“Business development and skills should go hand in hand within any enterprise support network and there should be a seamless approach by government to the delivery of support in this area. The Welsh Conservatives should therefore create a new Department for Business and Skills that will enable a clear strategic approach to be adopted”.
The skills of the Welsh workforce lag behind more prosperous regions of the UK and compare poorly to the world’s leading advanced countries.
“Skills That Work for Wales – A Skills and Employment Strategy and Action Plan” is a critical report produced by The Wales Employment and Skills Board that, unlike many other reports, takes seriously the premise that if we improve skills within Wales we will have a more prosperous society, reduced inequality, more jobs and less poverty. Most importantly, the Board emphasised the important message that improving skills is not merely an issue for Government alone, but must fully involve employers at every level. One of the critical conclusions of the report was the importance of skills in the strategic development of businesses alongside other issues such as capital investment, innovation and workforce planning. While recommending that different arms of Government should work more closely together, it is a shame that the report did not take the next step and propose that economic development and skills should be integrated under one super department within the Assembly to ensure real value for employers. In particular, the higher education sector needs to review its role within the economy and adopt a wider skills-based approach to its agenda for supporting economic development and finally recognise that producing basic research may not be the only way it can influence the future of the Welsh economy.
The Way Forward
As the Enterprise and Learning Committee of the National Assembly for Wales has pointed out, there should be better links between economic development and education. However, the Economic Commission believes that a further step is required to deal with the lack of co-ordination between the Department of Economy and Transport and the Department for Children, Education and Lifelong Learning. Business development and skills should go hand in hand within any enterprise support network and there should be a seamless approach by government to the delivery of support in this area. The Welsh Assembly Government should therefore create a new Department for Business and Skills that will enable a clear strategic approach to be adopted.