Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry today presented certificates at an awards event organised by Ulster Supported Employment Ltd (USEL) to acknowledge achievements of participants who have completed their training on the ‘Skills Training for Employment Progression’ (STEP) Programme.
The STEP programme, managed by USEL, aims to provide paid employment opportunities and accredited training outcomes for people with disabilities and health related conditions of all ages. It is supported by the Department for Employment and Learning and the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme (ESF) 2007-13.
At the event held at the USEL’s factory in north Belfast, Dr Farry said: “The STEP programme provides people with disabilities and health conditions with a great opportunity to gain experience and qualifications to enter sustained employment. It is an excellent example of how we can combine new and innovative initiatives alongside mainstream programmes to make a significant, positive impact upon the lives of people experiencing barriers to employment.”
Ulster Supported Employment Limited (USEL) was established in 1962 with the aim of providing supported paid employment for people with disabilities within its Belfast manufacturing base. In 1980 it incorporated the Workshops for the Blind and became the largest supporter of people with disabilities into open employment within Northern Ireland. Each year it supports over 1,500 people with disabilities in more than 750 companies to enter and sustain economic employment through various employment programmes. The organisation spans the whole of Northern Ireland with offices in Belfast, Londonderry, Portadown and Omagh.
The Minister continued: “In today’s economic climate, the labour market has become competitive, with an increasing number of people, including those who have high levels of qualifications and work experience applying for jobs. This only goes to sharpen the focus for all of us, in trying to do what we can to ensure that those people who want to work, but require additional support, are provided with the necessary package of employment assistance. The quality and variety of USEL’s employment programmes demonstrates that with the right support, people with disabilities can contribute to the workforce in exactly the same way as their colleagues.”