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Skills in the spotlight as 14th Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards launches at Hickson's Point

19th February 2020

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BUSINESSES in Northern Ireland need access to highly skilled people to help further boost the economy, new Department for Economy minister Diane Dodds said yesterday.

She was speaking at Hickson's Point at the formal launch of the Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards, which have grown into the single most important business awards initiative in the north.

"We need to capitalise on our ambition and innovation by creating a pipeline of talent which will help grow a globally-competitive economy in Northern Ireland that works for everyone," she said.

"Achieving this is a key priority for me, and there is a great opportunity for government, business and education to work in partnership to deliver on this common objective."

Minister Dodds said "good progress" has been made on delivering a new skills strategy, and she looked forward to further consultation between now and the summer.

The Workplace & Employment Awards, now in their 14th year and which focus on businesses' people asset, take place in Titanic Belfast on Thursday June 11.

The launch reception was attended by a range of business organisations as well as representatives of the initiative's key business partners Carson McDowell, Progressive Building Society, Queen's University, Ulster University Business School, KPMG, First Derivatives, Glandore and venue partner Titanic Belfast, as well as new wellbeing partner the Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort.

Guest speaker at the launch was Patrick McAliskey, who founded IT services provider Novosco more than 20 years ago, and which now employs 300 people.

He played an active role in the commercial, leadership, PR and talent-management areas of Novosco before it was acquired by German group Cancom last October in a £70 million deal. He continues to be an adviser to Cancom.

He spoke about company culture, which he said is "what you do when nobody is looking".

Patrick said: "It should be the role of every chief executive to make sure everyone in the company clearly understands what the “north star” of the company is and very importantly it forms a big part of the induction process.

"In fact, you can usually get a very good feel for the culture of a company when you look at that process.

"It should be something you talk about a lot and should be a big focus in all company communications. It should be something you are proud of and want all your customers to know about. It should be something you want all your team members talking about, especially when they go outside the office."

He added: "Company culture has always kept the directors at Novosco up at night and that will always be the case because developing positive culture is the race that never finishes."

Irish News editor Noel Doran said: "Everyone who enters the Workplace & Employment Awards is recognising the importance of working closely with their staff at all levels, regardless of the size of the organisation, and how vital it is to have proper strategies in place for developing the huge talents which are out there in the field of employment.

"We will be setting out to salute all the key players in front of what will be another sell out audience in Titanic Belfast just under four months from now and we will also be providing a wonderful night's entertainment as well."

For the third year running, the judging panel will be chaired by Ellvena Graham, chair of the Electricity Supply Board, a former head of Ulster Bank and chair of the Belfast Waterfront and Ulster Hall board.

Sitting alongside long-established and popular categories this year will be a special "Strive to Zero" sustainability award, encouraging companies to set expectations and work towards reducing their carbon footprint.

For more information and details on entering the awards, go to www.irishnews.com/WEA


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