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Minister unveils new plan to get more people in Wales into work



A new Welsh Government plan to help more people in Wales to find and stay in work has been unveiled today by Economy Minister Vaughan Gething.

The new Plan for Employability and Skills sets out the actions Ministers will take to deliver the Young Persons Guarantee, support people furthest away from the Labour market to find work – and focus on improving labour market outcomes for disabled people, Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic people, women, and those with low skills.

It also sets out measures to help people stay in work, through raising skills levels and preventing people from not taking up work or falling out of employment because of a health condition.

The Minister said the plan will help pave the way for a fairer, more equitable Wales where nobody is left behind or held back, helping to change people’s lives for the better.

The new plan sets out five key areas of action over this government term, which will propel Wales towards meeting the Welsh Government’s longer term milestones.

The five areas include:

Delivering a Young Person’s Guarantee – in order to protect a generation from the impacts of lost learning and delayed labour market entry, and to help make Wales a place where more young people feel confident in planning their future.

Tackling economic inequality – by shifting the focus of employability programmes to helping those furthest away from the Labour market to find work, and  improving labour market outcomes for disabled people, Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic people, women, and those with low skills. This includes building on the successful community based approach in partnership with Local Authorities.

Promoting Fair Work for all – by using the levers available to the Welsh Government to improve the offer for workers, and encouraging employers to make work better, fairer and more secure.

More support for people with a long term health conditions to work – better anchoring the health service both as an employer and part of the delivery network to prevent people falling out of work, or getting into employment because of a health condition.

Raising skill levels and adaptability of the workforce – by expanding flexible and personal learning opportunities for people in and out of work so they have the chance to improve their skills, find work or retrain throughout their lives.

As part of the plan the Welsh Government will work with its partners to help ensure that 90% of 16-24 year olds in Wales will be in education, employment, or training by 2050. It will also work to eliminate the pay gap for women, Black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals, and disabled people and eradicate the gap in the employment rate between Wales and the UK with a particular focus on under-represented groups.

Launching the new plan, Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said:

“Our new Employability Plan sets out our vision for a fairer and more equal Wales, where we work to ensure nobody is left behind or held back, and with a commitment to changing people’s lives for the better.

“Through the plan we want to lift people out of poverty and help everyone – particularly those furthest from the labour market – to navigate and respond to the work related challenges they will face throughout their lives, whether that is through training, retraining, upskilling, changing career or starting a business. It will build on the significant labour market and skills improvement in Wales since publication of the last plan in 2018.

“It will also help us meet the skills required by Welsh businesses by driving workforce diversity, making the most of our talent in Wales, and shaping an economy that works for everyone.

“Let’s be clear, we can’t fully replace the missing millions lost through the fact that the UK Government has not kept its funding promises to Wales following EU Exit, although we have prioritised budgets to smooth the transition and to boost our investment in people and skills.

“We will continue to press the UK government to back our Team Wales’ ambitions to invest in the talent of our people and restore Wales’ lost £1 billion.”

To support the plan, last week we extended the Childcare Offer so parents can be supported to undertake education and training.

The Minister is today announcing the launch of Jobs Growth Wales+ – a £200m programme specifically for young people. This will replace the Welsh Government’s existing Jobs Growth Wales and Traineeship programmes.

Under Jobs Growth Wales+, young people will receive individualised support to equip them with the skills, qualifications and experience to find a job and remain in employment.

Flexibility and tailored support is at the heart of the new programme and contractors will work with young people to make sure they have everything they need to access opportunities, including flexible training hours, as well as help with travel, childcare costs and specialised equipment.

Wage subsidies of up to 50% of the first six months’ wages, and on-the-job training will be available for businesses employing young people aged 16-18 through the scheme.

In the coming weeks, the Welsh Government will also launch ReAct+ – a new programme to upskill and support young people who are not currently in education, training or employment, and unemployed adults, into work.

Both new programmes are part of the Welsh Government’s ambitious Young Person’s Guarantee, which brings together a wide range of programmes designed to provide the right support for young people across Wales. 

The Minister said:

“Supporting Welsh businesses to adapt, grow their workforce and develop skills for the future will be essential.  

“These new programmes have been designed to help businesses with recruitment and workforce planning, creating more job opportunities in the sectors we need to grow, while supporting young people on their journey into employment. Importantly, they form part of our Young Person’s Guarantee, to ensure no young person in Wales misses out on the opportunity of a fulfilling career as a result of the pandemic.”

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The Burry Port Harbour Improvement wins top civil engineering award



THE BURRY Port Harbour Improvement has been announced as the winner of the Bill Ward Sustainability Award at the recent ICE Wales Cymru Project Awards held on Friday (30 September) at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff.

The Bill Ward Award is presented to the project best demonstrating the principles of sustainability, i.e. social, economic and environmental benefits during delivery and on completion. The Judges were impressed with the way two major companies, Alun Griffiths and Atkins, worked hand in hand on the project with their client, Carmarthenshire County Council, to deliver the scheme to a fixed budget, within programme and to the complete satisfaction of historic port custodians Cadw.

