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Tackling the problem of NEETs T remains top priority in Walesa; SKILLSWALES.

MY first few weeks as Deputy Minister have sped by but all the briefings I've seen, meetings I've attended and conversations I've had seem to point to one common theme.

I've always known that Wales a has an incredible wealth of talent.

We have so many highly-skilled people and so many people with the potential to succeed butwe need to ensure that we harness their talent and support them, at all stages of their lives, to achieve this potential.

But what does thismean in practice? If you look at many of the skills and work-based learning programmes run by the Welsh Governmentthey are specifically designed to help people going through difficult transition points in their lives.

I firmly believe that it is the role of government to help people as they go through these changes and support theme.very step of the way. y Take a Jobs Growth Wales, a for example.

Our young people are trying to find work against the backdrop of some of the most difficult economic conditions in a generation.

Jobs Growth Walesa of-f fers a young person'six-month opportunity which, inmany cases, leads to a permanent job with formal training.

Since it began last April, the programme has created 7,000 job opportunities, with over 5,200 young people filling these jobs.

This is an excellent example. of where government can make areal and positive difference to a young person's ' life.

Likewise, it's v ' ital we continue to provide more opportunities for young people to take up apprentices.hips and make sure that we support employers who want to recruit additional apprentices. That's ' why we are investing so heavily in apprentices.hips themselves, supporting initiatives such as the Young Recruits Programme, and will allocate an additional PS40m over the next two years.

Central to all of our plans will be helping young people when they make that transition from school, college or university into employment.

It is crucial they have an informed choice of the options available when they looking for a career and they understand and gain the relevant qualifications.

Reducing the number of young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs) T remains a top priority for us.

This means identifying those who are most at risk of falling through the cracks, ensuring that they have the right support and training and being there for them as they make that transition into work.

Our new Youth Engagement and Progression Framework, to be published in the autumn, will look at each of these issues, and set out the necessary steps to ensure that where young people are in need of support, we can intervene at amuch m earliers - e.

As a government we are committed to tackling the causes and consequences of poverty and the new Framework will help us in delivering this agenda.

Of course, Iwant to ensure that we give people every opportunity to upskillasthey continue in employment.

Welsh government skills programmes are clearly having a very positive impact but Iwant to make sure that employers are presented with a more streamlined and accessible offer which is flexible enough to respond to their skills needs.

Obviously, y it's i ' mportant we do everythingwe can to help employers bridge the skills gap, but I'm concerned that another kind of skills gap is beginning to widen.

In April, Chwarae Teg published a study into women's ' roles in the Welsh workforce. The findings were worrying.

According to the survey, y women are experiencing a "skills squeeze".While they are more highly-qualified and more likely to receive in-work training than men, women continue to work in lower skilled jobs and receive lower pay. y Age, lack of jobs and childcare and gender discrimination were all cited as barriers to career progression.

This seems to me like an incredible waste of skills and experience.

That is why I will be looking at how the Welsh Governmentcan support women in making the best possible use of their skills and ensuring they achieve their full potential.

ther's ' no denying that Walesa is facing somevery big challenges when it comes to skills and employment , and there will always be difficult decisions to take, but is up to me as Deputy Minister to ensure that we give all our people every possible opportunity to succeed. | Ken Skates is Deputy Minister for Skills and Tech c n h o logy
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 18, 2013
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