Last autumn, we spoke with Leigh Hughes, Chair of the Cardiff Capital Region Regional Skills Partnership (CCRRSP), to get his perspective on how the 2019-2022 Skills Strategy had progressed through the shock of the pandemic.
Six months further on, we caught up with Leigh for a spring update on what has been a surprisingly resilient two business quarters for many sectors.
“The last year has proven to be like no other, but throughout all the upheaval, we’ve continued to work to the imperatives of our three year Skills Partnership Strategy – and we remain firmly “on track” to meet our main goals and ambitions, with notable skills collaborations and development milestones achieved on many different levels across a diverse range of industries.
Strengthening skills specialisation and curriculum planning
“First and foremost, we’ve continued to strengthen the specialisation of the post-16 Further Education offer across the Priority Sectors, to meet the immediate needs and build the talent pipelines for these high-value roles, right across the region. That’s seen us work closely with the six FE providers in the region, reviewing facilities and ensuring there’s provision to meet the key employer needs – including the resources available in our Construction & Engineering, Rail and Energy centres of excellence. That’s an ongoing evidence-based process which will make sure the FE’s become ever-more tuned to employer needs – and the submission of our Regional Outline Plan to Welsh Government means that there’s also been significant progress made in improving curriculum planning, to ensure that schools, colleges and training providers are delivering the right balance and mix of provision, for both the learners and our businesses.”
A more joined-up approach to skills development and delivery
“We’ve also developed a more joined-up approach to skills development and delivery across the region, with a particular focus on supporting people who are not in work, with the additional aim of reducing skills shortages in key sectors – establishing Task & Finish Groups with Careers Wales across all priority clusters, forging much closer collaboration with the National Federation of Training in Wales to shape collaborative events and surveys, as well as growing the Professional Development Fund and partnering with many initiatives such as Cardiff Commitment’s Experience of Work pilot for teachers. Critically, we’ve also broadened the apprenticeship offer at Levels 3 and 4, Higher and Degree levels, responding speedily to the government policy changes as well as developing closer ties with Qualifications Wales to bring a much more unified approach to skills and qualifications.
Many highlights, from the Personal Learning Account Programme, to the Priority Sector campaigns and Virtual Careers Fair
“There are many highlights for me amidst all this positive activity. The recent merger of the Skills Development Programme into the new Personal Learning Account Programme provides an enhanced package of support for employees who are earning under £26k, as well as furloughed workers, those on zero hour contracts, agency staff and people who are at risk of being made redundant. It’s a flexible learning pathway that can help people find a new career and embark on a new vocation – and it will prove an invaluable support given the OECD’s forecast that 20% of our current jobs will have disappeared by 2025.
Significant progress on skills development and talent pipelining
We’ve also made significant progress on creating authoritative National Occupational Standards, with the Welsh Government providing funding for the CCRSP to utilise our employer networks, identify those occupations that are a priority, emerging or in decline, so we can make accurate decisions that optimise our skills development and talent pipelining – and it was also heart-warming to see CCRSP support the Apprenticeships Awards Cymru, recognising the individuals, learning providers and employers who have excelled in developing the apprenticeship and training programmes – and general employability initiatives – across all sectors.
“Closer to home, the team here at CCR have been driving our own initiatives such as the Priority Sector Marketing Campaigns run in conjunction with Business News Wales, highlighting the breadth of careers available in our heroic Care Sector, award-winning Creative Industries and fast-emerging Fintech Cluster – and our free Virtual Careers Fair in March, which ran in partnership with Careers Wales, Working Wales, DWP, National Training Federation Wales, Local Authorities and expert independent training providers.
Employers responding to climate change through a proactive CSR will be employers of choice for those people with the new skillsets
“It’s clear that all five generations in the workplace will be refining, enhancing or completely changing their skillsets in the next few years – and the feedback I get on a regular basis is that all age groups understand that this is a transformation driven by climate change as well as automation and the global economy. That’s why those employers with positive and proactive Corporate Social Responsibility policies and practices will win the hearts and minds of the many different skillsets that will be emerging from the wide range of programmes running right across the Cardiff Capital Region.
“There are still challenges to be overcome, of course, but as I write, there appears to be a growing sense of optimism in the economy and definite improvements in the jobs market: and these are critical factors for the success of our skilling programmes – as the people of all ages now being skilled, upskilled and reskilled bring their new-found expertise and knowledge to the evolving workplaces of the fourth industrial age.”