SDLP Economy Spokesperson Matthew O’Toole has called for a dedicated strategy to address the North’s brain drain of young people.
Mr O’Toole was speaking after think tank Pivotal published a report into the reasons people leave the North to study or work.
He welcomed the report’s findings and said it highlighted the need for a dedicated approach to tackle the issues raised.
Earlier this year, Mr O’Toole proposed the Make Change Programme, a specifically designed programme to tackle the issue.
It is designed to get high-achieving graduates, experienced professionals and ambitious school leavers into the civil service to work on some of the North’s most challenging priorities.
South Belfast MLA Mr O’Toole said:
“While the issues highlighted in the Pivotal report are stark, they are not new and not irreversible. It’s natural that a certain percentage of our young people would want to move abroad to work and study, but the North has long had the issue of losing far too many of our best and brightest permanently and the causes for this are well worn.
“A lack of opportunity, an under-performing economy and a divided society are all causing our young people to feel like they would be better off elsewhere. If we want people to stay here and to benefit from their talents then we need to convince them that it’s worth it, that we have the jobs and facilities that people need to build a good life for them and their families.
“Instead of continuing to bemoan the loss of our young people we need to do something about it. That’s why I designed the Make Change Programme, to battle the twin issues of brain drain and to replenish our aging and underperforming civil service. It would allow our talented young people to work on the challenges of climate change, health reform and closing the skills gap, giving them a reason to remain and addressing the issues that cause them to leave.
“It’s hardly surprising that people want to leave a place that’s mired in a health, housing and education crisis. A place where many of our politicians would rather fight the battles of the past on a daily basis than look towards a better future for everyone. We need political will and leadership to address these issues before another generation of talented young people is lost to us for good.”