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Firms will ‘sell lead off their roof’ before letting people go, says Manufacturing NI boss

Sep 24, 2021

Manufacturers would rather “sell the lead off the roof” than make staff redundant at the end of the furlough scheme, such is their need for labour, a business boss has said. Stephen Kelly, the head of Manufacturing NI, said he did not expect manufacturing workers to lose their jobs in large numbers at the end of the furlough scheme later this month. Read More He said that industry was struggling with the same shortage of labour which has affected industries like transport, and food and drink. Under furlough, or the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), the UK government has covered the majority of wages of employees who have not been able to work because of lockdowns. Finance Minister Conor Murphy has called on the Chancellor to extend CJRS beyond this month to help support firms and workers. Mr Murphy said: “Many industries are still recovering from the impact of the pandemic, with over 36,000 people here remaining on furlough. I am concerned that closing the scheme at this stage could lead to large-scale redundancies. “An extension is needed to support businesses, sustain jobs, and protect the livelihoods of workers and their families.” The Treasury has been asked for comment. Mr Kelly said government support should continue for people whose work was still affected by restrictions. According to latest figures from HMRC, there were 36,100 workers in Northern Ireland still on furlough at the end July, including 5,140 working in manufacturing. And 1,500 manufacturing workers had come off furlough during July. Mr Kelly said: “The biggest challenge in manufacturing isn’t Brexit, or Covid, or the NI Protocol, it’s people.” He added: “All we’re hearing is people are desperate for labour, and very little people planning for redundancy. “Last month, there were only 80 redundancies notified, which tells you a story about what’s happening in the labour market. "If there were to be a flood of redundancies, we would have seen them notified by now. It’s reassuring that we haven’t seen that. “I’ve asked firms who are still waiting for their market to return why there haven’t been more notified redundancies, and they’ve said that the labour market is so compressed at the minute that they would rather sell the lead off the roof than let people go. “They know that their businesses are built on people, regardless of supply chain issues, that’s the most important asset that any business has.” He said many firms appeared to have prepared for the withdrawal of furlough support. “People have used furlough to protect their business over the last year and a bit and now it’s coming to an end, we’re hoping they’ve put plans in place to financially see themselves through the next period until their market returns.” Mr Kelly said that the provisions of the furlough scheme had meant that people were not circulating in the jobs market, contributing to a shortage of staff. He added: “We know that there’s thousands of jobs available in manufacturing out there but they just can’t get people for them. “I would be confident that even if firms are happy to let people go at the end of furlough, those people will be picked up in comparable roles instantly.” He said that even in the aerospace sector, there were no indications of an intention to let large numbers of staff go. Mr Kelly said that while there was not demand from manufacturing for an extension of the furlough support, companies and their staff still needed support. The Executive is keeping in place a number of restrictions which companies say hamper their ability to trade, including a one-metre social distancing requirement and guidance to work from home where possible, while nightclubs are still not permitted to open. Mr Kelly said: “The reality is that the Executive continues to forcibly close business and there's a responsibility on it to compensate those businesses, so they can pay staff who’ve been put out of work through no fault of their own. "There is also supply chain impact – for example, food service hasn't returned to levels it was before because market is still being hampered due to the restrictions.” Download the Belfast Telegraph App Get quick and easy access to the latest Northern Ireland news, sport, business and opinion with the Belfast Telegraph App. Most Read

Stephen Kelly Investments

3 Investments

Stephen Kelly has made 3 investments. Their latest investment was in IntelliSense.io as part of their Seed VC on August 8, 2020.

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Stephen Kelly Investments Activity

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Date

Round

Company

Amount

New?

Co-Investors

Sources

8/18/2020

Seed VC

IntelliSense.io

Yes

3

2/15/2019

Angel - II

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$99M

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10

1/15/2019

Series A

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$99M

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10

Date

8/18/2020

2/15/2019

1/15/2019

Round

Seed VC

Angel - II

Series A

Company

IntelliSense.io

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Amount

$99M

$99M

New?

Yes

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Co-Investors

Sources

3

10

10

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