Sinéad McLaughlin says upskilling critical to addressing regional inequality in Derry
The SDLP MLA made the comments in the Assembly while speaking in support of a Diane Dodds motion calling for a 'ring-fenced skills fund' for the north.
"Although skills drive the economy, it is investment in the production of those skills that will boost the economy in Derry and the north-west by creating jobs and correcting our unacceptably high levels of unemployment. We have an employment rate that is much below that in the east of the province," she said.
Ms. McLaughlin called on the Executive to match commitments by the Dublin government to expand third level education and skills development in Donegal.
"In the past few days, the Irish Government have announced an expansion of their higher education provision in the north-west, and that includes Donegal. That expansion is likely to suck skills and economic development across the border.
"We therefore need to build our skills and economic expansion in Derry and Strabane. Although the city deal will assist in that, it is not enough, and it was never intended to be enough. Derry's One Plan contained a promise to expand the Magee campus to 10,000 students.
"That commitment was restated in the New Decade, New Approach agreement. At the moment, we have 46,000 higher education students in Northern Ireland: 40,000 are in Belfast and 4,000 are in Derry," she stated.