With the City Deal set to provide its local partners with the resources to unlock significant economic growth, towns surrounding Cardiff could seek to benefit immensely from proposed plans.
Here Denise Lovering, Chair of the Caerphilly Business Forum, explores how the Valleys can best prepare to maximise the opportunities presented by the City Deal, and looks at why upskilling their workforce will be integral to their success.
The signing of the City Deal marks a significant milestone for the South Wales Valleys, which are set to receive both an economic and social boost thanks to the improved infrastructure, transport links and digital connectivity resulting from investment in the region.
While we are already seeing positive steps in this direction, with Transport for Wales’s relocation to Pontypridd and the announcement that the City Deal will be headquartered in Rhondda Cynon Taf, it’s imperative to ensure a parity of opportunity across the entirety of the region.
To maximise the opportunities brought by the deal, towns within the Valleys will need to build upon their sectoral strengths and showcase their unique offerings to the wider region.
Caerphilly, for example has much to offer. Close to Cardiff and with good rail and road links, it is well placed between the capital city and the higher Valleys, making it a great location for both business and as a place to live. The electrification of the Valleys railway lines, and the proposed South Wales metro will further help to improve Caerphilly’s accessibility.
For Caerphilly to take full advantage of the Deal, we will need to build upon our sector specialisms in the digital, creative and financial industries, as well as upskill our existing workforce to enable them to take on future opportunities as and when they arise.
Bringing in skills from the surrounding areas, both by attracting individuals to work in Caerphilly, as well as building upon our already successful start-up culture, will be key to Caerphilly’s growth. In turn, more housing is needed to prepare Caerphilly as more people choose to live and work in the town.
Developing locally based skills will also need to be a priority and this ultimately starts with education. Schools and further education providers, will have a key role to play in upskilling our future workforce; firstly, by developing courses that prepare learners for upcoming opportunities, and secondly, by collaborating with employers to identify and address skills gaps they are experiencing.
Work placements and apprenticeships will also be important to develop the workforce of tomorrow, and so more employers will need to consider engaging in such schemes. Shared apprenticeships, where apprentices split their time between multiple employers to develop a breadth of skills, are an avenue that should also be further explored.
With the right preparation and collaboration between businesses, local authorities and schools, there is no reason why towns across the Capital Region can’t reap significant benefits from the City Deal.