National Assembly for Wales

Pwyllgor yr Economi, Seilwaith a Sgiliau

Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee

17/05/2018

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Adam Price AM
David J Rowlands AM
Joyce Watson AM
Lee Waters AM
Mark Isherwood AM
Russell George AM Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Vikki Howells AM

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

David Hagendyk Cyfarwyddwr Gymru, Sefydliad Dysgu a Gwaith
Director for Wales, Learning and Work Institute
Dr Rachel Bowen Cyfarwyddwr Polisi a Datblygu, Colegau Cymru
Director of Policy and Development, Colleges Wales
Mair Bell Uwch-swyddog Ymchwil, Canolfan Polisi Cyhoeddus Cymru
Senior Research Officer, Wales Centre for Public Policy
Professor Richard B Davies Is-Ganghellor, Prifysgol Abertawe—Prifysgolion Cymru
Vice Chancellor, Swansea University—Universities Wales

Swyddogion Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru a oedd yn bresennol

National Assembly for Wales Officials in Attendance

Abigail Phillips Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Gareth Price Clerc
Clerk
Joe Champion Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Robert Lloyd-Williams Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:33.

The meeting began at 09:33.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Croeso, bawb, i'r Pwyllgor Economi, Seilwaith a Sgiliau.

Welcome, everyone, to the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee.

I'd like to welcome Members to the committee this morning. Item 1: we do have apologies from Hefin David today, and I don't think we have any other apologies but some Members will join us a bit later on this morning. Are there any declarations of interest for our session a bit later this morning? No.

2. Papurau i'w nodi
2. Papers to note

In that case, I move to item 2. There are a number of papers to note. Are Members happy to note those papers? There we are. 

3. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd ar gyfer eitem 4
3. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from item 4

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd ar gyfer eitem 4 o'r cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from item 4 of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

We move to item 3, and under Standing Order 17.42, we resolve to exclude the public from the next item. Then we will be back in public session at 11.15 a.m. Are Members content with that? Great. Okay, so that's what we'll do.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 09:34.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 09:34.

11:20

Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 11:21.

The committee reconvened in public at 11:21.

5. Dyfodol sgiliau (Melinau trafod ac ymarferwyr)—Awtomeiddio ac Economi Cymru
5. Future of skills (Think tanks and Practitioners)—Automation and the Welsh Economy

Croeso nôl. Welcome back. I'd like to move to item 5, and this is with regard to our inquiry—our piece of work on automation and the Welsh economy. This morning we have a panel with regard to the future of skills element to our inquiry. I'd be very grateful if the panel could introduce themselves for the public record. If I start from my left.

Professor Richard B Davies 11:22:14

Richard Davies, the vice-chancellor in Swansea University, representing higher education in Wales.

Dave Hagendyk from the Learning and Work Institute Cymru.

I'm Rachel Bowen. I'm from ColegauCymru—CollegesWales. We're a post-compulsory education charity representing the further education sector.

And I'm Mair Bell. I'm a senior research officer at the Wales Centre for Public Policy.

Lovely. Great. We've got a series of questions this morning. You’ll notice some Members using their electronic devices, and that’s not a sign that they're not listening or concentrating; it's just a sign that that's how we do our work as well. Can I ask: are you all okay, if we don’t think you’re quite hitting what we want, for us to interrupt you to get to the—? Yes. Great, thank you very much.

So, my first question is: with regard to the future skills market and automation, what are the biggest opportunities and what are the biggest risks to you? I’m just asking for the headlines, really. Who would like to have a stab at that first?

Professor Richard B Davies 11:23:11

It’s about pace of change, because we're facing an unprecedented rate of change, with huge adjustments to be made. We're talking about, in 20 years, the job market dramatically changing—30 per cent of jobs disappearing—and we need to talk about the whole new jobs that will be appearing as well. This isn't totally negative, but there's good news as well in that there are real strengths in Wales to build upon.

