Michael Henderson, Director of the NI Takeaways Association (Image: Justin Kernoghan/Belfast Live)

Belfast man starts NI takeaways job page to help industry recover from staff shortages

Through a new employment page, a Belfast man is attempting to assist takeaways across Northern Ireland with staff shortages.

The Northern Ireland Takeaway Association was founded by Michael Henderson, 33, of West Belfast, two and a half years ago. He wanted to assist the industry after working in it for ten years and meeting a lot of individuals along the road.

Michael was overwhelmed with businesses suffering from a “revolving door of challenges” during the coronavirus outbreak, including receiving grants, constraints, and personnel shortages.

He has now started a page on social media called Takeaway Jobs NI to fight staffing challenges in the industry. This recruitment portal allows struggling companies to post job openings for free, as well as provide a resource for job seekers.

Michael talked to Belfast Live about how he founded the Northern Ireland Takeaways Association and the difficulties he’s heard from people in the industry during the pandemic.

“I’ve got to know a lot of people in the industry throughout the whole of Northern Ireland and the one thing I kept hearing was they had no support,” he said.

“The takeaway industry has been renowned for being the baby brother of the hospitality industry. It brings a lot into the economy every year, but never gets the perks or support it needs.

“It needs to have its own bracket, so we decided to start up the Northern Ireland Takeaway Association, with our aim to provide support and be a safety net for takeaways across Northern Ireland, through all ethnic minorities.

“We support a lot of takeaways around NI and throughout Covid its been a revolving door of issues. During lockdown, we were lobbying on their behalf to get them included into certain grants they weren’t included in at the start, then it was also about the 11pm restrictions, we lobbied to get that lifted and worked with Stormont to get the Covid issue across to our takeaways.”

The Association communicates with local governments, the Food Standards Agency, and takeaways, as well as working with companies across the UK to reduce takeout utility costs.

When numerous takeaways across Northern Ireland were forced to close their doors on one of their busiest evenings of the year, Michael said the difficulties hit home for him.

He said: “A third of takeaways in Northern Ireland closed on New Year’s Eve, which is one of our busiest nights of the year, because they didn’t have the staff to do it. So they’re missing out on a lot of money due to staff shortages, and over 90% of takeaways now are suffering staff issues, which sees a lot of our takeaways closing.

“There is the fear of the new VAT coming in. We’re worried up to a fifth of takeaways in Northern Ireland will close between April and June if the VAT goes back to 20%. It just won’t be viable for them on top of everything else.”

Michael hopes that by launching the Takeaway Jobs NI page, he will be able to help with staffing concerns before the new VAT rates take effect at the end of March.

They’re trying to cover more than simply staffing gaps; he’s also committed to ensuring that new hires are adequately trained and certified.

Michael added: “We’re trying to work alongside learning centres and places like Belfast Met to get something in place for training. So people will be trained up, we’re trying to professionalise the industry.

“We’re trying to train them up to get their food hygiene, fire safety, allergens certificates. We’re trying to work with the right sort of people to get them the qualifications. That’s one thing we’re aiming to get.”

During the pandemic, many people in Northern Ireland lost their jobs, with young people being the hardest hit. Michael hopes they would look for work in their local takeaways or contact the Association for assistance in finding a job.

“There are over 1,000 takeaways in Northern Ireland currently advertising jobs, and that’s the lower end of the scale,” he said.

“These are the jobs people may want, the driver shifts, the one or two nights a week. A lot of people lost their jobs during covid, and our sector can facilitate for a few shifts a week.

Cadbury World is hiring, with 'dream jobs' available for chocolate lovers

Cadbury World is hiring, with ‘dream jobs’ available for chocolate lovers

Cadbury World has posted new job openings, and chocolate fans agree that it would be the “greatest job ever.”

Mondelez, the world’s largest chocolate company, is searching for “confident and dynamic people with a passion for chocolate” to join its front-of-house and chocolate-making teams.

Cadbury World, based in Bournville, Birmingham, attracts chocolate aficionados from all over the world.

When the two new positions were announced on the brand’s Facebook page, many individuals commented on the ‘dream’ jobs.

“My dream job,” one said, while “greatest job ever” was written by another.

The majority of Cadbury enthusiasts were ecstatic at the news, but some were upset by the distance they would have to drive.

“I would love this,” one chocolate fan commented, “but it’s too far to travel.”

