Written by Philippa Marsden; Leader Caerphilly Borough Council and member of the Cardiff Capital Region Cabinet
Despite all the heartache and misery of the past few months, the people and businesses of the Cardiff Capital Region have shown astonishing resilience and an incredible togetherness to work through the challenges and uncertainty caused by the Covid crisis.
It gives me and my colleagues an unshakeable belief that now is the time to broaden our horizons and be ambitious about building the community and economy we need for the 21st century. When we achieve that ambition, we’ll have created the virtuous circle of thriving communities, home to well-rewarded employees being properly developed to their full potential, with everyone enjoying the benefits of a growing, diverse and sustainable local economy. It’s our job at Caerphilly Borough Council and across the entire Cardiff Capital Region to help make that vision a reality – and here are some of the main factors that I believe are fundamental to shaping our success.
Welcoming change and embracing innovation.
Change is the most natural thing in the world – and we need to welcome the opportunities it brings. That means looking at everything we do as a chance to improve and build something much better. That can mean more agile processes, new ways of working, creating win-win support networks or finding new markets for our products and services.
“We need to change. If not now, then when?”
We’ve certainly shown over the past few months just how powerfully we can innovate right across our region. In Caerphilly in particular, we completely changed our Council modus operandi in a matter of days when the Covid crisis hit – and that spirit of embracing the new saw many businesses totally transform, most notably at Transcend, which metamorphosed from being a packaging firm to become a producer of one million PPE face shields a week.
Now is the time for fundamental change. A new norm founded on pace, creativity and investing to succeed.
Balancing over-dependence on service sector employment.
We need to bring a new balance of employers to this region – organisations who see people as their greatest asset and view the foundation living wage as the minimum reward. We already have an eco-system of transferable skills, an educated workforce and a track record of success across both start-ups and the growth of established businesses. Now we need to harness this potential and attract a wider range of good employers, because people who are paid more, spend more, re-invigorating the local economy and bringing all the benefits of ‘belonging’ and having a genuine stake in the place they live. The joined-up thinking of Cardiff Capital Region is central to this, because it enables us to focus rigorously on priority industry sectors, embracing the local supply wherever possible; and bringing inclusive growth that’s sustainable and here to stay.
“We need to bring a new balance of employers to this region.”
That starts with a commitment to bringing well-paid sustainable work to this region – not just through the emerging high-skilled sectors such as, Compound Semi-Conductors, Fintech and Medtech, but also by reimagining what we do and how we do it in more traditional sectors. Take Housing and Construction for example. Why can’t we emulate the German modular style of construction that creates affordable housing, brings environmentally friendly energy efficiency – and creates a whole new skillset for a large workforce? Beyond that, why can’t we make Care a truly aspirational and well-respected career, a vocation that makes a real difference, for people who otherwise face no meaningful work? Again, this is an opportunity to bring real purpose to people’s lives – and we’re committed to making that happen, coming together as a region to build a new Wales.
Going Green Today for Future Generations.
Wales has already led the way in creating the world’s first ever Future Generations Act, with five ways of working that help protect the climate, use resources responsibly, create employment – and shape a more sustainable and equitable society. As a decision-maker, I need to work with my colleagues and all stakeholders to drive the transition as quickly as possible to the world we know we need to be. It means more than ‘just’ reducing traffic congestion and pollution – it means making a wholesale move to new energy sources.
“Our potential to be a stellar example of a green region is immense.”
This should also mean ‘more’ rather than less opportunity here in South Wales. In many ways Covid has already forced us to move our mental model on everyday activities such as travelling to work or even having an office to work from. This really is the chance to take the lead. We’re about to launch our decarbonisation programme here in Caerphilly and across the region we’re blessed with a world-class renewable energy industry, and have been a pioneer of wind farms. Our potential to be a stellar example of a green region is immense. And with it of course comes new industry, new skills, and new jobs – all sustainable in every sense of the word!”
Upskilling & Reskilling our People.
“A strong alignment of relevant training, courses and qualifications to meet every need.”
“We need to help our citizens’ right across the age and skill spectrum to recognise where they have transferrable skills. Critically, we also need to set up new services that facilitate this dialogue and direction – for everyone, be they an avionics engineer facing uncertainty at GE, a fresh graduate coming out into a global recession, or a school-leaver needing to know the full range of apprenticeships open to them. This can’t be achieved in a silo – we must work closely with Higher Education, Further Education and Business to ensure there’s a strong alignment of relevant training, courses and qualifications to meet every need.
Re-imagining our Communities.
All of our local authorities have recovery plans in place, focusing on re-shaping our services, so there’s a huge determination not to return to the old norm. Looking at the bigger picture, this might be the moment in time where we reinvent the communities we are. Take the High Street as an example. It’s been suffering a decline for years; and there’s nothing inspiring about empty shelves or the shell of a building.
“Gold standards rather than a race to the bottom”
So let’s repurpose our high streets as the beating hearts of our communities – a mix of shops, leisure facilities and affordable places to live. Outward-looking places connected through the forthcoming Metro. An economy regenerating around quality sustainable employment, building a gold standard rather than running a race to the bottom. A place to visit and enjoy, amidst beautiful mountains and country parks.
Coming back to Caerphilly in particular, we have much to offer. We have a great economic, environmental and social blend, together with our location, which is at the heart of the region. We have a vision for our towns, including Caerphilly town, as the first green town in Wales, offering a green foundation for transportation, with a unique mixed blend of leisure, living and learning. Now that’s something worth reimagining and reshaping for!”