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16,000 workers upskill and retrain during the pandemic

A Welsh Government scheme supported over 16,000 workers to upskill and retrain during the COVID-19 pandemic, new research has shown.

The Personal Learning Accounts (PLA) Programme, a commitment in the Welsh Government’s Employability Plan, aims to support individuals on lower-incomes and those whose jobs are at risk to learn new skills, achieve new qualifications and help to rewrite their careers.

Further education colleges across Wales offer courses through PLA in priority areas where there have been known skills shortages, such as:

  • Construction
  • Engineering
  • ICT
  • Health
  • Hospitality.

The Welsh Government Personal Learning Accounts Programme (PLA) was rolled out early due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the programme became available to all furloughed workers and employers during the pandemic.

An evaluation of this programme, recently published, stated:

“The rapid and considerable scaling-up of the programme in response to the unforeseen demand triggered by the pandemic should be commended and is an excellent example of the role that government can play in times of crises brought about by external shocks to the economy.”

As a result:

  • Enrolment exploded six-fold from 1,187 in 2019/20 to 7,603 in 2020/21 academic years.
  • Proportionally, more women are supported on PLA programme areas than in the same sector subjects in post-16 education as a whole
  • 22% are now in a different career
  • 88% reported an increase in self-confidence
  • 82% reported clearer career aspirations

Welcoming the findings of the report, Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said:

“I’m delighted to see the Welsh Government’s PLA Programme support workers and employers respond to the business-needs to upskill and retrain in sectors where there is demand.

“I’m also delighted to see women, who traditionally face more barriers to career development and training, benefit from this programme. The Welsh Government is committed to 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.”

Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles said:

“I am determined to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to rewrite their career in adult life so that Wales is a nation of second chances.

“The PLA Programme is enabling people to do just that and I am so pleased to see such high numbers of people enrolling on the programme and getting the support they need to transform their careers.”

One beneficiary of the PLA Programme was Helen from Cwmbran who kickstarted her new career after years of full time caring for her grandmother.

Through the programme, Helen was able to study a health and safety course at Coleg Gwent to support a career change. The course was flexible and was able to adapt around her commitments and lifestyle as a mother and a full-time employee.

She said:

“Accessing the Personal Learning Account was incredibly easy for me. All I had to do was fill out a form online, and within a couple of phone calls, everything was set up and ready to go.

“It’s also been a huge benefit to me that I haven’t needed to pay for it, as I could access the course immediately rather than waiting until I’d put aside some money for it.”

Helen intends to complete her qualifications and continue to upskill.