South East Wales is about to ride the biggest wave of skilling, re-skilling and upskilling ever seen.
Like most other modern economies, a combination of demographic shift, race to zero and fourth industrial revolution presents Cardiff Capital Region with some of the most monumental challenges – and opportunities – witnessed in the field of human capital.
Meeting those challenges and seizing those opportunities are critical to creating the competitive businesses, connected communities and resilient economy we need.
And that’s why the strong progress being made by the CCR Skills Partnership (CCRSP) is so important to everyone in our region.
As the strategic body that produces insightful labour market intelligence aligned to economic data, the CCRSP has over the last four years reviewed our regional skills provision, worked with employers to understand their needs – and advised Welsh Government on future prioritisation – with the goal of stimulating innovative approaches to maximising the impact of future skills activity and funding.
The launch of the CCRSP 2022-2025 Skills Plan ‘Prosperity through Partnership’ at the end of last year brought a renewed vigour and refined focus to skills provision – and we spoke with Leigh Hughes, Chair of the CCRSP, about the seven main themes that are shaping employability and the skillscape in our region ….
Accelerating economic and inclusive growth in the region
“Skills are often the number one issue and priority for business” explains Leigh “and throughout the development of our Plan, we have heard the constant message that having a well skilled and able labour market, work-ready to embrace the industries of the future, is a prerequisite for most businesses.
“Our mission is to help identify and respond to that need, supporting the CCR Industrial and Economic Plan to accelerate economic and inclusive growth in the region. And on the journey from our inaugural 2019-2022 plan to our current iteration, we have identified seven key themes that cut across everything that we do ….
1. Strengthening post-16 education to meet the needs of employers in priority sectors.
“Ensuring that qualifications funded through the Personal Learning Account Programme (PLA) meet industry demands was one of the many achievements of our 2019-22 plan – and we’re now looking to build on this through robust labour market intelligence that will expand the PLA offer across the region.
“That will mean developing skills and talent pipelines through Academy and Bootcamp models that promote ever-closer collaboration between industry, education, stakeholders and government – as well as working with Welsh Government and the proposed Commission for Tertiary Education & Research (CTER) to achieve the ambition of delivering a joined-up post-compulsory education and training system.”
2. Broadening the Apprenticeship offer at higher levels.
“We’ve been supporting the Welsh Government’s ambition to create 125,000 apprenticeships over the Senedd term – increasing opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to increase life chances and develop transferable skills for the workplace.
“It’s been fascinating to map the Degree Apprenticeships on offer, and influence the content of refreshed Apprenticeship Frameworks. Now we’re pushing ahead using hard evidence to develop new Apprenticeship frameworks at all levels – increasing uptake across priority sectors and building on the successful Aspire, Y Prentis and Sgil Cymru Shared Apprenticeship models.”
3. Bringing employability to people furthest away from the labour market.
“We’re fully aware of the potential impact of Brexit – and the loss of EU funding – on projects and programmes that support employability and skills across the region. And that’s why we’re focused on working with government, DWP and key stakeholders to improve the employment prospects for economically inactive people, through initiatives such as the CELT project, which has been successfully delivered across the region, directly supporting individuals to work in a priority sector.
“Moving forward, we’re looking to influence the direction of Shared Prosperity Fund activities – particularly those related to ‘People & Skills’ – across South East Wales, producing robust Labour Market Intelligence that informs the development of emerging projects and programmes; as well as supporting the Young Person’s Guarantee which gives everyone under 25 the help they need to move into work, education, training or self-employment.”
4. Promoting digital technology as a key ‘enabling sector’ – creating a workforce with the digital confidence to excel.
“The digital technology industry is revolutionising the way people live and work – and CCRSP has helped produce marketing materials to promote the significant developments in this sector, helping attract inward investment, and pushing forward visions such as an employer-led National Technology Institute for our region.
“That commitment will continue, further developing National Occupational Standards to make sure that vocational qualifications keep pace with industry need, addressing critical skills shortages and promoting vendor training provision through the Personal Learning Account programme – and increasing the uptake of Apprenticeships at all levels.”
5. Developing skills to support the transition towards a low carbon economy.
“We have worked intelligently and collaboratively to help identify emerging ‘green’ jobs and assess any skills gaps and shortages – with our initial findings suggesting there are a broad range of challenges surrounding the green revolution, including inconsistent definitions and potentially competing priorities.
“We have increased the volume of funded qualifications to empower employers in their transition towards a low carbon economy – and we’re redoubling our efforts to develop National Occupational Standards that reflect new and emerging roles, reporting on the barriers to meeting net zero requirements, as well as exploring opportunities to develop new qualifications in close collaboration with the South Wales Industrial Cluster and Wales TUC.”
6. Making sure emerging qualifications meet industry needs.
“We have supported a broad range of sector reviews undertaken by Qualifications Wales – including those focused on Construction and the Built Environment, Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing, as well as Travel, Tourism, Hospitality and Catering. That work has helped us become informed advocates for the development of new and refreshed National Occupational Standards, capable of being the building blocks for sector-focused vocational qualifications.
“Our focus now is to work with Qualifications Wales through their sector reviews and help with the implementation processes – influencing Colegau Cymru, NFTW and training providers to ensure that practitioners are suitably skilled to deliver against new requirements; as well as engaging with ‘Qualified for the Future’ to reshape the qualifications landscape and utilise priority sector cluster groups through the new Curriculum for Wales.”
7. Promoting the key sectors as viable career options.
“Working closely with Careers Wales, we have already mapped the employer-directed Careers Education, Information, Advice & Guidance activities across regional priority sectors – and those findings are informing a joint Careers Wales/CCRSP Action Plan.
“Moving forward, we’ll be promoting careers-related initiatives such as the CCR Venture scheme, local authority programmes such as the Cardiff Commitment initiative – and national programmes that include the Education Business Exchange and Valued Partner Initiative – as well as inspiring businesses to engage with schools as part of the new Curriculum for Wales and Careers & Work Related Experiences cross-cutting theme.”
“This 2022-2025 plan follows the successful first iteration that met all its major targets despite the shock of a pandemic. It’s been built on close collaboration with business, education and training providers, as well as the Welsh Government. And it’s being activated right now, to make South East Wales the best it can be as a place where skilled workforces are shaped for success; in a region where no one is left behind.”