Working Together: How learning and skills support can create an inclusive labour market in Northern Ireland


In this ever-changing world, particularly as we attempt to overcome the challenges around Covid19, the need to support the upskilling of all our people in Northern Ireland has never been greater.

In March 2021, Learning and Work Institute developed projections for long-term unemployment for the UK and for a number of local areas in England and Wales. Open College Network Northern Ireland (OCN NI) therefore commissioned this research with a specific focus on NI and using the latest Office for Budget Responsibility economic forecasts. It also explores and makes recommendations for appropriate policy responses and their implications for the Programme for Government and 10x Skills Strategy.

The pandemic has led to sharp rises in the number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits across the UK, including Northern Ireland. Long-term unemployment is also rising which can have particularly negative impacts. The longer someone is out of work, the less likely they are to move into work, and long-term unemployment can also negatively impact health and wellbeing. There are also clear links between long-term unemployment and learning and skills. Those with the lowest qualifications are more likely to be long-term unemployed, and improving learning and skills can help people to maintain employment by increasing adaptability to economic change.

This report looks at the twin challenges of limiting rises in long-term unemployment and cutting economic inactivity, which are at the heart of ensuring an inclusive labour market recovery in Northern Ireland.