The Mid Ulster area has long been associated with entrepreneurial spirit and is in fact the leading regional area in Northern Ireland (outside of Belfast) for the number of entrepreneurs. There are more than 8,500 businesses dominated by engineering, manufacturing and construction with some enjoying fantastic success on the world stage and others realising unprecedented growth in recent years.

The drive and ambition of people in the area is one of the key reasons why Mid Ulster businesses do so well but with it comes certain challenges, especially when it comes to finding people with the right type of skills. I have written previously about the difficulty some businesses are having finding skilled labour for roles such as welders, joiners and electricians. The problem has been an ongoing one and Mid Ulster District Council has taken steps to try and address the skills gap issue by engaging with local firms and setting up the Mid Ulster Skills Forum.

The Mid Ulster Skills Forum was established in 2017 and is made up of local businesses, colleges/universities and relevant industry partners to try and tackle the labour shortfall. The initiative is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland and the local council must be commended for spearheading the project and supporting local business. The Skills Forum has produced a three-year action plan for the Mid Ulster area which it launched at a special event in Cookstown last month.

The report provides a comprehensive roadmap to tackle the skills problem but goes further by way of workforce development and the creation of over 2000 new jobs to further cement the region as an industry powerhouse. The report sets out five key strategic goals – to attract talent, develop skills, engage with key stakeholders, future proof capability and measure the success of the plan in tangible metrics.

As a specialist recruiter in Mid Ulster, we get a real sense of the scale of the skills gap problem that exists within the area. It goes beyond the skilled trades such as welding and joinery and into areas such as sales/business development and product design. The forthcoming Brexit will do little to ease the burden and the threat of migration controls has already contributed to some of our skilled and hard-working non-nationals leaving Northern Ireland.

But we must be optimistic about the future of our sectors and businesses in Mid Ulster, especially with the support of our local council and the huge effort and determination of local business and business partners in addressing the skills crisis. Apprenticeships, retraining and ongoing personal development must surely form the basis of this effort and with the clock now ticking on the three-year plan, there is at least a detailed way forward to help reduce the impact of future labour shortages in Mid Ulster.

Spectrum Employment Solutions are based in Cookstown, Co Tyrone and provide a wide range of people for permanent job roles in the Mid Ulster area. You can contact Spectrum on 028 8676 0044 or email