During my time as Council Leader, I have sought to put an increased emphasis on skills and employment as the foundation for building a strong and prosperous local economy.

The current employment figures in the Welsh Annual Labour Market Summary show an improvement in the local employment rate of 16-64 year olds between December 2016 and December 2017, with an extra 1,800 people classed as employed over the period. It is, of course, absolutely vital that we engineer a strong position for ourselves to take advantage of the enormous opportunities offered to the South East Wales region through the £1.229 bn Cardiff Capital Region City Deal. Aside from levering in around £4 bn of private sector investment over the next 20 years, the project is expected to create around 25,000 jobs across the region, and we have already seen some of this developing through the investment announced in May last year to support the establishment of a major facility for producing high-end Compound Semi-Conductor technology. Further opportunities that are focused exclusively on the Valleys communities through the Valleys Taskforce must also be exploited, and the work of this initiative will help to support employment in the areas of our County Borough that require more targeted support.

Locally, we are continuing to offer our hugely successful apprenticeship and graduate schemes, with a further 22 posts created for this year. Applications can be made on the Jobs section of the Council’s website, with a deadline of June 1st. The 15 apprenticeships and 7 graduate posts offer positions across a range of Council departments, and crucially, we are also already approaching the halfway mark in achieving our ambitious commitment to provide at least 150 of these opportunities by the end of this Council term, after providing 45 opportunities last year. 

Central to achieving a prosperous economy over the longer term is our substantial investment in educational facilities. Our 21st Century Schools programme, which is set to be the highest in Wales, will see a combined £320m (£160m Band A plus £160M Band B) invested in improving schools across the County by 2026, making a tangible difference to the learning environments of our children. I recently went on a site visit to inspect the work being carried out across the Rhondda and Tonyrefail, and I was extremely impressed by the way in which these state-of-the-art facilities are progressing. Work also continues on improving school facilities through our capital programme, which sits at £6.876m for 2018/19, which has further contributed to a positive trend in improved attainment results over the last few years. Our approach must be comprehensive, and the recent opening of a new satellite base for Maesgwyn Special School at Coleg Y Cymoedd’s £20m Aberdare Campus is emblematic of our approach to creating a thorough and cohesive system of education.     

Posted on 11/05/2018