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Written Statement - The extension of Skills Growth Wales
To encourage growth in the private sector and the creation of new employment opportunities, whilst also supporting the skills development of the Welsh workforce, the Minister for Education and Skills and I have decided to extend the Skills Growth Wales Scheme with immediate effect.
The existing scheme closed to new applications at the end of March 2011, when all available funding had been committed. Since closure, I have received continued calls from businesses and their representative bodies for the re-introduction of Skills Growth Wales to support plans for growth in the private sector.
Given the challenge that the issue of unemployment presents to our society, the development of the economy and job creation linked to investment in skills was a prime concern when refining the current scheme. Therefore, a selective and targeted approach has been developed to identify those key businesses in priority sectors which have a credible plan for growth that will lead to the creation of employment opportunities. Equally, progressive employers are realising workforce development holds the key to solving the problem of key workplace skills and unlocking the full potential of their workforce.
The extended programme will aim to provide training support over a 3 year period, ending 31 March 2015, to assist 200 companies to achieve their growth plans supporting the creation of up to 3,000 jobs.
We have been able to secure an additional £17m of European Social Funding for the continuation of the Skills Growth Wales scheme, with the Welsh Government committing a further £13m over the term of the extended programme. With this budget we anticipate being able to provide training support for almost 12,000 employees in key business sectors.
Companies will be expected to take up accredited training programmes that lead to qualifications at level 2 or above in the areas of Leadership and Management, Business Improvement Techniques and other relevant vocational qualifications. Training that achieves widely recognised industrial standards will also be considered.
The extension to the Skills Growth Wales programme will complement the Jobs Growth Wales scheme to be launched in April 2012, where there is a strong focus on private sector companies providing young people aged 16-24 with an employment opportunity for a 6 month period. Skills Growth Wales will also complement the capital funding available under the Economic Growth Fund announced by Edwina Hart the Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science, in November of last year.