Michael has been deeply engaged with Business in the Community for over ten years and was Chair of BITC’s NI Board between 2005 and 2009.
His leadership and vision has been a truly valuable asset, not only to Business in the Community but to his own company and in 2012 he was named the Belfast Telegraph’s Business Person of the Year, having won the prestigious Institute of Directors’ Lunn’s Award for Excellence in 2009. Bombardier Aerospace is one of the biggest employers and attractors of inward investment into Northern Ireland, attracting over £2bn since 1989 into development at the aeronautical company’s sites in Belfast and Newtownabbey.
Michael himself has been at the very forefront of efforts in Northern Ireland to encourage long-term unemployed people back to work. For the past ten years, he has chaired the West Belfast and Greater Shankill Employers’ Forum which was established in 2003 to help break the generational cycles of unemployment and deprivation in some of the most deprived areas of Belfast and indeed the UK. In that time, the Employers’ Forum has mobilized a wide range of employers from different sectors, to engage with local community partners and up-skill the unemployed and move them into jobs; it has been entirely private sector driven, with over £1m invested by Bombardier Aerospace in the Forum’s development.
Over 1,300 people have gained jobs as a result of the Forum’s efforts now, changing lives and making local communities stronger and more sustainable as a result. Michael’s own personal time and commitment has been right at the forefront of the Employers’ Forum’s success and its growth earlier this year to have a citywide focus, as well as attracting broader investment.
Private sector sponsorship for the Citywide Employers’ Forum is now provided by Bombardier Aerospace and Lagan Construction Company, and matched by public sector funding from Belfast City Council and the Department for Employment and Learning, so Michael’s leadership and vision has helped leverage additional funds to spread the impact of the Forum to a wider catchment area.
Michael’s personal dedication to getting long-term unemployed people back into work was highlighted at the recent launch of the Citywide Employers’ Forum (March 2013), when he said:
“To the unemployed person, the world of work can appear daunting. What makes it all work, however, is the employer’s commitment to give the unemployed person the opportunity to prove his or her worth and to have this reflected in the job criteria, and the mind-set of recruitment staff. This is where commitment by a company to corporate responsibility can be manifested, and make a real difference in positively impacting the lives of unemployed people and I would ask each employer represented here today to sign up to this initiative. Employers who support this agenda can raise community aspirations, and reduce the likelihood of revolving-door worklessness. I’ll finish with the words of former US President Bill Clinton – “the best social program is a good job”.”