Investment in further education vital for post-Brexit workforce skills

(Jisc.ac.uk under Creative Commons Licence CC BY-NC-ND)

The Motion (Final/Amended Version)

The Senedd:

  • Recognises the importance of further education in developing the skills of the Welsh workforce to meet the demands of the Welsh economy post-Brexit.
  • Calls on the Welsh Government to: increase funding for further education; expand the number of degree apprenticeships; create an adult learning allowance and working with higher and further education institutes and employers ensure provision meets evolving technological needs of the economy.
  • Calls on the Welsh Government to recognise the importance of Erasmus+ in attracting people to Wales via the further education and higher education sectors and commit to opposing any attempt by the UK Government to exit the programme in 2021.

Skills shortages harming the Welsh economy

Shadow Skills Minister, Mohammad Asghar AM (Con, South Wales East), said skills shortages were costing the Welsh businesses £155million a year and Open University research found that 54% of businesses had problems recruiting workers with specific skills – mainly in engineering.

“Wales is behind the curve in rolling out degree apprenticeships. In response to increasing employers’ demands for higher-level skills and work-based learning routes to a degree, degree apprenticeships have become an increasingly desirable mode of delivery.”
– Shadow Skills Minister, Mohammed Asghar

Bethan Sayed AM (Plaid, South Wales West) found it ironic that the Conservatives were concerned people weren’t fulfilling their potential when the Erasmus student exchange scheme was set to be lost after Brexit – and with it some funding for FE colleges. She called for a more uniform arrangement for apprenticeships with all apprentices under the age of 21 being partnered to an FE college to ensure they were provided with appropriate support.

Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.) said the flexible learning hours provided by FE colleges were essential for those in full or part-time employment to learn new skills. Also, every £1 invested in further education results in £7.90 being generated for the economy. FE colleges deserved to be put on a stronger financial footing with long-term budgets as opposed to year-by-year settlements.

Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central) was saddened that just 1% of apprenticeships in Wales offered over the last two academic years are in agriculture. Improving agricultural skills may be one way to address the stagnant economic productivity in rural areas.

Janet Finch-Saunders AM (Con, Aberconwy) supported an adult learning allowance – particularly in light on the economy becoming more dependent on older workers.

Wales is “leading the way”

Education Minister, Kirsty Williams (Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnor) believes Wales was already well on the way to delivering many of the things the Conservative motion set out.

Personal learning accounts have been piloted at two FE colleges for people earning less than £26,000-a-year and there’s no distinction in Wales between full-time and part-time degrees when applying for student support. There’s even a scheme to support the over-60s to study for master’s degrees.

“I’m proud that, unlike in England, we’re providing investment to ensure that FE lecturers in Wales have pay parity with their colleagues in schools. I’m proud that we continue to provide investment to support colleges with financial pressures that fall upon them as a result of pensions. As I said: £2 million for mental health; £5 million for professional learning; and £10 million for the skills development fund. We are supporting our FE institutions, supporting our students and learners, and we’re developing the skills Wales needs to meet the demands of our economy.”
– Education Minister, Kirsty Williams

Vote

Yes, I know it’s a bit strange for the Tories to abstain on their own motion, but they didn’t explicitly reject the motion as a whole, so it counts as supporting it in principle if not word-for-word.


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