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Written Statement - The Construction Industry In Wales

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Ieuan Wyn Jones, Minister for the Economy and Transport and Deputy First Minister

The construction industry in Wales is recognised as a highly valued and pivotal part of the Welsh economy supporting the delivery of greater prosperity and a quality environment.

Substantial opportunities for our construction industry will be opened up through investments in the 6 key sectors and through our commitment to develop Wales’ physical infrastructure as well as its ICT and mobile telephony capability.

In a broader economic context as the world emerges from recession, the Welsh Assembly Government will continue to work closely with the construction industry to maximise opportunities and ensure the further progress of a 21st century Wales.

With this objective in mind, my officials and I are currently working with key industry stakeholders and support agents, for example the Welsh Built Environment Forum, to ensure that its future role and funding are best aligned with the needs of the sector and the policy priorities of the Assembly Government.  We recognise that relationships with the construction industry are not limited to the Department for the Economy and Transport and that they are continuing to develop to ensure a cross-Assembly approach.

My Cabinet colleague, the Minister for Budget and Business issued a Statement on 18 February 2011 on the subject of Public Procurement in Wales and is developing a proactive approach to build stronger relationships between Welsh business and public procurement.  In direct response to feedback from the Economic Renewal consultation, her officials are amending the pre-qualification process and are trialling a new approach.

Last week, together with the First Minister and Minister for Business and Budget, I announced an additional investment of £105 million capital spend.  This additional investment will provide a much needed boost to the Welsh construction industry for 2011-12, allowing essential work to get underway and delivering real benefits to our citizens and the economy.

There is commitment to working with the construction sector through ConstructionSkills Wales to ensure that we provide relevant and appropriate support for small and medium sized businesses within the sector, particularly through the Supplier Development Service which includes support previously offered by Construct Wales. 

Skills Development is a principal area for assistance. The Assembly Government is currently supporting the development of construction skills through apprenticeships and training courses.  Specifically, a ‘Pathway to Apprenticeship’ has been designed and, under Economic Renewal, this will be enhanced by new incentives and opportunities for employers to offer apprenticeships in Wales. Finally, DCELLS’ Enhancing Leadership and Management Skills Programme (ELMS) will also benefit the sector by developing motivated and highly skilled managers.

As part of the drive to ensure a greener Wales, the Assembly Government is working with the construction industry on the skills needed to improve the sustainability of buildings.  This drive will be boosted by the imminent devolution of Building Regulations.  In addition, £30 million is being invested in the first phase of ‘arbed’, the Assembly Government’s initiative to combat fuel poverty and promote the energy performance of homes in deprived areas. 

Ministerial and official engagement with the industry currently takes place through a range of fora and Assembly-supported delivery agents. It will be important to identify where there are opportunities to ensure synergy and reduce duplication but, at the same time, recognising that there will be specific policy areas requiring more detailed engagement with those that represent a very diverse industry.