Mr Mathison was speaking at the 2023 Young Enterprise Big Market which saw over 95 stalls from schools all over Northern Ireland gather in St George’s Market, Belfast. Companies sold a range of products and services from Christmas decorations, recycled plant pots and wax melts, to an online mental health support page and brain training booklet for all ages.
Earlier this year the Department of Education ceased all funding to the charity citing budget cuts. This funding had been used to support 47,000 young people in areas of greatest social need to take part in Young Enterprise.
"Young Enterprise is a programme like no other," said Mr Mathison. "The charity supports children and young people to develop skills that are vital for both employment and entrepreneurship, providing a fantastic opportunity for young people to learn about enterprise, entrepreneurship, and financial education in both primary and post-primary schools.
"Whilst I am acutely aware of the difficult financial position that the Department of Education finds itself in, children and young people should not have to suffer as a result of this. From speaking to pupils involved in Young Enterprise today, it is clear that the programme offers them the chance to develop vocational skills that can open a huge variety of employment opportunities in the future. This is particularly important given the emphasis that Young Enterprise places on social impact, ensuring young people of all backgrounds, communities and abilities benefit from enterprise and entrepreneurship skills to raise aspirations and capabilities for a successful future career.
"The Department is facing huge financial pressures; but this is precisely the sort of scheme departments should be working on collaboratively to secure the necessary funds - with no Ministers in place to take these strategic decisions our children and young people suffer."