Department for the Economy Board minutes 2021 - 25 April 2021

Minutes from the Departmental Board meeting on 29 April 2021.



  • Mike Brennan, Permanent Secretary (chair)
  • Richard Rodgers
  • Heather Cousins
  • Paul Grocott
  • David Malcolm
  • Shane Murphy
  • Colin Woods
  • Sharon Hetherington
  • (name redacted) (ODT Programme)
  • Colm McKenna (non-executive board member)
  • Fiona Keenan (non-executive board member)


  • Michelle Bell

In attendance: 

  • (name redacted) (Permanent Secretary’s Office)
  • (name redacted) (secretariat)
  • (name redacted) (SIB) (to facilitate focused group session)
  • Ignatius O’Doherty (ESS) Presentation only
  • (name redacted) (ESS) Presentation only
Agenda Item Actions Arising From Discussion Action Owner and Current Position (to be completed prior to the next Board Meeting)
Agenda Item 1:Declaration of Interests No new interests were declared.  
Agenda Item 2: Minutes 25/3/21 Board Meeting Agreed without amendment. Action Points cleared.  

Agenda Item 5: Digital Skills Presentation

Ignatius O’Doherty, Director of Digital Shared Services updated the Board on work taken forward recently iro digital skills and capability including:

  • Issue of a survey to assess staff competence with using technology
  • Discussing findings and next steps with all Dept Boards including changes since the beginning of the pandemic and how Digital Shared Services can assist.



(name redacted), Digital Transformation Team led the research and survey. She presented as follows;

  • Key points to consider from a Literature Review.
  • Points of data, including a questionnaire and interviews.
  • Results, including almost 60% of staff don’t have basic digital skills.
  • DfE specific skills results. 24% response rate. Split into 5 sections, each with questions for life and for work. Skills capability low.
  • Recommendations.
  • Add digital element to PPA/PDP.
  • Mandatory annual e-learning.
  • Communicate available learning.
  • Departmental working groups.
  • Add digital element to job description/ recruitment etc.
  • Allow specific time for upskilling.
  • Next Steps.
  • Re run assessment 1 year on for current capabilities.
  • Need DfE help to communicate results & consider next steps for Dept.


A discussion established;-

  • E-learning sessions will be kept short so that it is not a barrier in itself.
  • Belfast Met is offering free entry level digital skills courses.
  • Have been improvements with respect to WebEx and reliability of infrastructure etc. but if there are persistent issues with it and CM, let Ignatius know.
  • Actions: (name redacted ODT Programme) to make contact with (name redacted ESS) iro the Transformation Programme and as DfE lead for the follow up survey.



































(name redacted ODT Programme)

Agenda Item 6: Focused Group Session


There followed a discussion on strategic issues facing the Department and the future operation of the DfE Board to best respond. This was facilitated by (name redacted SIB).






Agenda Item 3
Matters Arising

There was a discussion on a number of areas:

  • Ramifications of the First Minister’s resignation including potential delay in appointment of a new HOCS.
  • Brexit update.
  • RHI update – recent legal developments and future of the scheme.





Agenda Item 9 Finance Paper

Paper noted.



Agenda Item 10 HR Paper

Paper noted.


NEBMs updated on current position on integrating staff back to the office and work on transferring staff to higher priority areas of work.


To remind that Performance Management responsibilities should be carried out in a timely manner.


Agenda Item 7 AOB



Next meeting

Date of next meeting: Thursday 27 May 2021 at 10.30 am.

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