Okay, thank you. Does anybody else want to have a stab at opportunities and risks? David.

Yes, I think it depends entirely on our response. I know that sounds like a kind of glib answer, but I don’t think you can say, 'Here are the risks and here are the opportunities' until—. If we don’t respond in a comprehensive way, and a really quite radical way, I think there are risks, particularly for low-skilled workers. We know that low-skilled workers will be the most affected by automation and artificial intelligence, so if we don’t respond properly with lifelong learning and investing in their skills, then that’s the risk. If we do respond appropriately, then I think there are opportunities for us to create new industries and new jobs, but what are the risks and opportunities almost depends entirely on how the Government help business and help providers respond to that.

I think the risks are around keeping on doing what we do now because we’ve always done it, and there’s comfort in what's familiar, but, actually, the chances are to think about how we do things differently—the chances to do education differently. I won't get into points about electronic marking. Maybe I'll come back to that a bit later.

I think we should look quite broadly. I agree with all these points but we're talking about robotics and automation—I think it’s quite important that we recognise the breadth of the labour market as well, so that we're not just looking at the low skilled. It’s really important that we actually look at progression in that, and then we also need to have a real focus on high skills as well, and being able to get people up to that level, otherwise, we're going to remain in an economy where we have a lot of low skills, which means lots of low productivity and it's not sustainable, and then we have this kind of low productivity equilibrium and low skill equilibrium. We really need to be pushing things up, as well. So, progression is really important.

11:25

I think I'm right in saying that only one of the regional skills partnerships mentioned automation as an issue in their last published reports, which I think is quite startling. What do you think are likely to be the timelines of the impact of this in terms of skills and education here?

Professor Richard B Davies 11:25:44

We really know—a number of reports are quite consistent here—we're talking about within the next 20 years, dramatic changes. Not just a continuation of the current trend, which we already see in retailing and service and the online work, rather than person-to-person work, but moving into automation, moving into artificial intelligence, where processes within which people are employed are going to change and adapt. So, we've got to be thinking of transformation—technological and social transformation within 20 years. This totally exceeds anything, for example, that we saw in the coalfields over a limited period.

Can I ask you specifically in terms of the point about rejigging the cogs of the machine, if you like? You think of some of the jobs that are going to be the most vulnerable in the short term, some of them are going to be accountancy jobs, for example. Universities are still taking in hundreds of accountancy undergraduates every year for careers that aren't really going to exist in 10 years' time in the way that we know them now. There'll be a far smaller number of people doing a different type of accountancy work. So, I appreciate that this is difficult for you to respond quickly, given your business models, but why is it that you're still taking in these swathes of young people to do courses for jobs that won't exist in the same way?

Professor Richard B Davies 11:27:13

I don't accept that at all. If you look at the way universities are adjusting, way ahead of much of the discussion, you'll see huge change already taking place. So, for example, in my university—and I have to talk mostly about mine because that's what I've got the facts on—we've trebled the size of engineering over the last five years. Nobody told us to do that, nobody encouraged us—in fact, we don't get money for it, we lose money on it, but it's the right thing to do. We're currently trebling the size of computer science. Computer science is going to be working with other disciplines, including accounting and finance, because that's where the changes are coming. It's the artificial intelligence moving in in accounting. These are the sorts of things that we deal with. And the technological changes we're going to see are already there: you can see them in universities, because where does the research come from that drives these changes?

Yes. We've seen your engineering facilities and they are very impressive and the foresight you've had to invest in that is to your credit, but I'm not sure I can quite let you get away with that, in a sense, because you still are—. Whilst you're expanding new fields, you're not contracting existing ones that we know are going to be heavily impacted by automation. I'm only picking accountancy as one example; there are many other examples. And I'm not trying to whack you across the head over it; it's really difficult for universities to try and adjust in this way in real time when things are changing so rapidly. At least, are you thinking about it?

