Julie James AM – Welsh Labour Minister for Skills and Science

Skills for a Growing Economy

Julie James AM – Welsh Labour Minister for Skills and Science

Knocking on doors around my constituency of Swansea West during this general election its clear what the number one issue is - jobs.

As Skills Minister in the Welsh Labour Government I’m proud of the record we have in this area. In the last Assembly term (2011-2016) our interventions supported nearly 150,000 jobs in the Welsh economy. Programmes which we put in place to support those at risk of, or facing redundancy at the time of the economic crash such as ProAct and ReAct have been a quiet success story. Our major youth employment programme Jobs Growth Wales has supported over 17,000 young people into work and become the template for similar interventions elsewhere.

As a result of these measures, economic inactivity in Wales is falling faster than across the UK, employment is rising at one of the fastest rates of any nation or region across the country and inward investment is at record levels.

However, as a Welsh Labour party we set out our stall at last years Assembly election on a platform of Better Jobs Closer to Home because we knew that more needed to be done. Despite our successes, too many people are not progressing in training through the workplace, job insecurity is still a major problem and parts of the country, such as the Heads of the Valleys, are still seeing too little private sector investment. That’s why in government we are taking through an ambitious plan to drive forward skills and training right across Wales.

For those economically inactive there will be a new, joined up Employability Programme that will bring all of our skills interventions into one single programme. From the individual out of the labour market for many years to the young 18 year old with qualifications in need of a little work experience to get them started in their careers, a new employment advice service will shape support around the individual, not individuals around programmes.

For those needing employment closer to where they live, we are developing a Better Jobs Closer to Home programme designed to utilise procurement in a more creative way and ensure more of the benefits of public spending stay in local communities. Four pilot projects are underway to ensure that supported employment is created in areas where we know there is a need for more and better jobs.

For those needing higher skills we are taking forward our commitment to create 100,000 all age apprenticeships this term that will support individuals into growing sectors and help our economy and businesses get the skills they need to expand. Our five year apprenticeship action plan (2016-2022) focuses on four priority areas:

  • Increasing the number of apprentices aged 16-19by increasing the take-up of quality apprenticeships amongst school leavers.
  • Addressing skills shortagesby developing apprenticeships particularly in growth and emerging sectors.
  • Developing higher level skillsby focussing on apprenticeships at level 4 and above where returns tend to be higher. 
  • Developing skills pathwaysby integrating apprenticeships into the wider education system and making it easier for someone to enter into an apprenticeship from another learning route.

The plan takes into account the Apprenticeship Levy launched this April. As a Welsh Labour Government we have not changed our view that the Apprenticeship Levy is fundamentally flawed and directly conflicts with areas of devolved responsibility. We will not be implementing the Levy as it is in England through vouchers as we have seen no evidence that such system would improve the quality of provision.

Our apprenticeships and skills interventions are all being developed in close collaboration with the three Regional Skills Partnerships we have set up. The data they collect about local skills needs allow us to work with Further Education Colleges and businesses to ensure we are developing provision in the areas that our economy needs.

We are also working through the recommendations of the Hazelkorn Review to establish a new single regulatory oversight and co-ordinating authority for the post-compulsory education sector which will be responsible for funding at all levels and be the lead funder of research. It forms part of our commitment as a Welsh Labour Government to ensure parity of esteem between vocational and academic routes through education.

No selection and no grammar schools in Wales – we believe in a fair deal for everyone.

In addition to this, we are also taking forward a proposal to establish a Fair Work Commission to look at the future of our labour market and help stimulate the creation of more good jobs. The Commission will build on the good work we have already done as a Welsh Labour Government to make work fairer by delivering a two-tier code, issuing guidance and principles on the use of non-guaranteed hour contracts, and launching a new Code of Practice for Ethical Procurement in Supply Chains to guarantee good employment practices for the employees involved in public sector supply chains.

As a devolved administration, there will be a Labour Government running skills and training in Wales after 9th June whatever the result. What this election gives us is the opportunity to put a UK Labour Government in power at Westminster that can work in a stronger partnership with Wales.

A partnership that would see Labour’s proposal for a UK Investment Bank work with our new Development Bank of Wales to support greater investment in infrastructure, the economy and people right across Wales.

A new partnership that would create better jobs closer to home.

welsh dragon

Julie James AM – Welsh Labour Minister for Skills and Science

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