Burry Port Harbour is made up of three historic (tidal) basins contained by vertical masonry walls and earth embankments. The 3 harbours comprise 1500m of masonry vertical walls and revetments, which had fallen into disrepair and collapse since its heyday transporting coal in the 1800’s. 

The project is an ongoing, phased renovation with attention being given first to areas of instability. Displaced masonry has been recovered from the floor of the harbour and re-used. New materials have been chosen with care to ensure they are appropriate and will fit into the historic marine.

The work has safeguarded the historic masonry fabric for future generations, provided a safe harbour for the marina vessels and provided the waterside frontage for the Council’s vision to transform the harbour into a dynamic living, leisure and work hub for future generations.

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Welsh Waters in call for improvement following increase in pollution incidents



NATURAL RESOURCES WALES (NRW) is calling for Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water to “step up and take action” after its annual environmental performance reports for water companies highlighted an increase in pollution incidents.

NRW also found a decrease in compliance with environmental permits for sewage discharges.

The deterioration in performance by Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water has led to the company being downgraded from four-star – industry leading – company status last year to three-star (good company) under 2021 Environmental Performance Assessment metrics (EPA).

The report reveals that 83 sewage-related pollution incidents were caused by Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water assets last year, compared to 77 the previous year.

Two of these pollution incidents were categorised as having a serious (High) environmental impact.

There was also one serious (High) incident from a water supply asset.

It also shows that numeric compliance against permitted discharges dropped from 99.7% to 98.3% and self-reporting of incidents dropped from 80% to 76%.

Expectations for improvements are outlined in the reports, including targets to reduce the number of pollution incidents year on year, aiming towards zero.

The report said the although the total sewage pollution incidents metric remained green, in 2021 “there has been an increase of six incidents -from 77 in 2020 to 83 in 2021. ”

“It is disappointing Dŵr Cymru have not sustained their improvement in this metric from last year”

The NRW performance report states: “The overall performance for water supply incidents is unacceptable.”

“We are calling for urgent action from Dŵr Cymru after 2021 saw the sixth consecutive year where the number of incidents from water supply assets increased.”

“We welcome the inclusion of serious incidents from water supply assets in the serious pollution incidents EPA metric from 2021 to bring more focus on this area of performance.”

Ceri Davies, NRW’s Executive Director for Evidence, Policy and Permitting said:

“Water companies have a responsibility to the environment, as well as their customers, and they must take these incidents – and the impact they have on our water quality – seriously.”

“Over many years water companies in Wales have invested significantly and improved their environmental performance so we are challenging their recent performance and asking them to set the standard for the water sector by attaining industry leading status, whilst also showing leadership in responding to the biodiversity and climate crises.”

“The decline in environmental performance is disappointing and we expect them to respond positively with renewed effort, and to drive forward improvements.”

“Earlier this week, we published our storm overflow roadmap, in collaboration with the water sector and Welsh Government, which outlines an action plan of commitments from all those involved to reduce the impact of storm overflows on our rivers in Wales.”

“This sits amongst a number of initiatives across other sectors including rural land use and industry, to tackle the numerous threats facing our rivers.”

“Improving water quality for the long term requires a collective effort from all involved, working together to identify catchment-scale solutions to contribute to healthy rivers.”

Welsh Water has not commented as yet on the report.

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M&S opticians opens its doors in Llanelli Parc Trostre



MARKS & SPENCER has opened the newest branch of its M&S Opticians service, located in the retailer’s popular Llanelli store.

M&S Llanelli Parc Trostre will offer customers an expert opticians service, which includes a full eye health examination (OCT scan) for every eye test booked at no additional fee.

Free eye tests are available as an opening offer, as well as 15% off glasses and sunglasses for Sparks customers. There’s a wide range of designer brands to choose from including Mulberry, Prada, Joules, Kate Spade, Oakley, Police, Maui Jim along with leading lens manufacturers – Zeiss and Nikon.

Expert advice on contact lens fitting and wearing is also on hand, alongside a contact lens home delivery option. The store will also be home to a hearing aid audiologist who will be offering free hearing health checks along with latest hearing aid technology, including rechargeable models and mobile connectivity.

In addition to the physical experience in-store, customers can book appointments online here, as well as view, purchase and try on glasses via the innovative ‘virtual try on’ tool here

M&S Llanelli Parc Trostre is the second optician service to open in Wales following a successful trial across ten UK cities, during which the service received a customer satisfaction rate of 96% and a customer recommendation rate of 96%.

M&S Llanelli Parc Trostre Store Manager, Aled Bonnell, said: “We’re always looking for ways to make shopping at M&S even more rewarding and feedback from our trial showed that customers loved the convenience of having an Opticians service in our store. We’re really excited to be opening our M&S Opticians in Llanelli and hearing what our customers think. The choice of different brands we’re offering is second to none and we have brilliant opening offers to suit all budgets.”

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