Professor Richard B Davies 11:28:41

We are thinking about it, not in terms of accountancy, in fact, because accounting and finance—. The role of accountants and finance is going to change and modify, but we don't see that disappearing at all—

Professor Richard B Davies 11:28:57

Well, I've had a lot of discussions around forensic accounting and the problems that there are going to be. The human factors, which are going to be of a concern across accounting, are going to require something other than artificial intelligence for the foreseeable future. These are big areas.

Sure, that's—. But I don't think you're teaching first-year undergrads forensic accounting; you're teaching the routine stuff that's going to be automated.

Professor Richard B Davies 11:29:24

But there are generic skills that you do need, before you can get into forensic accounting. So, I don't want to accept that we're not thinking about these things and planning ahead—we are. We are growing areas of great demand, we're already investing very heavily around professions allied to medicine, because the personal care stuff is never going to be automated to the extent that some other areas are going to be, and it's the human contact and the human dimension that are really important. So, there are switches.

The final point I would make about accounting: that's contained within a much bigger set of disciplines around management, which I think is ignored far too much. Management and leadership provide 50 per cent of productivity enhancement. People tend to think it's all technology that changes the world; it's not, it's management and leadership, which is about 50 per cent of that. And I would incorporate some of the accounting within that.

11:30

Yes. I think in answer to Lee's question about timescales, some of this is immediate, some of it's now. So, talking to principals in further education, one of the challenges that they face is around what's examined and awarding bodies. In some cases, they know that the curriculum they're teaching isn't as up to date as it could be, but because they need to teach things that make sure that learners will qualify, they can't always focus on the things that they know are coming. So, we need to be more flexible in terms of exams, in terms of awarding bodies, and be able to respond to what's happening now, and make sure that learners are learning what's current rather than what was current 12 months, 18 months ago, as the pace of change gets quicker.

On timelines, it obviously depends on industries, and I think it will be really interesting to see who the early adopters are in different industries. Once that's established, I think we'll then see the pace of change quicken within different sectors. But I also think we probably need to be a little bit self-critical of the pace of our response to this in Wales. It's only been in the last couple of years we've been talking about this, and you look around the world—we were talking before—and look at different countries, they have responded much quicker to this. I think we do need to look a little bit further afield at how other small nations are responding to this. You look at places like Estonia, Austria, they've actually made some changes and they are improving participation in lifelong learning. They're probably a little bit ahead of the game for us and I think we are a bit slow off the mark on timescale. Some of the change has already started.

We're probably straying into our next set of questions, which is correct, as well, if you've finished your line of questions.

We'll move on to questions around impact on institutions. I know David and Joyce have got questions on that, so if I start with David Rowlands.

You touched on it in a way, Richard, when you actually said about the speed of this. Do we have the infrastructure there, as far as upskilling, et cetera—?

Professor Richard B Davies 11:32:30

There is a mixed answer to that question. We have some high-quality infrastructure in Wales, and that's human infrastructure as well as physical infrastructure to lead the changes, moving people up the skills ladder to be able to be at the head of these developments that can help attract the new companies in. We do have those strengths, and we can demonstrate again and again with figures just how strong parts of research and development are in Wales. It's the scale that we've got wrong. The scale of these strengths is not sufficient to drive the changes that are needed. That's where we fall behind, and you can see this particularly in terms of what this means in terms of young people. In Wales, currently, about 32 per cent of the cohort are aspiring to get into higher education at the age of 18, 19, and—there's difficulty in getting totally comparable figures, but almost directly comparable—in the south-east of England, it's nearly 50 per cent. Korea is up to 70 per cent. This is what's happening elsewhere. Have we got the infrastructure to transform that in schools, in colleges or in universities? Not the scale we need.

