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Colleges experience with businesses

Northern Ireland’s six Regional Colleges are key economic drivers. They directly meet the training needs of local and international companies and provide a full suite of Business Support Services, including product development and rapid prototyping.  The Colleges are the largest provider of professional and technical training in the region. They make a significant high quality contribution to addressing the current and future skills needs of local and regional business.The six FE Colleges have worked with over 7,500 businesses across NI.


The Colleges have a strong engagement with industry, offering training and learning development through further and higher education with employers across NI.  Through the DEL funded employer support programme the six FE colleges collaborate across a number of priority sectors in delivering a range of mentoring and business support programmes to SMEs. These DEL priority sectors are: business services (specifically ICT); financial services; manufacturing (including food and drink/agri-food, advanced manufacturing and advanced engineering); the emerging sector of life and health sciences; and creative industries and digital media. 

The Colleges are upskilling students in the priority skills needs of the NI economy. Education and skills are critical to growing the NI economy in terms of increased competitiveness, levels of foreign direct investment and economic growth.  This was highlighted at the recent NI Investment Conference and also the September 2013 NI Economic Conference.

The FE sector plays a central role in raising levels of literacy and numeracy and in up-skilling and re-skilling the population through a broad range of courses leading to qualifications, particularly at Levels 2 and 3. The nature of College provision is diverse and broad based ranging from entry level qualifications to BTECs, HNCs, HNDs, Foundation Degrees, Degrees, apprenticeships and other specific training programmes.

Colleges are business-facing and provide a high level of interaction with local companies in developing training. They are working with businesses across Northern Ireland to provide relevant training and skills, supporting innovation and have an important role in developing the capacity of our economy to move out of recession. Business support extends beyond the provision of training and workforce development and includes a wide range of support activities aimed at improving business competitiveness and productivity.

Employer Support Programme

This supports two initiatives: 
  • InnovateUs – Employers and businesses with less than 50 employees based in Northern Ireland
  • Skills Focus – Employers and businesses with less than 250 employees based in Northern Ireland.

Link to Employer Support Programme 

Practical business support solutions include:

  • Product Design & Prototyping;

  • Lean manufacturing;

  • Innovation;

  • Business Improvement Techniques;

  • Market Research and Marketing;

  • Computer Systems & Software applications including free Open Source Software options.

A majority of companies work with Colleges through knowledge transfer programmes and other business support services that utilise College expertise and resources to help grow their business.

  • Invest Northern Ireland Innovation (INI) Voucher Scheme

  • Knowledge Transfer Programmes - including KTP & Fusion

  • Mentoring & Consultancy

  • Open Source IT support Programme

  • Interact Programme

  • ApprenticeshipsNI

  • Manufacture – Innovate – Grow (MIG) Programme

  • Carbon Zero NI

  • Connected Programme

  • Invest NI Enterprise Development Programme (EDP)