Consensus builds around the skills challenges facing Wales

Announcements this week from both the Welsh Conservatives and the Welsh Liberal Democrats show that consensus is building around the skills challenges which Wales faces. Those challenges are outlined in NIACE Cymru’s document “The post-16 challenge” and solutions offered in our manifesto

The Welsh Conservatives have proposed to lift the age restrictions on the flagship job creation scheme, Jobs Growth Wales, if they win power in the elections to the National Assembly in May 2016.

The scheme helps companies employ 16-24 year olds for six months by covering the cost of the minimum wage. The Welsh Conservatives aim to replace it with a scheme called ‘Journeys to Work’, open to all ages, with jobs lasting for a year.

The announcement is part of a set of policies the Welsh Conservatives call Stronger Futures Cymru.

Deputy Skills Minister Julie James claimed it was a “ringing endorsement” of Jobs Growth Wales, saying a new scheme was planned for all adults. The Deputy Skills Minister also confirmed plans to introduce a new scheme – Skills for Employment Wales – in April 2016 which would be open to all adults looking for work.

In July, the Business & Enterprise Committee urged ministers to consider designing a similar scheme for the over 50’s.

Cerys Furlong, Director of NIACE Cymru, said:

“Its great to see all the parties in Wales engaging in these key issues for the future of the Welsh economy. At NIACE we believe balanced funding is important to benefit all learners. While this is a very positive move, we also feel that Welsh Government should go that step further and use their legislative powers to amend legislation if necessary to place all adult learning on the same statutory basis to achieve a fairer and better balanced approach that benefits all learners.”                

The population is becoming older and more culturally diverse, and individuals are experiencing more complicated and less predictable lives than their parents. These changes all have implications for what people need and want to learn and when and how they want to do it” (McNair, 2009: 6)[1]

As the pace of change continues, individuals are going to work longer and change jobs more frequently. Access to skills and learning therefore is vital for people to stay healthy, productive and happy in both work and retirement. Governments must develop imaginative and flexible policies to promote adult learning.

In the coming weeks the Assembly will also debate Apprenticeships and the proposal by HM Treasury for a training levy more widely.

“As part of our manifesto, we would also like to see apprenticeships being widely available to all adults, not just under-25s and for a commitment to ring-fencing the Barnett Consequential funding from the UK Government’s training levy – which will apply to Welsh businesses – to be spent on apprenticeship delivery in Wales”

To see all of NIACE Cymru’s 12 priorities for lifelong learning, visit the manifesto “Skills for Prosperity – a vision for 2020” by clicking here


[1] S. McNair, Demography and Lifelong Learning, IFLL Thematic Paper 1, 2009