"If individuals do not have adequate levels of education then their disadvantaged position in the labour market is likely to be exacerbated in the longer term as employers concentrate their training programmes on better educated employees," says Education and Economic Development, a report commissioned by the department from the Northern Ireland Economic Research Centre. It argues that standards of vocational training have an important influence on the performance of companies.
"Efforts to improve standards of general education, particularly among young people, ought to be a central element in . . . strategy for economic development."
Evidence suggests that the "educational fundamentals" are not in place in Northern Ireland to the same extent as in its main competitor countries. The workforce is slightly less skilled than in Britain, which in turn is considerably less skilled than other industrialised nations.
Part of the under-achievement of many young people might be explained by the organisation or resourcing of secondary and primary schools or pre-school activities, says the report, adding that previous research provides a strong economic rationale for investment in education.
Education and Economic Development is available free from the Department of Education, 48 University Road, Belfast BT7 1NJ. Tel: 01232 325594