The advertised positions are both listed as ‘fixed contract’ positions, but no salary information is provided.

The two roles are:

Chocolate demonstrator

The job description reads: “We are looking for someone with a passion for chocolate who is committed to delivering fantastic customer service to join our Chocolate Demonstrator team.

“You will be required to provide interactive demonstrations to a crowd, meet and greet out customers of all ages and promote and sell products made in our production area.”

Exhibition team member

The job description reads: “As an exhibition team member you will need to be confident and energetic; bringing to life aspects of the Cadbury World exhibition and our 4D chocolate experience.

“You will have a big part to play in making sure our customers all leave with a positive memorable experience.”

If you are interested, find further details on how to apply here.

A pub and hotel group is offering a two-week paid training course as well as career opportunities

A pub and hotel group is offering a two-week paid training course as well as career opportunities

The Oakman Group Chef Academy is paying people to attend a two-week residential course and will provide you with a job upon completion.

The epidemic and the impacts of Brexit have wrecked the hospitality industry, and one of the main issues is a significant lack of staff.

The Oakman Group has decided to address the issue hard on, and its Chef Academy will be held in January, February, and March.

It’s a two-week intense residential program held at The Woburn in Bedfordshire. All participants will be paid and provided with a complete food allowance, and at the end of the two weeks, they will be offered a position at one of Oakman’s 36 locations across England, with a starting pay of £10 per hour.

“Our aim is not to hire chefs, it’s to create them,” explained Oakman Group CEO Dermot King. “We’re looking for people with a passion for food and a desire to learn, and we can help them by giving them excellent training and coaching from our team of chefs. Too often people think the hospitality sector is just a job and not a career: we think differently and our Chef Academy is one example of how we like to invest in people and training.”

In 2017 and 2020, Oakman earned the Princess Royal Training Award, and many of their cooks and venue managers have worked their way up from lower positions.

The next three Chef Academies will take place from January 24 to February 4, February 21 to March 4, and March 14 to March 25.

Visit https://www.oakmaninnsrecruitment.co.uk/chef-academy/ for more information and to apply.


Belfast City Council

Belfast City Council is looking for a new chief executive and is offering a generous salary

Belfast City Council has posted a job advertisement for a new chief executive with a salary of nearly £150,000.

Suzanne Wylie, the company’s current CEO, will step down later this month to take up a new position in Jersey. Her successor will be paid between £130,859 and £147,217 per year.

The role pays more than the first and deputy first ministers of Stormont, who both get £123,000 a year.

The application period will last three weeks, ending on January 28, with interviews scheduled for mid-March.

The council stated in its employment advertisement:

“This is a rare and career-defining opportunity to serve as a chief executive of a capital city.”

The winning candidate, according to the announcement, would serve as an ambassador for the municipality on a national and international level.

The council stated that they will “promote inclusive growth,” “maximize the Belfast Region City Deal,” “support services through the Covid-19 epidemic,” and “deliver for Belfast and its residents.”

The council’s website has a 16-page application form and a 28-page applicant information pack, which contains a detailed job description.

Since 2014, Ms Wylie has been the chief executive of Belfast City Council, making her the first woman to hold the position.

According to the council’s statement of accounts, her pay in 2020-21 was between £140,000 and £145,000.

Ms Wylie announced her departure in September, saying she would take a £250,000-a-year job as chief executive and head of the States of Jersey’s Public Service.

Deputy Chief Executive Ronan Cregan will step up and take overall responsibility for the council during the recruitment process.

He will be aided by John Walsh, the city solicitor, who will be in charge of political management concerns.

During the interim, additional directors will be assigned to certain aspects of the work.

Lidl announced plans for a £6 million outlet in Belfast that will create 100 jobs

Lidl announced plans for a £6 million outlet in Belfast that will create 100 jobs

Lidl is investing £6 million and generating 100 new jobs in the construction of its first store in south Belfast, where it will compete with Marks & Spencer for customers.

The company has sought for planning approval to open on Boucher Road, where M&S will be its nearest supermarket neighbor, according to the company.

The 1,425-square-meter store will be located between the National Football Stadium and the Olympia Leisure Centre. On the almost 10,000 square meter site, there will also be a drive-through cafe.

The supermarket, according to Lidl, will open as early as this year and will support 200 construction employment in addition to 100 permanent retail positions.