I think in terms of being prepared for this, lots of further education colleges know the things that they could do. They're keen to have discussions about this, but it's making sure that they can deliver what meets the needs of learners, meets the needs of the economy, but also meets the needs of what awarding bodies and things currently want at the moment. In terms of aspirations towards higher education, obviously, higher skills are desirable, but we also need to focus on those medium-level skills, the things that can be delivered closer to home. We need to remove the divide between vocational and academic education that comes up time and again. I think that's mentioned by Phil Brown, who's doing some work for Welsh Government on this. It isn't just about driving people towards university.

What's your view on the action taken by both Welsh Government and the UK Government with regard to upskilling in general? We've been having this discussion ever since the Tolpuddle martyrs, actually, haven't we? About replacing the human factor. But are they—? Is the action that they're taking fast enough and large enough? You've brought that in, actually, Richard, haven't you?

11:35

I would say 'no'. I think there has been a real lack of urgency around the response. I also think, in the last five or six years, we've gone backwards a little bit. If you look at one of the most important things we can do to respond to automation and the changes in the future of skills, it's to invest in lifelong learning. So, we need people to be able to—. At the moment, we cram all the investment into the start of someone's life, and then we don't invest anywhere near enough throughout the life cycle.

In Wales in particular, but in lots of countries. But in Wales, what we did five or six years ago, we took a decision, the Welsh Government took a decision, to cut funding for part-time learning and FE. So, the Wales Audit Office said there's been a 70 per cent cut in the last five years in part-time funding for further education. We've seen the numbers participating at that level, and in adult community learning, go down 40 per cent, 50 per cent. So at a time when we needed to be really expanding the opportunities for lifelong learning, I think we have gone backwards.

The employability plan as it came out was good, and it recognised the scale and the pace of change that was coming. I'm not sure it is sufficiently radical. In there, there's a pilot for individual learning accounts, which is a really good way of potentially refreshing the system so you give people more control over their learning. But is that enough? I would say 'no'.

Can I bring Adam in? I'll come back to you, David, if you need to. Adam Price.

You've anticipated my question, really, because South Korea has been lauded for creating individual learning accounts specifically focused on preparing people for automation. Is that what we should do with these new individual learning accounts—be very explicit? It's all about giving you the lever to prepare yourself for what's coming in terms of automation.

I don't think it's just automation. I also think it's partly what Mair was saying about progression as well. Our argument, I suppose, about individual learning accounts is it's an opportunity to use it for those on lower skills. So, potentially you could use it for those people who are in work, but claiming universal credit—just 40 per cent of people who claim universal credit are actually in work. How do we give them the skills to equip themselves? I think you probably need to do a bit of everything, but I think certainly responding to automation, definitely.

Just to push back a little bit there, I'm sure individual learning accounts could be used for a lot of things, and there's a lot of stuff out there that we need to do, but don't you think—and we've had them before, and they weren't particularly successful—it would be better just to say, 'Look, there's this huge wave coming at us'? Why don't we just say, 'Let's use these individual learning accounts to get the message across to individuals that all of us have to take responsibility, as well as to focus just on this'? Otherwise it's going to get a bit lost, isn't it?

There are two things I would say, I suppose. The first thing I would say is you need a line of sight a little bit for people. There are some people who would really benefit from an individual learning account—a little pot of money to be able to spend and direct on their own education. They're not at the level where they would start to be able to go into the new technologies and the new industries. But they are at a level where you'd want to start them getting that progression pathway. So, it might be that individual learning account is not going to get them directly into a new industry, but it might start them on that journey. So I think there's a little bit of a balance here. But I think there's a chance to pilot some of this—pilot some of this stuff actually that is: could you use it for automation? Or could you use it to really help lift people out of in-work poverty as well?

Okay. I'll come back to Joyce and to David and to Mark. Joyce.

A short question: we've recognised where the growth is. We've recognised people who need upskilling, and we've recognised that the Government needs to put some money into it. Do we also need to recognise that those companies that are gaining vast amounts of money also need to put some money?

