Bodel: part of Conference session "Delivering a modern industrial strategy."

Conference, my name is Sheila Bodel, I'm a member of East Belfast Conservative Association in Northern Ireland, where I stood on behalf of our Party recently in both General and Assembly Elections.   

Traditionally Northern Ireland has had an industrial economy. Along with industrial cities and their surrounding areas of place such as Glasgow, Liverpool and this great city of Manchester, Belfast was once part of the economic power house of the British Empire.  

Many of you might be aware of Belfast's shipbuilding and maritime heritage as well as the worlds largest rope works and numerous companies leading global aeronautical engineering innovation .  

In East Belfast, Harland and Wolff famously built the White Star ocean liners of which RMS Titanic is still remembered as a amazing feat of engineering. Whist ill fated, we in Northern Ireland like to remind people it was perfectly fine when it left Belfast.  

At the end of the last century, we have seen a decline of many of our traditional industries and Northern Ireland moved towards public sector roles, service, tourism and call center industries. But I am not here to talk about her past today I want to talk about the future.  

In Northern Ireland, we have 2 leading Universities and 6 regional colleges plus many training providers that are educating highly skilled and trained individuals.  

With a push towards Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics otherwise known as STEM courses.  Our government leads the way in providing Apprenticeships which are relevant in the work place across the UK but especially in Northern Ireland..  Our educational system is providing employers with employees suitable trained at all levels. 

The next generation for industry will include our highly skilled engineers, science and IT professionals. This starts in our school and colleges.  In Northern Ireland we are privileged to have some of the best results in GCSE and A-level throughout the UK.  

I believe this is down to the choice of education that parents have for their children. Something which our government supports and seeks to provide in all parts of the UK. 

Some of our large employers in Northern Ireland include; Bombardier Aerospace, Caterpillar, Norbook Technologies and Seagate.  But we must also not forget the many successful SME’s who not only employ so many, but also often lead technical innovation that will compete in global markets .  

I have worked in the education, training and employment sections for the past 9 years I’ve seen a change and I personally believe this is good and I am passionate about our future.  Employers are looking to invest in their employees, to train them to world class standards.  I impress on Conference and our Party to continue to support educational interventions that provide our employers with the people who can return once-great industrial areas with the skills and knowledge for industries and companies to not only play their part, but lead again in world markets.