Historical Projects

Business Enterprise Skills Training

BEST Programme

The 'Business Enterprise Skills Training' programme was an enterprise support programme for individuals in the early stages of contemplating business start-up. It offered training workshops which allowed participants to develop a strategy for the development of their business idea. This was complemented with one-to-one business mentoring support as individuals developed their business proposal. At the end of the programme participants could progress on to the New Deal for Self Employment or to the Start a Business Programme offered by the local Enterprise Agencies.

The programme was delivered by a consortium, which included North Belfast Partnership,Greater Shankill Partnership, and a local management consultancy firm, Stakeholder Development Ltd.

Participants were recruited from the two Partnership areas. A cohort of participants undertook a series of six workshops at the Spectrum Centre in the Shankill in November/December 2005. A second tranche of participants undertook the training workshops at North City Business Centre in February/March 2006. Thirteen participants in total undertook the enterprise training workshops.

A number of participants progressed onto the Business Start Programme at the local Enterprise Agency. A number of participants from the Shankill programme are progressing with the development of a social economy project.

The BEST programme was funded by Springvale Community Outreach Initiative under its economic development programme.




Many people experience barriers when trying to find jobs or re-entering the workforce.  The Employability Access Project (EAP) Development Partnership was funded by the European Social Fund under the Northern Ireland EQUAL Community Initiative Programme and the Department for Employment & Learning and focused on improving access to job opportunities for those people at most disadvantage when seeking employment, specifically with the Health Sector in North Belfast. The Partnership looked at recruitment and selection practices in the health sector to build better linkages between the supply of and demand for quality jobs.

Part of this activity involved the delivery, throughout 2006 and 2007, of a pre employment programme linking long term unemployed or economically inactive people from Belfast with entry level posts at the Mater Hospital or North and West Health and Social Services Trust. Click here for further information.

The Employability Access Development Partnership's aims were:

  • Test Human Resources models of recruitment and selection to promote social inclusion and employment
  • Lead engagement between health sector employers, employability services and beneficiaries
  • Improve the supply of and demand for quality jobs in the health service.

Much of the work of the Employability Access Development Partnership focused on its ability to influence mainstream policies that impacted on employability practices.

Composition of the EAP Development Partnership included expertise from a variety of sectors ranging from health sector employers, training and education providers and providers of local employability services.  This group brought forward the work of Employability Access Development Partnership and implemented each of the Actions as defined under the NI EQUAL Initiative over the three years of the project..

EQUAL operated over three stages:

Action 1 (October 2004 – June 2005): This stage saw the establishment of the Development Partnership, agreement of terms of reference, Transnational Co-operation Agreement achieved and production of the Development Partnership Agreement.

Action 2 (July 2005 – June 2007): This stage implemented work programmes and activities, previously agreed by the Development Partnership and tested approaches to reducing barriers to employment and participation in transnational thematic networks and conference commitments.

Action 3 (July 2007 to December 2007): This phase concentrated on networking and dissemination of information and learning that influenced mainstream employment policy.

Each of the Actions was time bound with the Employability Access Development Partnership scheduled to conclude its work under NI EQUAL Round 2 by December 2007. North Belfast Partnership was delighted to lead this EQUAL Initiative, working with our Development Partners on this challenging initiative to promote social inclusion through better employment opportunities. Our Transnational partners were Qualificare (Italy) www.qualificare.info Inserempleo (Spain) and Tallaght Equal Assists (Dublin). Links to partners web sites are as follows:-




Note address of EQUAL Employability Access Project Development Partner organisations:










Public Employment Partnership

The PEP pre-employment training programme was focused upon the preparation of unemployed job seekers for a work placement opportunity with one of three public sector employers and project stakeholders;

• Belfast City Council (BCC)

• Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE)

• Belfast Health and Social Care Trust (BHSCT)

Participants were initially provided with four weeks pre-employment training encompassing Steps to Excellence personal development programme, Work Safety Training (ISOH), OCR Ready Steady Work and Welcome Host customer service training. This training was specifically focused upon preparing and upskilling participants for getting back into employment in general and for the specific job placement opportunities they were to be working in. After the four weeks training, participants were then placed with one of the employers for a period of 9 weeks.

Programme records show that to date there was a high success rate in the qualifications attained by participants during the four week pre-employment training, as shown in table 4.

Consultations with stakeholders have been extremely positive about the quality of the training delivered. It is considered that the nature of the training is suited to participant needs and to the needs of employers. In addition the fact that each cohort has a small number makes it more acceptable to participants.


Social Economy Support Project

What is the Social Economy?

By launching businesses, known as social enterprises, community groups use trade as a means of achieving their social aims. Collectively known as the Social Economy, the sector includes a wide range of ventures - from small 'charity' shops to sophisticated businesses. The marriage of social purpose with commercial trade creates a business with a distinct character, and it makes a unique contribution to community development.

URBAN II and the Social Economy

Developing the Social Economy in inner north Belfast was a key strand of the URBAN II initiative. 25 groups received training and mentoring support in the preparation of business plans. Of these, 8 launched new businesses or expanded an existing venture. Building on that success, the North Belfast Partnership  launched  phase 2 of the Social Economy Support Programme (SESP 2).    

Social Economy Development Manager

SESP 2 ran from December 2006 to the closure of URBAN II in late 2008 and was managed by a dedicated manager on the Partnership staff - Michael Paul. Michael's role was to provide support for the existing URBAN II social enterprises and to stimulate and develop new social economy activity.



The URBACT Programme was part of the EU URBAN Community Initiative Programme. It aimed to develop trans-national exchanges of experience between players, cities and partners in the URBAN Programmes and the Urban Pilot Projects (PPU) and to accumulate the knowledge obtained through these projects, drawing lessons from the results, successes and weaknesses alike, that were observed.

URBACT helped improve the relevance and effectiveness of policies and actions to combat the concentration of economic and social problems which arose in small, medium-sized and large European town and cities, taking the specific characteristics of each into account.

One of the major objectives of URBACT was to produce transferable knowledge on the action taken, i.e. knowledge that could be used and serve as the groundwork for defining urban policies adapted to the different competent territorial levels.

The URBACT programme was based on two operational priorities whose proper inter-linking will be decisive for the success of the programme:

• A knowledge dissemination priority which depended on proposals from cities;

• An accumulation and information priority, which allowed the knowledge acquired through the first priority to be organised and distributed through the creation of information tools of the Web site type or through the mobilisation of experts or working groups.

Belfast URBACT Steering Group

A Belfast Urbact Steering Group was established to take forward Belfast's role in the URBACT programme. The aim of the Steering Group was:

'To exchange best practice with counterparts in Europe, and to engage in trans-national networks for valuable learning experiences by ensuring that the learning elements of the Programmes are not lost to future local generations.'