I think that's a really interesting point, because so far we've talked a lot about supply side, and we haven't really looked at demand and active labour market policy and strategy in that way. So, we say that we kind of have an idea of what's coming, but actually there's a huge amount of uncertainty, despite the Nesta report, which sets out some skills and requirements in that area. So, I think we really need to be quite realistic that you might give someone an individual learning account and say, 'Upskill yourself in robotics and automation', but if the jobs aren't there in your locality—. And it's the lower skilled people who are less mobile. Evidence suggests both that, but also that employers are far more prone to upskilling and paying for training for their higher skilled workers than anyone lower down the ranks.

Can I just say—? This is fine, but we're straying into moving on to the impact on people, so we're still on impact on institutions. I've got David, Mark and possibly Joyce to come in, and then we'll start to move on to impact on people, which I know, Vikki, you've got some questions on. So, David. 

11:40

I just wanted to ask a question to you. There's an emphasis, a new emphasis, now on vocational qualifications as opposed to academic qualifications. Do you think that's the right way to deal with this? We're talking about upskilling, but are we upskilling them to crafts that will never be used? 

I think that's the point where labour market intelligence comes in but, yes, vocational qualifications will continue to be important, but they need to be flexible and adapt to the demands of the world that we're going to see rather than the world that we have at the moment, and that's not always in industries that we would think of in terms of technological developments. There is a lack, for instance, of heritage building skills. So, the demands of the future aren't always to do with tech; they're often to do with, maybe, retrofitting buildings and dealing with the housing supply we have now. But the focus on training people for the jobs that we know will exist, and doing that through vocational qualifications where there's a job at the end—that's vital. 

I want to ask a question about schools and the curriculum. Shall I take it now or later? 

Shall we perhaps—? Yes, do it on impact. Go on, do it now. 

Schools in some ways are built on some version of a factory model, so is there an industry 4.0 kind of template for redesigning the entire school experience? Is Donaldson really the answer, because—? He identifies the importance of the soft side in terms of adaptability and critical thinking and also says that things like computational thinking, coding, are an essential part of literacy. So, if we implement Donaldson, are we getting that bit right?   

Professor Richard B Davies 11:42:11

I've looked quite closely at research over many years in these areas. For some of my early career, I was looking at progression through education systems in other countries, including in Denmark and other more Germanic models. And all the evidence is that you can make adjustments to curriculum, you can make adjustments to the way in which schools are organised, but the critical factor is: are the teachers creating the aspirations in the young people to make progress? That is the No. 1 thing, and I don't always see that there in Donaldson and other documents that I read, whereas that's been the key focus in many other countries for a very long time. You do need coding, you do need more excitement around technical things, yes, yes, yes, but what we should be looking at is: what are the aspirations of those young people when they finish, and at different ages? We need to match those aspirations and check are they the sort of aspirations we'd expect of our own children at that stage. We don't do very well as a country on that and it worries me a lot.  

I'd say just a little bit in defence of Donaldson, I suppose—it's not my job to defend Donaldson, but, you know—. And I declare an interest in that my wife is doing a little bit of curriculum-forming in humanities. But, if you look at what we probably need to deal with this, you need strong foundational skills, you need strong problem-solving skills, interpersonal skills and, indeed, lifelong learning, and then you need to be able to give people the technical skills they're going to need, and the vocational skills. 

Donaldson, I think, is at least an attempt to give young people that broader grounding—that they are going to be able to problem solve, they are going to be able to work together and they are going to have some of that knowledge in coding. So, I think it's probably not a bad place to be and to start from—it's certainly better than where we are at the moment, but I think Richard's right around the fact that the quality of teaching right across the education sector is absolutely vital to this. Where I think the Welsh Government may have a challenge is to actually be—. Do we have the time and the money to invest in the quality of the teaching to deliver the new curriculum?

