Junior Minister's Speech- Opening Of 'Opportunity Europe And Beyond' 19th October 2010

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Thank you, Maurice.  Good morning everyone. 

Thanks also to the European Commission and Belfast City Council and their many partners, who put such hard work into bringing this event to you all today.

And thank you students, together with your teachers, for coming along.

In my student days, there were much fewer opportunities to learn about different cultures and languages. Working in foreign countries was something out of the ordinary – limited perhaps to pop stars and actors. But now I would confidently expect that the majority of you here today will spend part of your careers working abroad.

But in my career, I had the privilege to work abroad and, in politics, I have learned the need to understand and work with my neighbours – whoever they may be. 

Whatever you choose to do, you will encounter diversity.  In today’s competitive world, knowing another language and understanding other cultures is not just an advantage, it’s a necessity.  And you need to be prepared for that challenge. 

I encourage you to take advantage of, not just what’s on offer today, but the opportunities available to you in the future – like volunteering or studying in another country. 

Not only will you benefit from these opportunities –we all will - as you come to apply the experiences and skills you have acquired to the day-to-day problems you face in everyday life closer to home.

Thank you all.  Have a great time today.