Employment Minister Dr Stephen Farry visited Larne’s Caterpillar factory this week to see first-hand a new training programme.
In October 2013, the US engineering giant announced it was investing more than £7million in a major manufacturing project in Northern Ireland, which would allow it to assemble wheeled material handling machines.
The Department for Employment and Learning provided financial support worth £220,000 through its Assured Skills Programme to assist with the training requirements for the project.
The training is being delivered by Northern Regional College (NRC) and Belfast Metropolitan College at two of Caterpillar’s Northern Ireland plants.
NRC is providing training at the Caterpillar factory in Monkstown, while Belfast Met delivers training in Larne.
Speaking during the visit, Dr Farry said: “It is encouraging to see the development of this new project in Caterpillar and to see how the company is moving into a new field with the manufacture of material handlers.
“This diversification into a new area of business will help secure current jobs with Caterpillar in years to come and widens their portfolio of products.
“It is pleasing to see the investment by my Department delivering skills training to employees, whilst demonstrating successful collaboration between the Department’s Assured Skills branch, further education colleges and Caterpillar.
“To date, there have been 12 companies supported through the Assured Skills Programme and when all 3,068 jobs are created, this will benefit the local economy by £86 million each year.”
Welcoming the Minister to the Larne facility, Caterpillar Northern Ireland Operations Director, Robert Kennedy, said: “We are very pleased to have the support of the Department for Employment and Learning to make this investment in skills.
“The development of our workforce is essential to help enable new work from within the Caterpillar Group to come to Northern Ireland, providing an important addition to our existing operations.
“When fully established, approximately 100 positions will be required to run the material handler operation.”
The Department’s Assured Skills Programme is designed to assist companies wishing to create jobs in Northern Ireland by providing the necessary support to deliver the skilled workforce the company requires, including the delivery of bespoke training programmes.