Challenges and Opportunities
The Further Education Trust for Leadership (FETL) is pleased to publish this IPPR report, which examines the challenges and opportunities that Wales will face in the years to come and asks how skills can help the country respond, building a stronger, more inclusive and prosperous Wales for the 21st century.
It follows a previous IPPR report, also supported by FETL, which considered what a 21st century skills system would look like in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Some of the challenges facing Wales are shared by other countries in the UK and, indeed, by other industrialised countries. Technological and demographic change point to a need for a greater focus on skills development, particularly for adults, who, increasingly, will have to retrain and upskill in order to remain effective in the labour market. These trends are likely to be exacerbated by Brexit, which will increase our reliance on the cultivation of homegrown skills and talent, indicating a greater need not only for skills development but also for more investment, particularly in further education.
Wales also faces a number of distinctive challenges, associated with the decline of major manufacturing industries, notably steel and car production, entrenched economic inequality in some areas, and the distinctive pace and character of the country’s ongoing programme of post-16 reform. The purpose of this report is to review not only these challenges, but also the opportunities for Wales, grounding these insights in a careful survey of recent developments and established trends.
The report, importantly, takes a holistic view of the post-16 skills system in Wales, encompassing not only colleges and independent training providers, but also schools and higher education. This is in tune with the drift of policy in Wales, which seems to be moving towards the idea of an overarching vision for post-compulsory education, in line too with the recommendations of the Augar report in England.
This approach is welcome, and I hope it will be fully embraced by the sector, as well as by the Welsh Government. As I have argued elsewhere, it is critical that we think widely and holistically about how educational resources are distributed, and treat no part of the sector as off limits.
This IPPR report is the first of two that will consider what the 21st century skills system for Wales will look like. It aims to stimulate further thought and discussion about the challenges and opportunities for Wales, with a view to mapping out a vision for skills in the country that is equal to them. I hope it will be widely read and debated, and will stimulate further research to help ensure Wales has the skills system it needs.
Dame Ruth Silver is President of the Further Education trust for Leadership