11 organisations running projects in disadvantaged communities throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland have been shortlisted for a share of the new Ulster Bank Skills & Opportunities Fund. The Fund, which is part of a wider RBS £2.5m Fund, is dedicated to supporting projects that help people develop new skills, find employment or set up their own business.

Hundreds of not for profit organisations across the island of Ireland have already applied through the Fund to avail of  grants of up to £35,000 to support their projects. Ulster Bank earlier this year committed to provide an overall Fund of £220,000 / €300,000 per year to support community organisations  for each of the next three years.

Ciaran Coyle, Head of Banking Operations RI at Ulster Bank said:  “We’re delighted with the response to this Fund, and with the quality of applications we received.  Pulling together a shortlist from so many fantastic projects has been a real challenge. We expect people will have a hard time selecting their  favourites from such a strong line-up, but we’re asking the public to get behind the good causes that matter most to them”.

The 11 organisations shortlisted are: Sligo Volunteer Centre, Culture Connect, U-Casadh Ltd, Co-operation Ireland, Galway Simon Community, Irish Youth Foundation, Suas Educational Development, Young Enterprise NI, Business in the Community, Lisburn Enterprise Organisation and Dungannon Enterprise Centre.

Projects seeking funding  include  enhanced career planning for young people, advanced learning and development support for educationally disadvantaged children, development of a youth leadership programme for 17-20 year olds, upskilling programmes for the homeless, increasing numeracy levels in school, encouraging young people to set up and run mini enterprises and providing disadvantaged women with the skills to start their own business.

Now that the shortlist has been published, the public have one week to vote for their favourite project. The results of the public vote will count as one vote alongside those from a panel of judges, deciding who receives funding in November this year.  “Opening the vote to the public gives the organisations who’ve applied the chance to mobilise support from their local community and stakeholders” says Ciaran Coyle.  “It also helps us to gauge which projects resonate with the public. Essentially, if it matters to you, then it matters to us.”

To find out more about the shortlisted projects, the organisations behind them, and to have your say on which you think should receive funding from the Skills & Opportunities Fund, visit  skillsandopportunitiesfund.ulsterbank.com. Voting runs from Friday 30 October to Friday 6 November  and the successful projects will be announced week commencing 6 December.

A Third round of funding will open for applications in January 2016.

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