Without a doubt the biggest issue facing the Foyle constituency is the need for increased employment opportunities particularly for our graduates and young people. The question I am often asked is what type of jobs do we need and how do we attract them?
One area that has enormous potential is in the creative industries. With more production companies such as HBO looking at locations in the North of Ireland for major film productions we have tremendous opportunities to develop the creative industry facilities that already exist here.
During the year of Culture 2013 a strong focus was placed on elements of the Creative Industries such as graphic design, digital comics, digital music and film production. We need to build on the work done during that period.
While there was increased demand for promotional material during City of Culture events an added benefit to the local economy was the fact that most of those involved were SME’s with firm links to the region. Their success is now being rightly recognised by the establishment of the Creative Industries Hub at Ebrington.
The funding of creative hubs in community areas across the North West by DCAL and the availability of new facilities and workspace at the new North West Science Park will all provide job creation opportunities for our STEM graduates.
The Science Park at Fort George also increases capacity for companies focussing on software engineering which in many ways is the DNA of the digital sector. Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin also contains its own Irish language film unit which I feel is key to bringing the Irish language into the digital age. I will work to ensure the expansion of this sector.
But if we are to capitalise on the growth of the creative industries we must encourage take up of further education courses that will equip our graduates with expertise in software development and graphic design etc.
The expansion of the Magee campus, with a significant number of MasN places for STEM subjects is crucial. I welcome the fact that the business plan for expansion is now with the Minister. The North West Regional College (NWRC) also has a significant role to play in making this potential a reality.
The Science Park with its self-contained data centre and connection to Project Kelvin needs to be exploited to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as well as encourage start-up business.
To make all of this possible we need a comprehensive marketing strategy which calls on the expertise of all the statutory agencies such as InvestNI, TourismNI and the new Ministerial Sub- Group on the North West established by deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. We must aggressively promote the facilities that are available in Foyle for software development companies and other businesses in the digital sector.
The Foyle constituency is in the best possible position to attract both foreign investment and also encourage local growth.