Dafydd Gruffydd is the Managing Director of Menter Mon, a non-profit organisation providing business solutions to communities in rural Wales. With 26 years of experience in rural development, Dafydd discusses the need for developing and upskilling existing workforces to help businesses adapt to an ever-changing landscape.
Menter Mon works in a variety of sectors, from marine energy to conservation, to Welsh language, and the Llangefni-based company seeks to overcome the many challenges faced by businesses, communities, the public sector, and individuals in the most rural areas of Wales.
Reflecting on over two decades with Menter Mon, Dafydd explained,
“I went to Bangor University and studied Environmental Planning and Management with no real plan of what I wanted to do. I knew I enjoyed geography, but that was it. I sort of fell into this career, happily so. I knew the managing director of Menter Mon at the time, and I was impressed by his efforts. I found I was enthused by him and his passion for working in an industry that supports rural projects and grows opportunities for those communities.”
“Since joining Menter Mon, I’ve learned that the crucial factor to staying ahead in this industry, or any really, is to remain inquisitive and to keep learning. The more you work with communities, regardless of the sector or particular problem, it all comes down to being able to work with people and find the solution for them on an individual basis.”
A large part of Menter Mon’s ethos is to give back to local communities, both through people and resources. Dafydd explained:
“something we’re working on currently is that we are looking to add value to local, natural resources – so things like tidal energy or wool. We are looking to increase the value of these for the benefit of the local area. Cities are often naturally centres for innovation; they are more of a creative hub of minds, and there are more investment opportunities there. In a rural area, we have to be more creative to bring people together and create that same hub and buzz. We’re not in the public or private sector, so we operate in that space between.”
Menter Mon, like all businesses in Wales, has had to adapt and innovate with the huge changes that have occurred in recent years. Dafydd said:
“with European funding coming to an end, there has been a need for us to diversify. In the last five years, we’ve pushed into new sectors to counter this loss and keep up with an extremely changeable landscape. With the loss of funding, we need more staff to be able to facilitate the adapting we’re having to do.”
“Unfortunately, when we advertise for jobs, we don’t always get the response we need, and we feel there is a clear lack of people looking for jobs in more rural parts of the country, where misconceptions about opportunities outside of cities can be a problem,” Dafydd said, delving into the challenges that businesses in Wales face with recruitment. Part of the reason for this is that people prefer to relocate, either around firms to try them on for size or to other regions, rather than stay in one spot. We require someone with the necessary talents, mindset, and attitude. We want to create and sustain possibilities for local residents.
“It’s difficult to fill high-value jobs, but there is a solution to this. We look after the staff we do have, both young and older, who can adapt and then move into roles we need to fill. Young people need to be informed of their part in our economy and understand that bigger picture, so they have more of a connection with their area and can tangibly see the value of their presence within it. We shouldn’t be raising able young people and then shipping them out of the area.”
“It’s a very competitive market out there for staff, so training existing employees is often far easier and cheaper than trying to recruit new ones. Recruitment can be a lottery, where some people are a great fit and others less so. If you know a member of staff has the right attitude and the right morale, it’s crucial to develop them and keep them in the business to act as a mentor and an example for younger employees just starting out.
“When we have young people coming in for work experience, we should be looking at upskilling them and looking to seeing if there is a job for them at the end of this rather than giving them the opportunity, developing them, and then sending them on their way. Young people are some of the most adaptive and malleable employees, so we want to champion and support their growth and watch them grow with us.”
Through Business Wales, the Welsh Government provides a number of recruiting and training support initiatives for firms wishing to attract fresh talent as well as train and upskill their existing employees. Looking to the future, Dafydd stressed the importance of training for employee retention.
“employers must be shown to care about their employees. Employees, both young and old, gain confidence when they realise that their company is spending time, money, and effort in them and their development. There is a wealth of support available to assist with educating your existing workforce, ranging from Welsh Government-funded Apprenticeships to industry-specific and union-led financing, making it easier for businesses to make that investment even as we navigate difficult economic times.
“Training your existing staff is so important. If their attitude is correct, the skills they currently have can be adapted into the skills we need them to have for future projects. There is no limit to what an employee can achieve with the right training and the right mindset from them.”
Business Wales Recruit and Train offers access to a wide range of support to help employers train and upskill existing employees and find new recruits to join their team, including Apprenticeships, Wales Union Learning Fund, and the Flexible Skills Programme.
Visit www.businesswales.gov.wales/skillsgateway to find out more.