Page last updated at 06:14 GMT, Wednesday, 6 May 2009 07:14 UK

'Do not cut skills funding' call

warehouse scene
Skills should be targeted at growth industries, the report says

Investment in developing people's skills should not be cut during the recession, a report has warned.

The Wales Employment and Skills Board, which advises ministers, also said funds should be made available to protect apprenticeships.

The body said Wales needed to attract more private companies as economic pressures meant less public sector jobs were likely to be created.

The assembly government said it was working to help firms in the recession.

The Wales Employment and Skills Board (WESB) said the Welsh economy had been "underperforming for years".

It said traditionally Wales had a larger public sector than other parts of the UK, but the balance now needed to "tilt heavily" towards private sector growth if jobs were to be created.

It said it was essential that businesses in Wales became "more ambitious for growth" and that the country was a place where major firms wanted to locate their headquarters and research facilities - not just their branch operations.

Despite all the hard work put in, the Welsh economy has been seriously underperforming that of the UK for decades
Sir Adrian Webb

It called for the assembly government to help people develop high-level skills, which employers need in new growing industries, while also tackling Wales' "serious basic skills deficit".

Sir Adrian Webb, chairman of WESB, said Wales must emerge from the recession "on a much stronger upward trend than before".

"Despite all the hard work put in, the Welsh economy has been seriously underperforming that of the UK for decades," said Sir Adrian, who is former vice-chancellor of the University of Glamorgan.

"Before the recession it was performing at a level that cannot be seen as acceptable. A fundamental transformation is needed and developing the right mix of skills is critical to achieving that."

'Transform the economy'

The report warned that the assembly government and companies should not cut funding and investment in skills.

In particular it argued that money should be made available to protect apprenticeships because redundancies among these trainees would result in a major loss of future skills to the economy.

It also said that management and leadership skills should be developed in order to encourage and equip more companies to grow.

WESB, which was formed a year ago, is made up of representatives from private industry, trade unions, the public sector, training providers and the academic world.

Its report will be presented to deputy first minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones, and deputy minister for skills, John Griffiths, later.

It will be considered by the assembly's cabinet sub-committee next month.

'Emerge more competitive'

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesperson said a lot of the recommendations made by Sir Adrian Webb and his team were already being implemented.

"Every possible effort is being made to ensure Welsh businesses not only weather the global recession - but emerge in a more competitive and stronger position.

"Figures published just last week demonstrate that since devolution there has been a strengthening of the private sector in Wales - which unlike the UK as a whole - has grown at a faster rate than the public sector.

"We will now consider the report's findings in detail as we continue to do everything in our powers to help people, businesses and communities through the current global recession."

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