Employers Helping to Shape Future Skills Priorities in Wales
Employers across Wales are helping to shape the Welsh Government’s future investment priorities to ensure that young people get the most relevant qualifications to prepare them for work, a conference was told.
Deputy Minister for Skills Jeff Cuthbert revealed that 6,000 employers are contributing towards a skills survey that will strengthen the Welsh Government’s labour market intelligence (LMI).
He told delegates at the National Training Federation for Wales’ annual in Cardiff that a Skills Audit for Wales, published earlier this year, had highlighted where skills shortages and gaps existed across different sectors and occupations.
Headline results from an Employer Skills Survey would be available soon drawing on the views of 6,000 employers across Wales.
“Labour market intelligence is important in helping us plan effectively for the future, but also to communicate messages from this intelligence in a targeted way,” he said. “As part of the LMI project this year, we are working on plans to help individuals understand more easily the connections between qualification choices, career pathways, relevant real-time opportunities in the labour market and longer term trends.”
An analysis of the intelligence would be shared with employers, work-based learning providers and those giving careers advice, he added.
Mr Cuthbert praised the high quality delivery, dedication and professionalism of delegates from the work-based learning sector to improve the skills levels and job opportunities for the people of Wales in challenging times.
Having attended the Apprenticeships Awards Cymru ceremony the previous night, he said it reminded him what learners can achieve given the right support, training and guidance.
“Your hard work makes a difference to apprentices and to all those undertaking work based learning,” he told delegates, whom he congratulated for taking forward the Welsh Government’s transformation agenda.
“The programmes that you deliver are vital to provide a bridge for people to enter or re-enter the labour market and improve their skills,” said Mr Cuthbert.
He detailed the Welsh Government’s range of support for people seeking work, including the £25 million Jobs Growth Wales initiative for unemployed people aged between 16 and 24 years. A pilot scheme running in South West Wales would be rolled out across the country next year.
The conference theme, ‘Standing up for Skills’, focused on the benefits and value of vocational skills and training in working with businesses to deliver for Wales. The NTfW is a network of 109 quality assured learning providers, which has links to 35,000 employers across Wales.
Lord Ted Rowlands, NTfW president, reflected on the organisation’s successful transformation over the past decade to a situation where it now influenced policy and strategy in Wales.
He emphasised the direct link between skills and employment, expressing concern about the high levels of unemployment in the UK and challenged the perception that the Government was powerless to do anything about it.
He urged delegates to rise up and not allow another lost generation of young people to be “switched off” with no appetite to learn skills. “If we don’t reach out to young and older generations, then we are creating problems for the future,” he warned.
“We see every day the value of work based learning, which delivers for communities, the economy and, above all, the individual. Let’s talk about people and opportunities, their worth and their potential.”
Arwyn Watkins, retiring NTfW chairman, used the conference theme, conference ‘Standing up for Skills’, to challenge members to improve the way they work together as a network to deliver high quality work based learning programmes and seamless pathways for learners from traineeships and Steps to Employment to apprenticeships and sustainable jobs.
One of the greatest challenges facing the NTfW, he said, was the future funding of work based learning programmes for learners over the age of 25.
He was alarmed by a recent survey that revealed that 56 per cent of secondary school teachers rated their knowledge of apprenticeships as poor compared to just eight per cent rating their knowledge of universities as poor.
He balanced the survey results against the current high demand from post graduates for apprenticeships programmes and urged delegates to promote work based learning at every opportunity when working with schools and teachers.
Professor Teresa Rees from the School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, focused her address on lifelong learning, calling for more value to be attached to vocational training and more opportunities for accessing it throughout life.
The other keynote speaker was Teresa Holdsworth, deputy director of business and skills division in the Welsh Government’s Department for Education and Skills.
Workshops focused on continuing professional development for business leaders and managers, work based learning, leading the way on Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship and the NTfW’s constitution.
The conference was sponsored by Agored Cymru, Pearson and Media Wales.