I think there might also be a false distinction between the creative and critical thinking skills and, on the other side, STEM subjects. There's a pedagogy, a way of teaching. You could be teaching science and maths in creative and critical ways. So, they're definitely complementary; it's not either/or. And I think—when it comes to aspirations as well, I think that's ensuring that young people and children know that they can learn, that they like learning, so that when they do come along to lifelong learning later on in life, they've had a good experience of it. Otherwise, you do come up against those barriers. 

11:45

If we get Donaldson right, then we've got the chance to create learners who are more independent, who are more resilient, who are more geared up to deal with the challenges of the twenty-first century. So, some of the principles there are sound; it's whether we can deliver what's been set out.

And to come back to a point I made earlier about electronic marking, for instance, some of this stuff is still at an early stage, but it's getting better. So, there's a potential risk of people thinking, 'My gosh, there's a threat to some teaching jobs', and there's a philosophical debate to be had over students writing essays that are ultimately going to be marked by machines. But, as automated marking becomes more common and more developed, there's a chance for teachers, for lecturers, to spend more time on those aspects of learning and delivering the curriculum and delivering skills that are fulfilling. I know there's a teacher in this room, and, often, people don't find marking particularly the most exciting job. If we can automate some of those things in a way that's reasonable and fair to learners, it does free up staff to spend more time on the quality side of things. That's an example of automation coming into the supply side of education. 

Can I bring Mark in? Mark's been waiting patiently, and people want to come in as well. I'll come to Mark, and then, if it's okay, I'll come to Vikki, and then other people want to come in. Is that okay with you, Joyce, as well?

Our work, for example, on apprenticeships has emphasised that this isn't about HE or FE, or lifelong learning providers in isolation. It's about the whole sector working together. When we were in Swansea the other week discussing precision agriculture, I'd noted Swansea's connections already with Airbus and Coleg Cambria, and a comment was made to me by your colleagues that it would be great if we could have some whole-farm trials somewhere for precision engineering, and a similar point was made in evidence to us in committee the following week. I pointed out that Coleg Cambria has a whole farm because it incorporates Llysfasi, for example, as well as the horticultural college in Northop. And, subsequent to that, as I discovered when I met David Jones the following week, your colleagues had contacted him. But how can we ensure that that sort of approach, joined-up approach, becomes proactive as the norm to ensure that you are engaging, to mutual benefit, to share your assets and expertise?

Professor Richard B Davies 11:47:41

I'm never quite sure how big a problem this is. It is a problem, and we need to work at it all the time. But, in terms of the bulk of delivery that we're involved in, this is something that is relatively straightforward to fix by working together more smoothly, which is what we're all doing. It has to be collaborative. It has to be co-operative, and you can add value between the institutions. What worries me is some of the language around trying to input competition in these situations. I don't see competition myself as being the issue between different sectors. When you're facing the transformational demands that we've got, in terms of skills, it's a matter of moving everybody up the skills ladder. And there's plenty of space there for everybody because we have a ridiculously large proportion of our young people emerging from schools with no skills at all. So, that's the big effort.

And there's one thing missing here. This should be a triangle always. And it was just referred to earlier. Where is industry? Coleg Cambria works very closely with companies very, very successfully, and we enjoy being part of that triangle with them. There's no question. But we have—. And we do other things with large companies, and I spend a lot of time talking to large companies. They care deeply about skills. Fifty per cent of my conversations with companies are about skills development and wanting higher skilled people, and they're willing to invest in that. You cannot get that discussion with most SMEs because they haven't got the money to invest. And we do have this gap. We have relatively few large companies in Wales who are willing to invest and support in this sort of triangle, and we have vastly too many SMEs who need skilled people but haven't got the resources to be able to put in. And I don't know how that's dealt with; I'm not an expert in here, but I can see the problem. 

11:50

I was wondering how—that was the question: how do we ensure that this becomes the default position rather than something that's considered after the event, so that it's automatic? In terms of SMEs, actually, at the same meeting with David Jones, I facilitated a future meeting with an SME leader in north Wales who's brimming with ideas for the sector. They may not have the financial resource, but they know what their needs are.

