With £30m of funding to support the creation of 3,000 jobs over the next three years, this is testament to our commitment to helping upskill the Welsh workforce and deliver jobs for the economy.
When times are tough, training and development of staff can sometimes be overlooked but it is vital that companies continue to invest in their workers so that they can grow.
As I have said previously in this column, a skilled workforce contributes to economic growth through increased productivity and greater employability.
It is in the interest of employers and individuals to maximise training opportunities, and it is right that they should make a contribution. But the market by itself will not always provide sufficient intervention in the right places and at the right time to meet the all the training needs we have. This leaves a demand and need for government intervention.
Therefore, I was delighted we could secure £17m from the European Social Fund to match new money provided by the Welsh Government, to extend the programme.
The original Skills Growth Wales supported 90 companies to train over 8,000 employees and this extension will allow us to help a further 200 companies achieve their growth plans.
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.
It will also complement the capital funding available under the Economic Growth Fund announced by the Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science, Edwina Hart in November of last year.
I made the announcement on Skills Growth Wales during a visit to TES Aviation Group, Bridgend, who are an excellent example of how the programme helps companies deliver growth and jobs.
They are benefitting from nearly £250,000 under the first Skills Growth Wales programme.
Over the last 12 months TES has increased turnover by 64% and key to that growth has been the development of a highly skilled team across all levels of the business including both Functional Leadership and Senior Management Teams.
They plan to grow revenues over the next 12 months by a further 25% as well as recruiting an additional 17 people and further developing its existing team. And in addition to creating more jobs this year, TES will continue to diversify its product strategy.
Skills Growth Wales funding meant they have been able to implement aggressive growth plans with the confidence that new staff would be backed by the required level of both role specific skills and leadership development training.
It has enabled other Welsh businesses to absorb new technology, enter new markets, and broaden the access to high quality training.
Skills Growth Wales is highly regarded by the private sector for its success in encouraging growth and creating new employment opportunities. Since it was closed to new applications last year, I have received calls from businesses and their representative bodies for the re-introduction of Skills Growth Wales to support plans for growth in the private sector. So I am delighted that we are now able to extend this successful scheme.
Given the challenges of unemployment that we currently face, job creation was a prime concern when refining the current scheme. Therefore a 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.
Companies receiving funding through Skills Growth Wales 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.
Now, more than ever it is essential that the Welsh Government continues to work closely with Welsh businesses to invest in skills and training for the future.
Skills are vital for economic growth and Skills Growth Wales is a clear demonstration of that and of how this Government is meeting its promise to deliver growth and jobs for our economy.