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LEADERS have approved a £30 million skills project to get more people into the sort of jobs which could increasingly underpin the economy in South West Wales.

From artificial intelligence to the construction of eco-homes, robotics to digital healthcare, offshore wind to tidal projects, experts say the well-paid jobs of the future require skills which are often lacking in the region.

Public and private sector leaders have now taken a step towards addressing this with the approval of the skills and talent initiative – one of nine city deal projects being rolled out in the Swansea Bay region, which comprises Swansea, Neath Port Talbot, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire.

Science, technology, engineering and maths are considered increasingly important subjects for students in this repsect.

The project will now need approval from the Welsh and UK Governments before it can get under way.

It aims to deliver:

– At least 2,200 additional skills and support the development of around 14,000 individuals with higher level skills within 10 years

– At least 3,000 new apprenticeships

– Two centres of excellence within specific sectors

– To create a clear pathway from school through further and higher education in the areas of IT, construction, energy, smart manufacturing and life science and wellbeing

– Twenty new and updated coursed to ensure they meet industry needs for the future.

A report before the city region’s ruling joint committee, which met on July 29, cited findings which showed the number of pupils taking IT subjects at GCSE had dropped 40% since 2015 while demand for artificial intelligence, cloud and robotic skills “are soaring”.

This, it said, was mainly due to a lack of clearly defined job roles, lack of understanding of potential career paths, lack of role models, and the appeal of the roles themselves.

Jane Lewis, the lead officer for the skills and talent project, told the meeting that “this is a once in a lifetime opportunity”.

She said: “We know from evidence from employers and prospective investors that we do not have the skills base to meet the demands of employers and investors, particularly in digital sectors.”

But she added that the project could not resolve the skills gap entirely.

A third of the £30 million project cost is due to come from central Government, £16 million from participating councils, universities and health boards, and £4 million from the private sector in the form of the 3,000 apprenticeships.

Steve Wilks, of Swansea University, wanted to know how far into the future the project team were looking to assess the future skills need, adding that universities could help with this.

Professor Medwin Hughes, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, said the project was about “equity of opportunity”.

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