Shaping the Future: A 21st Century Skills System for Wales – Challenges and Opportunities

New report from FETL and IPPR asks how Wales can develop a skills system equal to the challenges and opportunities posed by disruptive global and national trends

Wales should invest in and reform its skills system to prepare the country for the unprecedented opportunities and challenges presented by changes such as Brexit and climate change, according to a new report funded by the Further Education Trust for Leadership (FETL) and written by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

Shaping the Future: A 21st Century Skills System for Wales – Challenges and Opportunities, by Jack Fawcett and Russell Gunson, surveys some of the ‘fundamental’ disruptions emerging as a result of technological, demographic and climate change, as well as domestic shifts such as those caused by Brexit.

It calls for a skills system with ‘a clear focus on delivering a fairer and stronger economy across the whole of the skills system’ and a ‘lifelong learning revolution’ to ensure the whole population has the skills and capabilities needed to deal with change. It also urges more ‘modular and bite-sized learning’ and more ‘flexible and responsive curricula’. To ensure a better balance between autonomy and accountability, it says, ‘Wales should adopt the principle of supported autonomy as a key organising principle for the skills system Wales’.

The report’s recommendations include a demand that the Welsh government makes the delivery of a fairer Wales and a stronger economy a clear priority of the skills system, creating a new ‘skills participation age’ of 18 and setting a clear target for some of the highest rates of adult skills participation in the world.

It also calls on the UK government to guarantee full replacement of EU funding for skills in Wales following the UK’s departure from the EU.

Dame Ruth Silver, President of FETL, said: ‘There can be no doubt that the challenges facing Wales, and indeed the rest of the UK, are acute and in some cases unprecedented. This report, the second and final report of an IPPR project funded by FETL, shows that while some of the reforms underway in Wales point in the right direction, they are by no means enough.

‘The authors highlight the key characteristics a skills system adapted to the unique demands of this century must have, and proposes a series of recommendations for how Wales can get there. The scale of change means that disruption is inevitable, but that does not mean that we cannot prepare for it, and skills reform must be central to this. I expect this important report to be widely read, not only within Wales, but in the other countries of the United Kingdom, all of which face similar problems.’

You can also download this publication in Welsh here. 

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