What next for the Welsh economy?

Julie James talks about her party’s plans for getting more people into work and training.

Over the last Assembly term Welsh Labour has been very successful in helping individuals into good quality training and employment. We said in 2011 that we would stand up for the people of Wales and as part of our response to the great recession we developed programmes shaped to meet the needs of individuals and businesses right across Wales.
Take Jobs Growth Wales, our flagship programme to support job ready young people into good quality employment, as an example. When the global economy slowed we knew there was a problem with businesses nervous about the future and that this would manifest itself in a reluctance to grow their firms and give employment to young people aged 16-24.
Getting no help from the UK Conservative Government at the time who were inexplicably cutting the successful Future Jobs Fund, Welsh Labour stepped in and through a partnership with Welsh employers developed Jobs Growth Wales to provide support to businesses that allowed them to continue to expand their businesses by taking on young people. Young people benefited hugely from the scheme as they then got vital job experience and avoided having a period of unemployment scar their CVs and ruining the early part of their careers.
Four years later and with over 15,000 individuals supported into good quality employment I think we can safely say that Jobs Growth Wales has helped the Welsh economy, our businesses and our young people,  through the tough times.
However 2016 is a very different place to 2012. The economy is changing and the needs of our businesses are changing too. Firms are employing young people again and there is less demand for a programme like Jobs Growth Wales. Whilst there are still threats and a sense of fragility in the global economy, the next Welsh Government will have to adapt its support for individuals and firms according to what they need.
In the next term Welsh Labour wants to go on supporting our businesses to thrive. Just as we helped Aston Martin and TVR come to Wales, so we also want to go on helping individuals into high quality work and training by being an agile, business friendly government.
In the next term Welsh Labour will create a minimum of 100,000 high quality all age apprenticeships to help support the growing Welsh economy and provide a firm foundation for many of the major infrastructure projects we have planned right across Wales.
However we will  re-shape our employability support too so that the routes into high quality training are also clear. In the coming term Welsh Labour in government will do this by developing employability support that focuses less on specific groups of people and  more on bespoke, all age support.
We will do this by bringing employability programmes like Traineeships, ReAct and Jobs Growth Wales into one, all-age programme. So after a simple, initial assessment individuals can be put on a Skills Track with a tailored programme of support that is right for them.
So whether you are a job ready young person struggling to find work; someone long-term unemployed wanting to get the basic skills for the labour market or an individual in their 50s wanting to adapt their skills for employment in a new sector, we will have a single gateway for you to access support and get the right training or employment support.
Wales needs a small, smart government acting in this way to help us build on the successes of the recent past, but at the same time adapt our skills and training support according to what our economy and businesses need in the future.
Together for our economy, Together for Wales, Welsh Labour has a plan to help us build a strong economy.

Julie James is the Welsh Labour Deputy Minister for Skills.

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