Regional focus

Mid Ulster in ‘MEGA’ drive to address manufacturing skills and engineering

Mid Ulster is launching a ‘MEGA’ drive to address skills shortages and employability issues within the region’s manufacturing and engineering sectors in a 30-month, industry-led collaborative programme jointly funded by Mid Ulster District Council and Invest NI.

The MEGA (Manufacturing & Engineering Growth and Advancement) network of businesses has its origins in the Mid Ulster Skills Forum, a 30-strong partnership which was established in 2017 to take forward a skills agenda for the area and which last year published its blueprint for delivering a workforce with the necessary skills to drive economic growth and create an additional 2,355 new jobs.

The MEGA group of collaborative businesses is one outcome of the Forum’s work and the network’s commitment to developing a high performing workforce, equipped with the right skills to meet current and future industry needs, is crystal clear with the appointment of a dedicated Project Director, Maria Curran.

Curran explains that she is delighted to lead on the MEGA project and relishes the challenge of helping to engage and attract a range of people into a rewarding career path in the advanced manufacturing and engineering industry, something which will in turn help the local economy flourish.

“The MEGA network’s strategic vision and aims are to attract suitable talent into the industry and reduce the skills gap which currently exists across the sector. There are so many excellent potential opportunities which manufacturing companies have to offer and a core objective will be to promote the very clear benefits of pursuing a career in this field.

“This will include inspiring people into the sector through MEGA ambassadors, who will visit local schools and engage with and impress upon young people the real life experiences of a career pathway in the sector. Improving quality work experience and rolling out summer internships in businesses can add further opportunities to encourage our young people to become part of a proud workforce building great products for customers.”

The Project Director says that greater collaboration with local colleges and schools is seen by the MEGA network members as being very important to ensure curriculum content is aligned to industry needs.

“We must create a greater awareness of the value and major advantages of pursuing a career pathway through an apprenticeship model and how crucial the technical skills are to companies in this sector,” she states.

“Apprenticeships are available at all levels and will deliver an informed and skilled workforce that industry requires. A huge component in the delivery of this will be determined by how schools can embrace and administer world-class careers advice as early as possible.

We need to train, educate and upskill our people for the challenges and opportunities that we face today, tomorrow and into the future.

“In the immediate future, MEGA will work very closely with all key stakeholders and create a pathway where potential future employees feel empowered to become part of the industry. We hope to expand the MEGA network and provide reskilling and upskilling events for businesses to meet the future requirements of Industry 4.0. With a renewed and energetic drive, I believe that this is an exciting time for the industry and I look forward to building the role and profile of MEGA in the months and years ahead.”

Network members include Mallaghan Engineering, Specialist Joinery Fittings, Steelweld, Northern Hydraulics, Specdrum, SDC Trailers, Nugent Engineering and Edge Innovate, a global provider of materials handling and recycling equipment, which is leading the project.

Darragh Cullen, Managing Director of Edge Innovate and Chair of the MEGA Collaborative Network comments:
“One of the mainstays of manufacturing in the Mid Ulster area is of course the fact that companies based here represent almost half of the global manufacturing of crushing, screening, recycling and materials handling equipment. These companies compete fiercely with each other right across the world, nevertheless, their strategic leaders have fully embraced the idea of working collaboratively to address the skills and people shortages we all face. We firmly believe that through MEGA we can attract more people into manufacturing as a whole. Indeed, we have set ourselves some ambitious targets including reducing labour turnover, attracting more females into the industry and reducing the number of companies who have difficulty in recruiting staff.

“We believe that more people need to be exposed to the opportunities that exist on our doorstep within the manufacturing and engineering sectors. Industry in Mid Ulster offers high quality, highly paid careers that are sustainable in the long-term, here at home. We need to train, educate and upskill our people for the challenges and opportunities that we face today, tomorrow and into the future.”

Commenting on the launch of MEGA, Alan McKeown, Chair of the Mid Ulster Skills Forum, says he hoped the leading example set by MEGA would encourage more businesses to collaborate to tackle strategic issues in their sector.

“The launch of MEGA, and indeed Maria’s appointment as Project Director, are incredibly important developments led by some of the most forward-thinking businesses in our manufacturing and engineering sector in Mid Ulster. This is an excellent demonstration of how companies can collaborate in a precompetitive way to tackle significant strategic issues facing their industry. I am confident that as we continue to implement our Mid Ulster Skills Action Plan we will see many more examples of just how resourceful Mid Ulster business leaders can be in developing innovative solutions to problems that would be impossible for any single company to resolve on its own,” he says.

MEGA is funded by Invest NI and Mid Ulster District Council.

To know more about MEGA, contact Project Director, Maria Curran:
T: 07776 527 855

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