EPIC Graduation Ceremony
28th September, 2016

Mr. David Stanton Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality with special responsibility for Equality, Immigration and Integration

Ladies and gentlemen, and most particularly the graduates of the EPIC Programme, I would, first of all, like to acknowledge the work of Tina Roche and her colleagues in Business in the Community and thank you for inviting me here today to participate in this Graduation Ceremony.

I am very pleased to be here and to see so many excited people and happy faces.

EPIC provides a very important and innovative programme which aims to assist people from immigrant communities find employment or enter further education. I am delighted to see so many nationalities participate in the programme as employment is such a vital tool for integration. The EPIC programme is a great example of government, business and non-profit partnership.

I would like to congratulate Business in the Community on the programme’s success. Apart from the independence and personal fulfilment which result from being an active member of the workforce, once people secure employment, they make new friends and contacts and establish links of all kinds with the wider community. 

Of course, securing employment is not always easy and immigrants often face more problems than most.  They are new to the Irish scene and are at a disadvantage by virtue of that fact alone. Their English language competences may not be quite what is needed for the available positions and, more generally, they need help with presenting themselves and their credentials to prospective employers in the best possible light.
My Department has worked with Business in the Community for a number of years on a variety of training programmes and the experience has always been a positive one. Much has been achieved through the delivery of these programmes.

The Government has committed significant resources to training and up-skilling programmes to help re-integrate people into the labour market.  

It is important in these difficult times that everyone is facilitated as far as possible to access employment to their own benefit and that of society as a whole.  

The EPIC programme satisfies pretty much all of the needs of the target group in regard to helping them participate in the economic life of the community. 

The programme provides practical skills such as:

EPIC not only seeks to provide our new communities with the tools to seek and find employment but - what is equally important - it provides an introduction to the social and work environment in which the immigrant will operate into the future. 

The EPIC Programme is financed by my Department.  The budget for this year is around €460,000.  

I understand that, since 2008 EPIC has facilitated over 2,500 clients from over 100 countries with a success rate of 68% of its clients being placed, mainly in employment or further training.

I think you’ll agree that this is an impressive record and one which shows what can be achieved with good planning, appropriate education or training and clear focus.  It is, I feel, a model of what can be achieved if the aim is clearly identified and the process to achieve the aim is suited to the purpose.

Given the wide diversity in the backgrounds of clients, I am sure that the very act of participation in the Programme serves a really useful purpose in promoting integration among persons who might not otherwise come in contact with one another.

The success of EPIC is in large part due to the work and dedication of those involved in providing these courses and in ensuring its relevance to its target group.

I also wish to thank the business partners who collaborate with Business In The Community in delivering the various elements of the programme: IT training provided by BT; mock interviews and feedback provided by CPL; face to face interview skills workshops provided by Enterprise Rent-a-car; motivational peer talks and workshops by Accenture; mentoring by KPMG; and regular additional workshops by other companies including Workday, Indeed, An Post, Dawn Farms, Sigmar etc on a variety of employment related topics.  I commend them all for their social responsibility.  

As our economy is returning to growth over the coming years and unemployment rates are dropping, we can expect immigration to continue and that the integration of immigrants will be a live issue into the future. 

It is important that we accommodate and adapt to the continuing and increasingly diverse nature of Irish society.  Work on the Integration Strategy is currently at an advanced stage. The strategy is aimed at present and expected future conditions and will drive integration work forward at a local and national level, in response to the needs of a diverse Irish society.  

EU funding, under the European Social Fund, has played a vital part in the funding of EPIC down the years.  There is, currently, a new Operational Programme for the European Social Fund – the Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning, PEIL 2014-2020 and I am pleased to inform you that a call for proposals was launched last week. This will hopefully improve employability of immigrants so that the valuable work which has been done on the EPIC programme can be continued with other immigrants in the future. 

In conclusion, I congratulate and compliment the clients of EPIC.  By taking part you have shown your initiative and desire to contribute to the country in which you have made your home.  I wish you well in whatever the future brings.   

Thank you very much.