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Small Organisation, Big Results


Welcome to our website. Here you will find information about us, our history and the programmes and services we deliver. We hope you enjoy your visit. Please get in touch with us if you would like more information about what we do and how we can help you.

Everyone has potential, some people just need a little extra help to recognise theirs

AltTextAbout GEMS

Our story is, quite simply about linking opportunity with need and one which is founded in the vision and leadership of Belfast City Council. In 1998 the Council commissioned a study which looked at the Belfast Gasworks regeneration programme and how this could bring employment opportunities to the people living in the communities and neighbourhoods contiguous to the Gasworks site.

The ‘Gasworks Employment Matching Service’, which became the Belfast GEMS Project, was driven by a partnership-led approach to augmenting the then mainstream employability/employment initiatives. The over-arching aim was to enhance social inclusion and improve the local skills base and maximise the employment opportunities for people living in the Gasworks and Laganside areas. The Belfast GEMS project, supported through funding from Belfast City Council, Laganside Corporation, the Department for Employment and Learning, Belfast Regeneration Office, Halifax plc who, with East Belfast and South Belfast Partnerships established the Belfast GEMS Advisory Forum. Belfast GEMS went ‘live’ as project of South Belfast Partnership, on 15th January 2002, as a pilot project with initial funding support for 27 months.

Together Everyone Achieves More

AltTextOur People

We currently have a small Board Chaired by Cliff Kennedy MBE, an experienced third sector leader, that works together to ensure the organisation meets its corporate governance accountabilities, supports our strategic direction, provides guidance to the Chief Executive and Senior Management Team and acts as ambassadors for GEMS NI and our values, ethics and practice principles.

Chief Executive and Senior Team

  • Susan Russam MBE
    Chief Executive
  • Shane Smith
    Director of Employment Services
  • Anne Downs
    Director of Business Services
  • Francesca Murray
    Director of Corporate Services
  • Stephen Atkinson
    Client Services Manager

Susan has led GEMS NI since it started as a project of South Belfast Partnership in 2001, leading its incorporation as a company limited by guarantee/registered charity in 2006. Susan has designed many projects and programmes over the past seventeen years including CO-MENT and its European “cousin,” EC-YP

Email Susan

Shane has been with GEMS NI since its launch in January 2002 and has led many GEMS projects including LEMIS, M-Power and Learning Language for Work Shane also established GEMS Enterprises and has been responsible for the development of our Social Enterprise arm. Shane is currently seconded to Oxford Innovation as the Innovation Factory Community Engagement Manager, leading initiatives to ensure community stakeholders benefit from the Innovation Factory.

Email Shane

Anne has been with GEMS NI since its launch in January 2002 and has led our employer engagement strategy, marketing and events management and other activities. Anne currently leads our CO-MENT project, Community Family Support Project and many Erasmus+ projects GEMS NI has led/been part of over the years.

Email Anne

Francesca has been with GEMS NI from 2003 and has managed our finances, HR and central administration since 2006. Francesca is also GEMS NI Lead ISO Auditor and has responsibility for purchasing, health and safety and managing project budget and spend across the organisation.

Email Francesca

Stephen has been with us since, 2004 initially as an Employability Outreach Mentor, LEMIS Team Leader and our Client Services Manager, ensuring GEMS NI makes best use of its programmes and services through effective communication and sharing of good practice across the organisation. Stephen is currently Project Manager for EmployAbility South and has been instrumental in the project exceeding its targets.

Email Stephen

“Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort” - John Ruskin

AltTextOur Programmes and Services

All our programmes and services are aligned to our organisational objectives of supporting unemployed people with high-quality, impartial one-to-one guidance/mentoring, personal development and vocational skills training and qualifications and access to job opportunities leading to sustainable employment.

EmployAbility South

EmployAbility South Logo

Funded by the Executive Office through the Social Investment fund, EmployAbility South provides access to training, development and vocational qualifications and the opportunity for a 13-week paid job with a host employer.


CoMent Logo

CO-MENT is GEMS NI’s innovative approach to supporting young people who are NEET and who do not cope in mainstream vocational education and training/Further Education settings. CO-MENT quite simply wraps its support around the unique needs and aspirations of the young person and helps them to be the driver of their own employability pathway across 4 integrated “zones” Learning, Life, Leisure and Work. CO-MENT was designed in 2010 by us and was funded 2012-15 by the Department for Employment and Learning’s  Collaboration and Innovation Fund and is currently part funded by the European Social Fund, Department for the Economy and Lisburn Castlereagh Council. GEMS NI works with partner organisations providing support to young people aged 16-24 supporting to positive destinations in education, training, employment and volunteering

Employment East Logo
Employment East Logo
Employment East Logo

Employment East

Employment East Logo

GEMS NI is the project manager for the delivery of the Employment East Programme. Employment East is for unemployed, underemployed people living in specific postcode areas in East Belfast. The project is funded by the Executive Office via the Social Investment Fund Employment East offers six month paid Job opportunities with a host employer, support and mentoring to improve confidence and motivation, access to a flexible training fund to improve employment prospects or to upskill while in employment and opportunities to become self-employed.

