Leigh Hughes, CSR Director at BOUYGUES UK. Chairman, Employment and Skills Board at Cardiff Capital Region
One question I always get asked by inward investors into our region is: what’s the talent pipeline like?
It’s a fair question, because the local skills base is one of the key considerations for any business deciding where to locate its operations.
That’s why skills have been identified as a priority for investment in Cardiff Capital Region. Whatever happens to our economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the skills of our people will be of huge importance to how our region’s businesses perform in the future.
Before the pandemic hit, we had been developing a three-year plan focusing on the priority sectors of the future in south-east Wales, the ones – such as compound semiconductors and medical diagnostics and devices – with the biggest potential for economic growth and creation of high value jobs.
The plan has been informed by engagement with key sector groups of employers, training providers and government; and we believe that it and our recommendations to government will ensure that the needs of industry will be met, and this will provide opportunities for young people to learn and earn in the region.
Our research with employers, whatever the sector, provides us with very similar feedback, and that is that young recruits struggle with things like being part of a team, communicating, reading and writing.
Digital skills span all sectors, because we’re moving into a world where artificial intelligence and automation are looming large.
Digital technology skills are enabling and transforming industries across Wales and the region and changing the way people live and work, as you can see with the numbers of people now working from home. The sector is evolving at such a pace, it’s not just young people and future roles; the disruptive nature of new technologies will affect existing occupations in many industries, so upskilling the current workforce will be a necessity.
Crucially, though, our work on skills is not just about equipping people with high value skills for high value jobs. In a region like ours, if you only focus on the high growth sectors, you risk leaving people behind. In Cardiff Capital Region, which already has big inequalities, we don’t want to do that.
During the Covid-19 outbreak we have seen clearly the value of social care. Frontline workers who have traditionally been seen as low skilled have risked their lives daily to bring care and comfort to some of the most needy and vulnerable people in our communities.
After this pandemic, social care workers will rightly enjoy a higher regard among the public.
They will also begin to be seen as skilled workers. We believe that the nature of social care is likely to change at a much quicker pace than originally anticipated as it becomes more embedded with health care and we adjust as a society. Already, before the outbreak started, there was a requirement for everybody in the sector to achieve a level 2 qualification, and this was presenting challenges and means there is a significant skills gap. Once that’s achieved, people will want to progress to level 3 or 4. We’re starting to bring some status and a proper career progression pathway into social care.
So in the Cardiff Capital Region of the future we’ll have degrees and higher apprenticeships in the high value sectors such as cyber security and fintech, but we’ll also have equipped people in the foundational economy now with the skills that are more resilient in a fast-changing environment
This will give us the resilience and competitiveness we will need to survive and prosper – as individuals, businesses, and communities – in the post Covid-19 future.