Lesley Griffiths, Deputy Minister for Science, Innovation and Skills
At the Enterprise and Learning Committee on 17th February 2011, I made a commitment to issue a Written Statement to Assembly Members regarding the ProAct scheme.
In June 2009, Cambridge Policy Consultants were commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government to undertake an evaluation of the ProAct scheme. An early formative evaluation was completed in January 2010 and the draft final impact evaluation was received in January 2011. We expect final validation of the evaluation findings shortly. In advance of the formal evaluation report being published, I would like to share other available information with Assembly Members.
As we know, during the latter part of 2008 the Welsh economy slipped rapidly into a deep recession. Many well established and iconic companies were forced to scale back, some in a fight for survival.
The supply chain in Wales was faced with a stark and challenging scenario. On the one hand the need for short-term survival and on the other, the need to compete when the economic upturn materialised. Costs had to be cut and companies moved quickly to implement short time working arrangements. Many made redundancies and in a number of instances companies had little option but to close.
ProAct was a rapidly developed, Welsh Assembly Government response to the economic recession.
The rationale of the programme was to encourage businesses to retain personnel and use the spare capacity during the economic slowdown as an opportunity to train staff in areas that would improve the capability of the business in readiness for the economic upturn.
The initial phase of the ProAct scheme focussed on the automotive sector due to the rapid reduction in automotive production globally and the potential irreparable damage market consolidation could have on Welsh based manufacturing facilities.
In March 2009, ProAct was made more widely available to businesses across all sectors and companies in the construction and manufacturing sector applied for ProAct support in significant numbers.
The financial support provided by ProAct includes a significant element of European Union funding and when ProAct was closed to new applications on June 30th 2010, over £27 million had been committed to support 254 businesses.
ProAct supported over 10,000 individuals to develop the skills that will improve business performance and assist individuals retain their jobs.
By the end of December 2010, many participating companies indicated that ProAct had safeguarded jobs with a number of companies highlighting that the support of ProAct had been instrumental in creating new jobs.
I am delighted with the response from the business community regarding the positive effects that ProAct achieved and it is important that we use the lessons learned to inform how our programmes are delivered and targeted in the future.
The benefits of investing in skills and the success of the Welsh Assembly Government’s skills response to the recession have been highlighted by direct feedback from companies that participated on the ProAct scheme.
The availability of key aspects of the Workforce Development Programme, such as the Business Skills Hotline and the network of HRD Advisors was instrumental in achieving the swift launch and implementation of the programme.
The development of strong partnership working between ProAct staff, Department for Economy and Transport Relationship Managers, HRD Advisors and employer representative bodies ensured rapid engagement with those businesses worst affected by the recession.
To build on the success of ProAct, Skills Growth Wales was launched in April 2010 with the aim of assisting businesses take advantage of growth opportunities provided by the global economic upturn. To date, 81 businesses have successfully applied for support covering a further 10,000 employees.
In conclusion, ProAct was a programme designed and delivered during the deepest recession in 80 years. For the programme to realise the results I have outlined is remarkable and testament to what can be achieved given strong leadership and a commitment to succeed.
The results speak for themselves. Not only has ProAct safeguarded jobs, it has generated new jobs and supported businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity. It has also prevented firms from closing altogether and on that basis has made a significant contribution to the Welsh economy.
I am pleased to say the Welsh Assembly Government reacted swiftly and effectively to design and implement ProAct. It clearly illustrates the Assembly Government is able to meet employers needs within demanding timescales while ensuring return on investment.