In this week's exclusive column, Iwan Thomas, Chief Executive at PLANED, explores how why employers need to look at skills for their future survival.
PLANED recently held its Annual Conference (July 9th) to a capacity audience at the Merlin Theatre in Pembrokeshire College in Haverfordwest, with a theme of ‘Communities’.
Speakers ranged from Dafydd Llywelyn (Dyfed Powys Police & Crime Commissioner), and Philip Jones (National Director, Princes Trust Wales), to Jasmine Joyce and Hannah Jones, who are both Wales & Scarlets rugby players with multiple international caps between them.
Listening to the challenges from a skills perspective that they have faced here in West Wales, including the fact that unlike the other home nations within the UK, they are not paid full time by the Welsh Rugby Union. Whilst female rugby players at international level are paid full-time by their Union, here in Wales, they are not, and the players within the female Wales rugby time still often have to hold down other jobs to generate a sufficient income for themselves.
This revelation at the PLANED Annual Conference, has sparked further debate within Pembrokeshire that is replicated to varying degrees across Wales – how can businesses recruit and retain appropriate skills from young people with a fair wage, if they are to continue to deliver that business, and identify future succession planning.
Within Pembrokeshire, over 70% of businesses employ less than five people, and in my last column for Business News Pembrokeshire, I highlighted how we need to support the future labour market more within our county.
To look at this more closely, key partners are already proactively promoting this agenda, but the question for businesses is, particularly our smaller micro enterprises, is do they have the time and capacity to investigate this course of action?
The Welsh Government is putting considerably more emphasis on the role of Regional Skills Partnerships (RSP) across Wales, to be an independent vehicle to undertake an annual demand and supply analysis of what is needed within each region.
Pembrokeshire partners such as Pembrokeshire College actively participate and contribute to the RSP in South West Wales, to make sure that provision meets demand, but therein lies the challenge: employers have to be clear what their demands of both current and future skills are, but have the appropriate tools by which they can contribute at a time convenient to them.
Thankfully, the online survey, accompanied by phone interviews where requested, are championed across the county by key business representative bodies such as the South Wales Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses, who both, along with others, promote the need for businesses to make their voices heard within this annual online survey.
This year alone, almost 1,000 businesses in South West Wales have made their thoughts known via the online survey on their individual and sectoral current and future skills needs. The analysis and results of this survey will then inform the future provision of our education and work based learning providers to help support and inform businesses across Pembrokeshire.
PLANED as a community champion continues to engage, support, and promote the importance of skills across our communities if rural and local businesses are to continue to thrive – with our own projects on affordable local housing, community shares, digitalisation, and general well-being, all dependent on the skills of people being retained, developed, and grown by employers in partnership with providers across the communities within our county.
More About Iwan Thomas
Iwan Thomas is the Chief Executive Officer of PLANED, and joined the organisation here in Pembrokeshire in October 2018 having worked in the public sector for over 20 years.
Prior to joining PLANED, Iwan was the Regional Programme Manager for the North Wales Economic Ambition Board for five years, where he worked on the Growth Deal for the region, and led on the skills and employment agenda.
In addition to a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, Iwan brings considerable experience from working across the private, public and third sectors in partnership across Wales, with recent voluntary posts held including being Chair of the Board of Directors for North Wales Science; a Trustee at Theatr Clwyd; and an Advisory Board Member for the North Wales Regional Schools Consortia.
Iwan is a passionate advocate of skills development and community engagement, having been invited to speak at many national conferences and seminars; and brings to PLANED, direct experience of developing the Regional Skills Partnerships model across Wales, and delivering sustainable outcomes for communities in partnership with employers and politicians on key projects of local, regional, and national significance.