Covid-19 has put our previous assumptions about the economy into doubt.
There are clear indicators that we are heading into recession, and worrying forecasts that it will be more severe than the 2008 recession, or indeed any downturn since at least the 1930s, and perhaps before. Economists disagree only about the shape of the curve; in other words, how long it will take before we are on the road to recovery.
In this situation, it’s essential that public bodies, like businesses, reconsider some of their previous plans. It’s too early to say how those plans should change, but change they will undoubtedly have to.
Nevertheless, there are a few things about which we can be sure. However long the recession or delayed the recovery, working people in Cardiff Capital Region will need the best skills they can have if they are to get and hold jobs, and help our businesses, old and new, survive through the hard times and take advantage of the recovery when it comes.
That’s why Cardiff Capital Region’s focus on skills as a priority for investment continues to make sense as we look into an uncertain economic future. Before the pandemic struck, the Capital Region was looking at a multi-pronged strategy for skills under the title Future Ready. The overall aim was to “To leverage the potential and impact of all CCR City Deal investments and programmes in creating an inclusive and entrepreneurial future-orientated system for jobs and skills.”
One of the key parts of the strategy is to scale up the CCR Graduate Scheme which has just completed its pilot phase.
This scheme aims to stop the brain drain of graduates from the region, which typically sees 35% of graduates leave the region to find work elsewhere every year.
The scheme is a collaboration between the region’s universities – the University of South Wales, Cardiff University, Cardiff Metropolitan University and the Open University – along with business groups and trade bodies, and seeks to line up graduates with opportunities in businesses that previously had little or no engagement with the graduate recruitment market. The one year pilot, which ran from April 2019 to April 2020, involved 50 graduates, the vast majority of whom have secured permanent roles.
Following the success of the pilot, In March the CCR Regional Cabinet approved plans to scale up the graduate programme. Whereas Covid-19 will undoubtedly have an impact on the pace of this scale up, what is not in question is that when the time is right this will be a key plank of the CCR’s Skills Strategy.
The Graduate Scheme is just one element in the Future Ready Skills Framework. Another is a shared apprenticeship scheme for priority sectors, with single entry routes to promote better co-ordination and emphases on social value and engagement of SMEs and smaller companies.
Another innovative idea is to integrate graduate and shared apprenticeship schemes in a single learner pathway, directing individuals who don’t have the skills to take up an opportunity with a particular employer towards the right training providers.
One of the most exciting elements of the framework is a proposal to create a more intelligent labour market, using data assets and real-time information both to better match employers and jobseekers in the present, and to accurately predict future skills needs.
Finally, the framework also aims to build innovation capacity and enable people, businesses and organisations to become more entrepreneurial; and to embed diversity and inclusion in all its activities, supporting local wealth building and the foundational economy.
The various elements of the framework have one thing in common:
That they are designed to make Cardiff Capital Region more competitive and resilient by encouraging entrepreneurship and embracing inclusivity. Cardiff Capital Region will prosper if all its people have the skills they need to find work in the businesses of the 21st century. This will be as true post Covid-19 as it was before.
In the months ahead we will have a better idea how our economy will cope with the impact of the pandemic, and what resources are available to pursue the region’s skills agenda. There is a great deal of work that is already being done to ensure the skills base in the region is sufficient to meet the demands and challenges of the future, and more announcements can be expected in due course. Whatever happens, skills will continue to be at the heart of the Capital Region’s strategy for growth.