Training federation leader warns of funding challenges on the horizon

Posted on by karen.smith

Work-based learning providers in Wales must be prepared to seek funding from sources other than the Welsh Government and Europe in the future and work together to come up with employment and skills solutions.

That’s the message chief executive Arwyn Watkins will deliver to members of the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW) at their annual conference at the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport tomorrow (Friday).

He will appeal to members not to “sleep walk into the future” in believing that the current level of Welsh Government funding will be maintained. “All the evidence suggests that there will be far less public funds available to invest,” he will tell members.

“Our colleagues in Further Education Institutions have already received notification from the Minister for Education that in the budget year 2014-15 there could well be a five per cent reduction in the budget in real terms. That equates to somewhere between £15-£20 million reduction in cash available to invest in education and skills.

“For this network to deliver on the aspirations in work-based learning we will need to secure alternative cash revenues. We will have to secure this cash from either the employer, the learner or from a corporate sponsor who sees it as their social responsibility to reinvest a percentage of their profits into the skills aspirations of this country’s youth.

“We all know that there are ways that we can make the public investment go further, but that requires action outside of our control. But I believe something that we should demand.”

He will call on all the awarding bodies and the Welsh Government’s Department of Education and Skills to work with NTfW on a common agreement that recognises learners’ existing achievements and targets funding more precisely on skills delivery.

“As a network we know we are excellent in delivering the core aspects of our work based learning commissions,” he will say. “Our framework achievement success rates are amongst the highest in the United Kingdom and we even stand out amongst the best in the wider world.

He will also appeal to Estyn to take into consideration the ever-changing environment in work-based learning when the next Common Inspection Framework is drafted by “inspecting the skills that are understood by employers, valued by the learner and championed by this network”.

With the next round of European Support Fund investment possibly being the last major support for Wales from Europe, he said everyone needed to work together to ensure that it made a difference to the country.

“Let us work together to deliver what is valued and jettison what is not,” he will tell the conference. “Remove duplication, secure additional investment where there is clearly evidence-based market failure outside of the core programme of work-based learning, maintain a quality assured delivery network and together let’s focus on raising our aspirations so that Wales does not qualify for a fourth round of ESF investment to raise the skills base.

“Over the last two rounds of European funding, our network has remained consistent in its message that there is far too much duplication competing with core programmes targeting the same beneficiaries.”

The NTfW is best placed to identify areas of skills policy that can be improved as the pan-Wales network engages daily with employers and learners

“We are a quality assured network with an infrastructure that has a proven track record of taking a policy out of the box and delivering a product that makes a huge difference to the lives of individuals, productivity of employers and a sustainable future for communities,” he will add.

“As a well established network, I am sure we can have that mature debate on a regional basis that could result in the regions taking forward employment and skills solutions, ensuring that the bulk of any additional investment secured from Europe is invested in delivery and not infrastructure.”

Around 150 delegates are expected to attend the conference, ‘Nurturing Talent: Building the Workforce of the Future in Wales’. The theme explores how work-based learning providers can work together with key stakeholders to ensure the needs of the economy and of Welsh employers, particularly small and medium sized enterprises, are met.

The conference precedes the Apprenticeship Awards Cymru presentation dinner. Both the conference and the awards are sponsored by Pearson PLC and media partner is Media Wales.

A keynote speaker is Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology Ken Skates who will make his first major speech since being appointed to the Welsh Government position. Other speakers are the Federation of Small Businesses’ head of external affairs Iestyn Davies, Edge Foundation’s chief executive Jan Hodges and the Welsh Government’s deputy director youth engagement and employment Teresa Holdsworth.

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