The store, which will be Lidl’s tenth in Belfast, will also feature a 148-space car park with charging stations for electric vehicles. As the December 19 deadline for using Spend Local cards loomed, plans for Lidl’s 42nd shop in Northern Ireland were disclosed. The latest UK high street footfall numbers from Springboard revealed a 20% week on week increase in activity.

Northern Ireland’s footfall rise from Sunday, December 12 to Saturday, December 18 considerably exceeded the rest of the UK, according to retail data firm Springboard.

The north of England and Yorkshire had the second biggest increase in footfall, with an increase of 8.1 percent, out of 12 UK areas.

Lidl plans to expand its retail network in the region to 50 locations.

It will spend £32 million on new or replacement stores in five Belfast locations.

Chris Speers, Lidl Northern Ireland’s regional property executive, said:

“Since confirming a £32m investment into the Greater Belfast region with five key sites late last year, we’re pleased to be delivering these projects at pace and with great success.

“We’ve opened two new stores at Holywood Exchange and Crumlin Road and I’m pleased to confirm we’re moving ahead with plans to relocate our existing store at Castlereagh Road to an adjacent site and to redevelop and expand our existing Shore Road store,” he said.

“Our fifth site at Boucher Road is a strategically-important location for us, expanding our reach into the south Belfast area for the first time and bringing a multi-million pound investment and new jobs to the local area.”

“A significant commuter belt and outstanding retail shopping location,” he said of Boucher Road and its vicinity.

He also stated that the National Football Stadium would be a big draw for visitors.

“We’re glad to have worked closely with councillors, major businesses, and the broader community to bring these proposals forward, and we’re grateful for the good support we’ve received for these plans,” Mr Speers continued.

Currently, the German retail brand has 41 outlets and 1,100 employees in Northern Ireland.

It is investing £26 million in the north west of Northern Ireland, with plans for a new store in Strabane and two in Londonderry.

Despite a solid 20 percent week-on-week gain in Northern Ireland, activity is still down 25.9% in 2019 compared to the pre-pandemic era, according to Springboard’s latest research on UK footfall.

However, it is up 11% from 2020.

Heron Bros Group invests £6.5 million over two years, creating 30 jobs

Heron Bros Group invests £6.5 million over two years, creating 30 jobs

Heron Bros Group is investing £6.5 million in its MDF division, which will result in the creation of 30 jobs over the next two years.

The Co. Tyrone group’s firm produces skirting, architrave, kitchen parts, and door frames, and will use the investment to grow its subsidiary ‘Promould.’

Promould, a specialist producer with over 20 years of experience, is a global leader in the field, with a vast product line that includes real wood veneer, specialized paper, PVC, and painted profile finishes.

Heron Fit Out, the company’s other arm, which will profit as well, was founded in 2017 and specializes in timber fire door production, primarily for the UK and Ireland markets.

The move, according to the firm, is intended to capitalize on expanding market prospects in the construction, renovation, and fit-out industries. The investment will also include new equipment, factory facilities, and machinery, while the 30 new jobs will be spread over both enterprises on Cookstown’s Drum Road, and will feature a mix of production, sales, and administrative posts.

Martin Blaney, manufacturing director at Heron Bros, said:

“This latest investment in our two manufacturing businesses in Cookstown represents a significant vote of confidence in the teams and the products they are delivering to meet changing market demands and new opportunities.

“We have experienced significant growth across both businesses in the last couple of years and believe that by delivering important synergies through this investment, we will make both businesses even more innovative and competitive.

“This will now allow us to grow the team and our expertise to help deliver our ambitious growth plans for the manufacturing and supply side of the Heron Bros Group.”

Heron Bros. Ltd. was founded by six brothers in Draperstown in 1956. Construction, joinery manufacture, building suppliers, quarrying, property investment and development are the company’s main businesses.

Through its HHT Renewables Division, it has diversified into the renewable energy sector over the years. In its most recent reports, filed in September, the company reported sales of £128 million and pre-tax earnings of £14.5 million.

Sales increased by 20% from £106.9 million to £128.4 million, while pre-tax earnings more than doubled from £5.4 million to £14.5 million. However, the period was significantly longer than prior accounts – 18 months instead of the typical 12.

it said the pandemic had a considerable impact on the economy as a whole, as well as the construction industry, as all but the most important construction sites were temporarily closed.

