THE WELSH GOVERNMENT has outlined a £310m package of financial support to drive up skills across Wales.
Ahead of the publication of the Welsh Government’s departmental spending plans, the Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams, announced £50m of capital funding for Further Education and Higher Education sectors to improve facilities and learning environments for students.
Over the next two years, £10m will be allocated for FE institutions to invest in industry-standard training equipment and a further £10m for essential maintenance to ensure safe learning environments.
An additional £30m (£10m in each of the next three years) will be allocated to support higher education estate rationalisation. This will expand the successful 21st century schools and education programme to include a ring-fenced fund for higher education estates; reducing surplus capacity and creating a more energy-efficient estate across Wales.
The Minister for Skills and Science, Julie James, also confirmed that £260m will be invested for apprenticeships over the next two years (£130m in each year) to support the Welsh Government’s commitment of creating 100,000 all-age apprenticeships over the life of this Assembly term.
Education Secretary Kirsty Williams said: “Our £50m capital investment for the FE and HE sector will enable them to provide state of the art facilities, improving learning environments for students and satisfying local employer needs. This investment is crucial both for our learners and for the wider economy.
Minister for Skills and Science, Julie James said: “We are committed to raising skills standards across the board in Wales and through our draft budget are putting investments in place to do just that.
“Apprenticeships are the start of an exciting and rewarding career, giving people an opportunity to gain on the job experience while gaining all the skills and qualifications they need.
“We are already delivering one of the most successful apprenticeship programmes in Europe – the £260m we’re investing over the next two years will build on this and enable us to deliver our commitment of creating 100,000 all-age apprenticeships over the life of this Assembly term.”
Responding, Darren Millar AM, Welsh Conservative Shadow Education Secretary, said: “This capital investment is a mere fraction of what colleges and universities have been calling for, but the announcement is at least a step in the right direction.
“The Welsh Government must now map out a long-term plan for sustainable higher and further education system which will equip Wales with the skills our nation needs to compete in a global world.”
Apprentices deserve better financial support
APPRENTICES in Wales should have similar access to financial support as University students.
That’s the main finding from the Assembly’s Economy Infrastructure and Skills Committee, which published its latest report on Apprenticeships in Wales on Thursday (Feb 14).
Committee Chair, Russell George AM, said: “Parity of esteem between vocational and academic routes needs to be underpinned by parity of support for learners.
“There is a strong moral case for the Welsh Government to apply similar levels of support to apprentices as would be available to their peers in full-time education.”
The Welsh Government has this week launched an advertising campaign to promote a new package of measures for university students which it describes as ’the most generous student support package in the UK’.
While apprentices receive a wage while they train, they are not eligible for the support available to students, which can make being an apprentice seem less attractive.
The Committee heard that some young people are deterred from entering apprenticeships by the initial costs involved. These can be relatively minor sums of money to travel to interviews, or the first few weeks of work before they get paid.
The Committee’s work found that while there is much that is positive about Apprenticeships in Wales there were a few surprises.
Mr George added: “We were surprised that the number of disabled apprentices in Wales was far below the rate achieved in England.
“We were also concerned that a lack of providers may be preventing young people undertaking apprenticeships through the medium of Welsh.
“There is still a stubborn gender segregation when we talk about apprenticeships. Both the Welsh Government and stakeholders are committed to address this, and are taking steps to do so, but progress has been slow. This issue is not unique to Wales.
“We are recommending annual publication of figures to maintain pressure and ensure that apprenticeships in Wales are available to all.”
The Committee also looked at the role of careers guidance for young people – particularly in schools – to ensure they are being made aware of vocational as well as academic options.
Mr George added: “During the course of our investigation we heard concerns about the way careers advice is delivered in schools. Our additional scrutiny in this area has given us assurance that Careers Wales has a credible plan, and is working closely with the Welsh Government and schools to address these issues. We will keep an eye on whether this proves successful.”
Minister visits adult learning initiative
WELSH Language and Lifelong Learning Minister, Eluned Morgan visited Monkton Primary School in Pembrokeshire on Friday, February 9, to hear more about a successful community adult learning initiative run from the school.
Started in September 2012 with support from the Welsh Government, the Launch Project aims to raise adults’ skills standards and education attainment within the community by making learning accessible to everyone.
Both accredited and non-accredited courses and workshops are delivered at the school and other community venues and have been specifically designed to remove barriers so that people in the community can gain the confidence and skills needed to seek employment.
The provision has also been designed to cater for a wide range of learner needs, from basic skills and IT courses to various accredited courses including a foundation degree in Education and Social Inclusion.
During the visit the Minister met with some of the adult learners who have benefitted from the project and heard their personal accounts about how it has helped them to turn their lives around, gain new skills and seize new employment opportunities.
Speaking after the visit, Minister said: “This project is a great example of a community-driven learning initiative that has been designed by the community for the community and I applaud Monkton Primary School for its pivotal role in that.
“The school is clearly committed to lifelong learning and building an ethos of working and learning together, built on mutual respect between adults and children.
“It was also inspiring hearing from those who have benefitted from the project and seeing first hand the positive impact it has had on their lives and their confidence.”
Extra investment in 21st Century Schools
£100M is to be invested over the next three years to accelerate the delivery of the flagship 21st Century Schools and Education programme, Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams and Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning Eluned Morgan has said.
An extra £75m, has been allocated to the 21st Century Schools and Education Programme a major, long-term and strategic capital investment programme to modernise education infrastructure.
In addition, £30m will be released from the programme in future years for immediate investment in capital projects that will contribute to the goal of reaching a million Welsh speakers by 2050. This is a shared priority with Plaid Cymru.
The money will bring the total invested over the life of the programme to almost £3.8bn. The first phase of the programme will finish in 2019 having invested £1.4bn to support the rebuild and refurbishment of more than 150 schools and colleges across Wales. The second phase will see a spend of £2.3bn.
Kirsty Williams said: “Our national mission is to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and confidence. Our 21st Century Schools and Education Programme plays a key part in this and is the largest investment in our schools and colleges since the 1960s.
“Having a comfortable, modern, fit-for-purpose environment in which to learn is vital to ensuring young people have the best possible education. This extra funding will mean that even more of our students will be able to benefit from having the best possible facilities in their schools and colleges.”
Eluned Morgan said: “Reaching a million Welsh speakers by 2050 is a significant challenge and education is key to the success of this ambition. This means we need to invest in new Welsh medium schools and improve and increase the teaching of Welsh in English medium schools. Bringing forward this funding for immediate investment allows us to ensure there is no delay in the work to achieve this target.”
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