisley, MP for North Antrim, welcomed the initiative's first hub in Ballymena, where almost 250 jobs were cut this month when building firm Patton went into administration. He said the arrival of Skill Exchange is something positive during a time of economic hardship.
"Here's an opportunity that's saying 'look, we've a huge skill base here, let's share the people around, let's build the talent and let's make sure when opportunities start to develop the skills are still there to take up the job'," he told UTV.
Michelin, Moy Park, JTI, Dunbia, Wrightbus and the Northern Regional College have funded this project in its entirety. This will allow smaller and small-medium enterprises (SMEs) and others in the area to benefit from the skills exchange free of charge.
Minister for Employment and Learning Dr Stephen Farry said the local companies should be applauded for getting behind the scheme.
"This initiative will help to retain and develop our highly valuable skilled workers. This is better for both local companies and individuals as staff can be placed into meaningful alternative work instead of facing unemployment. I look forward to seeing how this develops in Ballymena."
While Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said she believes the Skills Exchange will provide opportunities for small organisations in the town.
"By coming together in this way, larger employers can share practical ideas and local SMEs can benefit from the secondment of highly skilled members of staff.
"Working in partnership by sharing skills and problem solving solutions that have worked for them, means larger firms can really help make a difference to their smaller peers," she added.