The Welsh Government has launched a £40m skills and jobs fund alongside a pledge to support everyone to find work, education or training or help to start their own business.
The fund is part of a longer-term plan to help Wales recover from coronavirus; to “build back better and ensure no one is left behind,” they said.
Today’s announcement builds on a £50m package for skills and learning targeted towards higher and further education unveiled by Education Minister Kirsty Williams last week.
At the heart of the new funding is a pledge that everyone over 16 will receive the assistance they need to access advice and support to find work or to pursue self-employment or to find and take up a place in education or training.
More support for apprenticeships will be available, they said, together with traineeships, redundancy assistance, retraining programmes and careers advice – all will be crucial in helping to address an expected rise in unemployment and the risk of deepening economic inequality caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Coronavirus threatens to severely affect all the progress we’ve made in reducing unemployment and economic inactivity in Wales over the last decade,” Finance Minister and Trefnydd, Rebecca Evans, said.
“This £40m investment in jobs and skills will be vital in helping soften the impact of the pandemic and will be key to driving our economic recovery.
“As we work to recover from the impact of pandemic, we want to ensure our economy emerges stronger, fairer, greener, more agile and more productive than before. Ultimately we want to build back better – for this to happen, people and businesses need support to face the challenges and pressures coronavirus has placed on them.”
The Welsh Government’s Employability and Skills support would help employers to take on new workers, with incentives for recruiting apprentices and young people, they said. The aim is also to help adults overcome barriers in both maintaining and gaining work with a focus on Wales’ growth sectors.
The plan includes an emphasis on achieving better outcomes for people who will be affected most by the economic downturn, including disabled people, people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, women, and those with low skills and on low wages.
The £40m package will provide:
- More than £20m to incentivise employers to recruit and retain 5,000 apprentices, increase the capacity of traineeship programmes and support more graduates to access work experience, work tasters and paid work placements.
- Almost £9m to help workers access retraining and find new employment, including in areas of skills demand, through ReACT and the Union Learning Fund. This includes the national roll-out of the personal learning accounts programme so an additional 2,000 people can learn new skills and gain new qualifications.
- Funding for traineeships, Working Wales and Communities for Work Plus will be increased to help match people to job opportunities and promote self-employment and new ways of working, as well as funding to support employer-led training through the Flexible Skills programme.
- There will be support for a new Barriers Fund, offering up to £2,000 to support people who may not have previously considered self-employment, in particular women, young people, people from BAME communities and disabled people.
Economy Minister, Ken Skates said that they had already provided Welsh business with the most generous package of support in the UK, which had been crucial in helping them through the crisis.
“Today’s announcement goes a step further and supports our workforce,” he said.
“This £40m package will help incentivise employers to take on and train new workers, including apprentices and young people. It will also help employers to retain and reskill the existing workforce and support individuals looking for work to secure employment or start up their own businesses.
“We are doing everything we can to drive our economic recovery. I now call on our employers to take advantage of the incentives we’re putting in place and play their part in providing quality job and training opportunities right across Wales.”
Education Minister, Kirsty Williams said that the additional funding would create further opportunities for people to expand their knowledge and skills at one of our further or higher education institutions.
“More than £8m will be used to create new degree apprenticeships in digital and advanced manufacturing, help 250 graduates overcome barriers to access work experience placements and to increase the activities of employment bureaus in colleges across Wales,” she said.
“We will also expand our personal learning account programme to reskill or upskill more than 2,000 working people, helping them take a step up the employment ladder and expand the career options available to them.
“It is important that we invest now to support a workforce with the skills to drive forward our economic response to the coronavirus.”