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Education

4,000 attend SkillsCymru

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Learning how to lay bricks: Ella Haf Rees and Steffan Evans

YOUNG people from across Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire were given a taste of different career options at SkillsCymru, a regional careers fair featuring more than 100 employers, which took place during Apprenticeship Week at Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli last Thursday and Friday (Mar 9-10).

Organised by Careers Wales and Coleg Sir Gâr, and supported by the Welsh Government and European Social Fund, the event was designed to inspire and educate visitors about the variety of different careers and vocational routes available to them.

More than 4,000 young people attended the free event over the two days.

Members of the public also attended the event to find out more about their career options, vocational routes and apprenticeship courses with some of Wales’ biggest companies such as Welsh Water, Principality and Bluestone Leisure Resorts.

Visitors were able to try their hand at virtual welding, creating short animations and driving a tractor using the Welsh Government’s state-of-the-art ‘have a go’ equipment, designed to increased participation in vocational pathways.

Attendees also tested their vocational skills by taking part in a range of interactive activities offered by employers who attended the event, from giving manicures and styling hair to laying bricks and making exotic mocktails.

Ffion Anderson, 15, from Maes y Gwendraeth School, said: “I really enjoyed visiting the science stands such as the NHS Wales and Cardiff University Medical School because I’d really like to become a surgeon or a cardiologist when I’m older.

“It was great seeing the ultrasound equipment on the NHS stand, the pictures you can get are so clear it’s amazing, it was so fascinating and made me realise I definitely want to go into the medical profession.

“I’m hoping to get into a Welsh university and study part of the course in the Welsh language, so it was useful to be able to talk to some people from the NHS about the sort of grades I’ll need and extra activities that might help my application to medical school.”

Steffan Evans, 14, from Ysgol Dyffryn Aman, said: “Coming along to Skills Cymru Carmarthenshire was a real eye opener for me as there were so many different things to see and do.

“I’d really like to become a geography teacher at a secondary school when I’m older, as I really love the subject and I’ve been really inspired by my own geography teacher, Mrs Campbell.

“Even though I’ve got a clear idea of what I want to do, it’s good to see how many different jobs there are available.”

Minister for Skills and Science Julie James attended the event, talking to employers and apprentices about the career options they were there to promote, and taking part in some of the ‘have a go’ activities.

She said: “It was inspiring to see so many young people from across Carmarthenshire thinking about their futures and talking to some of the biggest employers in the country.

“Those faced with choosing their next steps, whether it’s going to college, university or straight into the world of work, have big decisions to make and careers events like this help them to decide their future.

“Seeing some of Wales’ biggest employers attend the event demonstrates their commitment to investing in the future of Wales’s workforce, helping inspire the next generation to think about all pathways, including vocational routes into work.”

Richard Spear, chief executive of Careers Wales, added: “Organising events like these is key to helping young people learn more about the many different jobs and careers they could pursue.

“We often work with young people who are unsure about their next steps, not knowing what sector to go into. It’s our job to help them recognise what their skills are most suited towards and match their talents to a career.

“Careers events like SkillsCymru are a great opportunity to have an open and honest discussion with a huge variety of employers all in one place about what sort of qualifications and skills they look for, as well as asking apprentices about their course and experiences.”

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Education

Apprentices deserve better financial support

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More and better funding: Committee calls for better deal for apprentices

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.​”​

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Education

Minister visits adult learning initiative

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Eluned Morgan: Inspired by visit to Monkton School

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.”

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Education

Extra investment in 21st Century Schools

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Announced £100m extra: Kirsty Williams

£100​M ​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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