Standing Up For Skills

Posted on by karen.smith

Arwyn Watkins

Retiring chairman Arwyn Watkins reflects on the past and looks to the future as he prepares for the National Training Federation Wales’ annual conference in Cardiff on November 17.

Having thought long and hard about the title of my final conference as NTfW chair, ‘Standing Up for Skills’ really does reflect the approach that we have taken over the years as seeking to secure vocational skills parity with other Post 16 opportunities.

I would be the first to admit that there is still a way to go to make this a reality but I am confident that we have secured a firm foundation on which to build.

NTfW constitutes a high quality, high performing network of work-based learning providers. By the very nature of commissioning work-based learning, these providers are periodically required to enter a competitive tendering round and then dust themselves down to work collaboratively to deliver the services commissioned. This is unique in education and training and you can imagine the teething problems and growing pains that surface each time the outcome of a competitive tendering round is published.

The journey for me since returning to Mid Wales in 1998 has been the most comprehensive CPD project I could ever have imagined. At that time, there was in the region of 162 contracted providers of work-based learning, which has reduced every year. Now, in November 2011, there are 27 quality assured contracts awarded and 109 NTfW members.

This reduction in the number of direct contract holders has not come as a shock to the NTfW. In fact the federation produced a number of recommendations for DCELLS to take into consideration prior to commissioning the delivery of work-based learning from August 2011 to July 2013. The network has to be applauded for the way it has reacted and strived to deliver the programme commissions in a seamless manner, avoiding any negative impact on the learners who are in learning during such a transformational change.

I believe the network now needs a period of stability so that it can review delivery programmes and make the necessary investments required to maintain quality, in particular in the area of staff development with the aspiration to achieve higher level skills.

It is paramount that our staff are given the opportunity to develop their skills and competencies to such a level that they can pass them on to the workforce of the future. A perfect way of achieving this is through skills competitions, not only for learners but also trainers and mentors. As we have world class skills leaders in Wales, we should take this opportunity to upskill our workforce.

I welcome the Welsh Government’s qualifications review and hope it will lead to our network spending more time focusing on higher level skills rather than on remedial issues, such as numeracy and literacy.

We have developed a strong brand amongst our stakeholders but we need to take this brand out to the wider community to deliver the strong messages of enhancing the value and accessibility of vocational training, especially apprenticeships.

Finally, the constitutional review of NTfW will deliver a structure to take the federation to the next level where it operates at the heart of shaping policies and arrangements for skills and employment, with an overarching mission to raise skills to help drive enterprise, sustainable economic growth and job creation.

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