The sale of items increased from £105 million to £124.8 million, according to the company’s sales numbers. Its rental income had increased from £1.9 million to £3.6 million.

According to the corporation, consolidation of existing operational areas, innovation, and the exploration of new markets are all driving its growth. Damien O’Callaghan, the company’s new group managing director, was also recently revealed.

Damian Heron, who is now executive chairman of Heron Bros Group, is his predecessor.

Prestige Insurance Holdings to create 60 posts as it launches broking brand

Prestige Insurance Holdings to create 60 posts as it launches broking brand

As part of its digital expansion, a Northern Ireland group of insurance companies is investing over £3 million and generating 60 new employment.

Next year, Prestige Insurance Holdings will launch a new digitally-led broking brand with new technical, product management, customer service, and marketing positions available in Belfast, Newry, and Londonderry, as well as remote working options.

Significant developments in recent years have included a multi-million pound investment by global equity company Capital Z Partners Management, LCC (Capital Z), and the acquisition of Open & Direct from Swinton Group.

Meanwhile, Autoline Insurance, located in Newry, combined with Abbey Insurance to form AbbeyAutoline.

Trevor Shaw, chief executive of Prestige Insurance Holdings Limited said: “As a business with local roots and an abundance of heritage, we have a commitment and passion for growth and market expansion and are continually looking for opportunities to develop our business across the group through acquisition and adding to our talent pool.

“We have strategic growth plans in place to help us continue on the path of building a digital-first, modern and global insurance portfolio, and with a commitment to innovative technology and servicing our network of valued customers, we have a new digital broking brand, Stroll, coming to market in early 2022.”

Brian Allen, managing director of digital at Prestige Insurance Holdings Limited said: “The pandemic has seen an acceleration in the shift towards a more digital world triggered by changes in online shopping behaviours that are likely to have lasting repercussions.

“Digital technology is a new force that is driving big changes in the insurance sector. For us as insurers, the changing landscape of insurance has led to a flurry of technological advancements in the industry, and the way customers interact with us is changing as a result.

“Our customer is savvy, both technically and culturally and they need insurance that works for them. Their time is precious and we want to give them some of that time back by changing how they search for and buy insurance.

“Consumers can bank online, book a taxi and order groceries all with the touch of a button, and the same should be true for buying insurance. We want to take the hassle out of insurance — no more searching for documents in a bottom drawer — everything will all be available in the palm of your hand,” Mr Allen added.

“We’re building an insurance journey that starts where the customer is and gets them to where they want to be, quickly and easily, and we’re excited to bring Stroll, a new brand with all these digital capabilities to the Prestige Group of companies in early 2022.”

AbbeyAutoline, BondLovis, Prestige Underwriting Services Ltd, Octane London Market Limited, Covernet, and Trumo are among the Prestige Insurance Holdings Limited enterprises.

In 2020, Abbey and Autoline joined to form the largest insurance broker in Northern Ireland.

“It (the merger) reinvigorated our image in the market and has significantly broadened our offering,” Julie Gibbons, managing director of AbbeyAutoline insurance broker, said at the time of the transaction.

“When both businesses came together, we knew there would be growth. They were complementary to each other rather than overlapping.”


Jollyes Pet Shop expansion brings new jobs -

Jollyes Pet Shop expansion brings new jobs

Jollyes, a pet retailer, has announced a £325,000 investment in additional stores in Northern Ireland, as well as improved partnerships with suppliers on both sides of the border.

The company, which has 12 locations in Northern Ireland, generated five new jobs on Saturday when it opened a new store at Longwood Retail Park in Newtownabbey to replace its Glengormley location. A ‘pamper and groom’ spa is also located within the store.

Jollyes will also establish its first store in Cookstown’s Sweep Road Retail Park in February, creating ten new employment.

The company wants to expand further by acquiring smaller pet retailers and taking on new leases, according to the corporation.

Jollyes also stated that it is investing heavily in its suppliers on the island of Ireland, which supply all of its 70 locations in the United Kingdom.

It plans to expand its product lines with Mackle Petfoods in Co Armagh, which produces Lifestage dog food, and Frozzys, a frozen pet food firm based in Belfast.

“We’re looking forward to reaching out to more customers here with a new store at Cookstown and a new state-of-the-art store at Newtownabbey,” Laura Hadden, regional manager for Jollyes in Northern Ireland and Scotland, said.

