Welsh Government Employability Plan Update: Targeting Targets

Published 17/09/2018   |   Last Updated 27/05/2021   |   Reading Time minutes

On Tuesday 18 September the Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning is delivering a progress report in Plenary on the Welsh Government’s Employability Plan [PDF: 1096 KB].

This blog post is intended to give a short overview of the plan and to discuss the targets contained within it.

Delivering the plan is a ministerial priority

The Employability Plan was launched relatively recently on 19 March 2018. The Minister, Eluned Morgan explained in Plenary during its launch that:

Our vision is to make Wales a full-employment, high-tech, high-wage economy.

The Plan, described as a priority for the Minister to deliver [PDF: 431 KB], is set out over a ten year implementation period. The plan:

[offers] a national framework which sets a direction and standards. We've set a series of stretching and ambitious targets relating to unemployment, economic inactivity and skills levels, because we're determined to make real progress on these within the next decade.

What does the plan contain?

The plan contains six individual ‘targets’ and goes on to describe the four main ways (called mechanisms) by which the ‘targets’ will be delivered. These are summarised below.

Figure 1: The targets

Figure 2: The mechanisms for delivering the targets

When launched, the Minister acknowledged some concerns about the targets

During the debate in Plenary when launching the report, some concerns were expressed regarding the targets.

It was noted by Lee Waters AM that four of the six targets were ‘targets to set other targets’. In figure 1 above, it can be seen that the 5th and 6th targets show an intention to actually set a target, whilst the 1st and 4th targets do not set the level by which productivity is to be increased, nor the level to which the numbers of young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) is to be reduced.

In response the Minister stated that she would be looking at ‘producing more granularity’, and went on to say that:

I am very well aware that what we've got here are headline targets and I'll be working with officials to make sure that we get much more focused targets and that we break them down.

The technical note [PDF: 106 KB] produced by the Welsh Government regarding the targets does not address these points. It remains to be seen if the Minister announces the more granular targets on 18 September.

Accountability for regional progress has been recognised by the minister

At the moment, for some of the targets within the plan, performance across different parts of Wales varies considerably.

This leaves the risk that any target for Wales as a whole, may not reflect more disappointing performance in particular parts of Wales.

Recognising this, during the launch of the plan, the Minister explained that

I think it's important that we look at the regional impact, and what it looks like regionally, so we will be really monitoring this in a very coherent way.

To explain this, the first target regarding productivity can be used.

Based on Office for National Statistics (ONS) regions (see figure 09), the region with the highest level of productivity in Wales is the Central Valleys region with a productivity level 6% below the UK average (it is notable that all Welsh regions are actually below the UK average).

At the same time, the Powys region has a productivity level 35% below the UK average, this level being ‘the lowest in the UK’ according to the ONS.

A final word on investment.

During the debate in Plenary regarding the plan, Adam Price AM asked:

can the Minister give us some idea of the level of investment that will underpin this plan?

In her response to Adam Price, the Minister did not state a funding figure. However since the debate, a substantial aspect of the plan, the Working Wales programme, has gone out to tender. Working Wales is intended to ‘support unemployed, economically inactive and not in education, employment or training individuals aged 16 and over’.

This procurement exercise shows that Welsh Government estimate the overall cost of the Working Wales programme to be £617 million over 6 years.

This gives some initial indication as to the investment level called for by the plan, which is still only within the first 6 months of its ten year ambition.

Article by Phil Boshier, National Assembly for Wales Research Service