I think, to paraphrase somebody: collaboration is a process, not an event, and we are getting better at that. The focus on post-compulsory education and training, and the new body for post-compulsory education means that further education colleges and universities are working more closely together than ever before. There are already some very good examples of that, but that's something that we're looking to do much more of in the future.

Last week, we brought together the cross-party group on higher education with the cross-party group on further education and so those kinds of meetings, making those relationships and cementing those relationships, is an important part of the work that we're doing.

Can I just—? Well, we have moved on to impact on people, but I wanted to just keep our focus on that particular area, remembering, of course, that our inquiry here—this piece of work—is on automation and the impact on the future of skills. If I come to Vikki Howells, then I'll come to Joyce if she wants to come in. Vikki Howells.

Thank you. Chair. We've talked about the importance of lifelong learning for all citizens of Wales and, of course, that's absolutely crucial, but I'd like to dig a little deeper really and peel off the skin of the onion and look at the layers underneath. Dave, you mentioned already that low-skilled workers are more likely to be affected by automation, and, Mair, you referred to 'less mobile'. When we're looking at access to skills and training, do we, as a nation, need to look more deeply at who exactly will be affected, or is more likely to be affected, by automation, particularly gender? There's a lot of evidence there around women and people with disabilities as well as the groups you've referred to. How do we go about that and ensure that they have good access to those training opportunities?

I think, on women in particular, the group that has been biggest hit by the cuts to FE in adult education and part-time learning have been women. They tend to learn in evenings and weekends. Welsh Government's investing another £10 million for the FE sector, which is about trying to respond to the priorities of the regional skills partnerships—so, hopefully to try and get more evenings and weekend working. But, certainly, I think that the opportunities for women have gone backwards, and we probably need to, as we invest in lifelong learning, recognise that, particularly for women and working people, you can't just put provision on in the day—we have to reconfigure what we do.

I think, for disabled people, there's a huge opportunity if we get this right. If we use technology and different forms of working, we can actually really open up opportunities for disabled people. The Welsh Government hasn't yet set the target in the employability plan for disabled people. We're doing a bit of work with them on that. But I think there's a real challenge for us. Could we be more ambitious and use the opportunities potentially of new technology and removing some of the physically repetitive sides of industry to open up opportunities for disabled people? I think that's a challenge and opportunity for us.

Some of the aids that have been developed to support learners with additional learning needs are now being rebranded and remarketed as productivity tools, with a focus on how these systems can improve things for everybody. So, I think that that kind of approach may help to mainstream support that will help disabled people in terms of learning and skills.

In terms of different sectors and different sections of population being at risk of automation, lots of women can be found in the care sector, and ironically while there will be things that change as a result of automation and artificial intelligence in the care sector, those human skills—the human-being-to-human-being skills—are those that cannot be easily replicated by machines and so, in some cases, those jobs, while they're low paid and not valued to the extent that they should be, are actually less at risk of automation than some of the more highly skilled jobs around, for instance, accountancy, which Lee mentioned earlier. We need to think about how we value those human skills and how we organise those industries—so, the work that Karel Williams has done around the foundational economy—and not just having people going from short-term placements, sticking a meal in the microwave, and moving on. How do we improve progression in those sectors? How do we configure things like the care sector so that there is more of an emphasis on autonomy and meeting the needs of the people being cared for that isn't taking autonomy and job satisfaction and deskilling the people who deliver?

11:55

I think, just to add to those two groups that were mentioned, we need to be aware of older people as well, as our demographic changes, and the fact that people do need to work longer to be able to earn enough for them to be able to retire. So, we need to be thinking about workplaces and dynamics within workplaces and people really learning right throughout their lives and opportunities to retrain—some real opportunities there. 

I think you also mentioned there, Vikki, whether we know what skills people will need. We have touched on labour market intelligence, but there is a lot that can be done in that area. I think it's really important that we have a lot more information about what is required in Wales and regions in Wales and make sure that that's accessible to everybody.