In 1971, the first Jollyes opened in Enfield, England.

Northern Ireland’s first private intensive care unit to open as part of £9m expansion

Northern Ireland’s first private intensive care unit to open as part of £9m expansion

As part of a £9 million expansion, Kingsbridge Private Hospital will open Northern Ireland’s first private intensive care unit.

The Kingsbridge Healthcare Group has hospitals in Belfast and Ballykelly, both in County Londonderry, as well as facilities in Donegal and Sligo.

Santander UK provided funding for the company’s recent expansion and the acquisition of the North West Independent Clinic in Ballykelly earlier this year.

The bank will also supply day-to-day services to the group under a new agreement with Santander.

Kingsbridge is working on a £6 million expansion at its Belfast hospital on the city’s Lisburn Road, which would expand beds by a third and include a new ward, operating theatre, and endoscopy suite by early 2023.

Soon, Kingsbridge will operate Northern Ireland’s first private intensive care unit, as well as private cardiac surgical services. The hospital now has five-day beds and three surgery rooms.

In Ballykelly, Kingsbridge Private Hospital North West is undergoing a £3 million refurbishment, which is expected to be completed by the middle of next year.

The project will update wards and infrastructure, as well as build a new outpatient service and a theater. Kingsbridge also wants to offer a private GP service in Ballykelly five days a week, according to the company.

The group was set up in 2004 as 3fivetwo Healthcare. It also has a medical training academy, plastic surgery company, Cosmetech, and an optical and hearing division.

Jeremy Macartney, group finance director at Kingsbridge, said: “Santander UK’s support enables us to build on our existing services while delivering a wide range of specialisms that will significantly enhance choice for patients.

“We are committed to working in partnership with the Northern Ireland Executive to address waiting lists and this funding from Santander UK enables us to provide much-needed bed and theatre capacity to help tackle this.”

Mark Robinson, relationship director at Santander UK, said: “We are pleased to support Kingsbridge Healthcare Group’s important work to expand its capacity to provide private healthcare to patients in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

“We look forward to working with the Kingsbridge team over the years to come.”

Search for a new Invest NI chief begins

Two years after his appointment, the chief executive of the economic development organization Invest Northern Ireland is stepping down.

Kevin Holland was appointed in October 2019 to succeed Alastair Hamilton, who had served in the position for ten years.

Mr. Holland had informed the board of Invest NI of his desire to resign, according to Invest NI. There was no word on whether his departure from the position would be immediate.

Mr. Holland said: “I joined Invest NI in 2019 after many years building international businesses around the world. Since then, I have been truly impressed by the successful businesses and people I have met here, as well as the expertise and commitment of the Invest NI team.

“There are clear centers of excellence where Northern Ireland is truly world class.

“I am proud of the positive impact we made through both the pandemic and economic uncertainties arising from the UK’s exit from the EU.

“Now, as Invest NI enters its next planning cycle, I have decided to pass on the leadership role and to focus on a new area.

“I would like to thank you all for your support over the past couple of years and look forward to seeing the continued development of this great organization.”

Mr. Holland was a diplomat before joining Invest Northern Ireland, serving as minister-counsellor life sciences, health and social affairs at the British Embassy in Beijing, China.

He previously served on the board of directors of the US-based life sciences company Baxter, where he was responsible for the company’s operations in Russia, the Middle East, Africa, and Turkey.

Mr. Holland provided “dedication and leadership… during a particularly tough time brought about by the impact of Brexit and the worldwide pandemic,” said Rose Mary Stalker, head of Invest Northern Ireland.

“During this time, Kevin has led the organisation in the delivery of emergency aid schemes and set up recovery plans for the region whilst maintaining Invest NI’s wide range of business programmes.

“We wish Kevin every success in the next chapter of his career.

“The process to recruit a new CEO will be initiated as soon as possible and interim arrangements will be announced over the coming days.”

Since the end of the Brexit transition phase, Invest NI has had to walk a fine line in marketing Northern Ireland’s dual market access to the EU and the United Kingdom under the NI Protocol as a selling point to investors.

Economy Ministers Diane Dodds, Paul Frew, and Gordon Lyons, however, have urged for the protocol’s abolition, claiming that it has created trade hurdles between the UK and Northern Ireland.