For further information contact:

Six Month Paid Job Opportunities and flexible training fund information - Email Phyllis Morgan or Marissa McGovern

Self-Employment - Email Lisa Kennedy

Information on how employers can get involved in Employment East - Email Deirdre Timoney

LEMIS+ Project

GEMS Northern Ireland Logo

LEMIS+ is funded by ESF, Department for the Economy and Belfast City Council delivered by a city-wide consortium led by Ashton Community Trust in partnership with GEMS NI, Upper Springfield Development Trust, Impact Training and East Belfast Mission provides one-to-one mentoring, personal development, ICT skills and vocational training and employer-led training programmes and job matching services GEMS NI Manages LEMIS+ in South Belfast and provides specific support for participants who are non-native speakers of English through our Minority Ethnic Employment Support service contact

Community Family Support Programme (CFSP)

GEMS Northern Ireland Logo

Funded by ESF and the Department for the Economy, and led by Upper Springfield Development Trust with partners GEMS NI, Impact Training, East Belfast Mission and Ashton Community Trust, CFSP works with families with a young person who is NEET or at risk of becoming NEET on leaving statutory education. CFSP offers a range of supports to families and individual family members including, healthy eating, keeping fit, stress management and money management and support to move from benefit dependence to sustainable employment. GEMS NI manages CFSP in South Belfast.

“There is enough dough in the world to make bread for all of us to eat together” – Habeeb Akande

AltTextEuropean Connections

GEMS NI have been actively participating in and leading European Projects; initially, Leonardo da Vinci partnerships and Transfer of Innovation projects and since 2014 the Erasmus+ Programme. The following are examples of the projects we have been involved in.


EC-YP Logo

EC-YP Led by GEMS NI with partners in Ireland, Austria, Italy and UK, EC-YP (Extended Choices for Young People in Vocational Education and Training) took the GEMS NI CO-MENT model and transferred it Europe including a 12 month pilot training project.


Network QA Logo

NQCA Led by Ballymun Job Centre, Networking for Quality Culture and Quality Assurance worked with partners in N Ireland, Italy, Germany, UK, Hungary and Finland to develop models to improve how organisations network resulting in the development of a quality culture. GEMS NI was able to use the EmployAbility South Project as a live model which captured SROI directly linked to networking to achieve a quality culture and quality assured outputs for learners.


DayPlot Logo

DAY-PLOT DayPlot is led by Antares/Eulab Italy and has partners in Northern Ireland (GEMS NI) Spain, Norway, Finland and Austria The aim of the project is to use gamification to develop support materials for teachers/tutors working with NEET young people/young migrants. Partners are currently designing the storyboard for a game involving a young alien who has travelled to earth and needs help to navigate their way through education, employment, citizenship and Europe

In Autumn 2017, GEMS NI commenced work on two new Erasmus+ Projects:


Project SUDEGO led by Antares Italy with partners in Northern Ireland, Spain, Bulgaria, Finland and Italy. In brief SUDEGO will analyse in detail 5 of the 17 European Sustainable Development Goals and develop training materials for schools that support the curriculum in relation to the promotion of sustainable development; …. More to follow


Led by Antares Italy, Project LEI is based on an idea of GEMS NI looking at the Language learning, Employability and Inclusion of non-native speakers. The first meeting of project LEI partnership is scheduled for Spain on 13th November 2017;…. More to follow

“The celebration… you cannot practice it or anything. It’s a moment when the excitement of your goal makes you react to the moment”
Peter Bondra

AltTextEvents and Celebrations

Sometimes we are so busy, we forget to stop and the time to celebrate the success of the people we work with, our partners, our staff and our organisation – we simply move on to the next task or the next project. In putting our new website together, we have added a corner for events and celebrations, a place for our staff, our partners and the people we work with to add small articles and posts about the things we do together.

“Greatness can be contagious, but first there must be contact” TemitOpe Ibrahim

AltTextGet in touch

We really want to hear from you! If you want to find out about the services we offer, specific programmes and projects we manage, or want us to be a partner in a new project leave us a message with your name and contact email and contact number and some information about your enquiry hit the submit button and we will get back to you.

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GEMS Northern Ireland Logo

GEMS Northern Ireland, 24-31 Shaftesbury Square, Belfast, BT2 7DB, Tel: 028 9033 2313