And with regard to your comment earlier on about less mobile workers, would you see that more community-based learning could be the answer there?

That does sound sensible. What we see is that the evidence suggests that people on higher wages, who are higher skilled and are better salaried are the ones who are most mobile. Therefore, they can go and move around and get the best jobs anywhere they want. It's the people in our localities who have the biggest potential, because we know that they're staying but also that we really need to be able to look after them and make sure that they can progress. 

I think, on that, with the community learning stuff, the evidence is there, and you're right—the higher skilled and higher earner you are, the more mobile you are. The evidence shows that the lowest skilled workers will travel a maximum of 2 km for jobs, and it's the same for learning as well. I think it's one of the challenges that we've lost a lot of the community learning provision. For a learner who's not had a good experience at school, going back into a lovely, shiny college is not the right step for them just yet. That's where you want them to be, but, as I say, it's quite a daunting experience to go back into a college full of young people when, actually, their own experience of education was very poor.

I'll touch on Mair's point about older workers as well. We run a survey, and have done for the last 20 years, and it shows, as we all expect, the older you are, the least likely you are to be involved in learning. At the moment, there is nowhere for an adult to go unless you are at risk of redundancy or out of work. There is really nowhere for you to go in the public sector to get independent careers advice, and it feels like, at the moment, we're asking people to navigate through a really complicated system: 'What are the future skills? Where are you going to be?' Actually, there's no real sense at the moment that they've got access to that advice. That is something I think Government really needs to look at again, about the access for adults to help them navigate through this change.

I'll move on slightly, if that's all right, Richard? Joyce Watson.

There is one short question I want to ask, from what you've just said. You talked about upskilling jobs in the care sector, particularly. That will upgrade the jobs, we hope, and increase the pay. How do we guard against people being leapfrogged—so, people who are doing the jobs, now the lowest paid, and suddenly they don't get the opportunities to upskill and become upgraded?

I think that's a big challenge. I think some of that will be around making sure that we're targeting those people specifically, that we're providing opportunities. 'Okay, so who does those jobs now? What would be the best possible way to upskill them that suits their life outside work, their circumstances?' That is a challenge. You don't want people suddenly coming in and then you haven't solved the problem at the bottom, of the lowest paid. I suppose that's about how we design the learning opportunities, whether that's through reconfiguring apprenticeships—. That's a thorny question.

Professor Richard B Davies 11:59:05

Yes, I just want to emphasise two things. First of all, the figures do indicate that it's going to be women who are harder hit in the initial years, but it will then be men. By 10 years' time, it'll be men. Some countries are ahead of us. I've spent a lot of time recently talking to people in other countries—Ministers and heads of universities—about what they're doing around these things. In Germany, they're already really worried about the young males and the lack of future jobs for them. They see that as one of the big things that they've got to address. We are going to have a lot of unbalancing things going on here. I don't think there's any way we're going to be able to avoid all this and plan all our way through it. I think we've got to create an environment where a lot of things happen fast, and we've got to then make adjustments according to as things go wrong. This is unplannable, and that's the general conclusion in most countries. You've got to create an environment where people want to do things, want to get involved, and it isn't just upskilling, because we can upskill people as fast as we want, but there's no magic bullet in a bit more vocational work or a bit more effort here in terms of support workers in healthcare. There is no magic bullet. You've got to look at this in terms of bringing in the new jobs in order to create the pull through that will be part of the drive for skills. That is something that we haven't got fully engaged on yet in Wales.

12:00

Yes. So, if that's the case and we're going to get new skills through automation, we need then to be looking at the learning programmes and how quickly they're adapting but also within the sectors that need that adaptation to happen. So, how do you see that working its way through?

Professor Richard B Davies 12:01:19

Well, I think all the learning providers ought to be discussing it together and with their own organisations about how they're adapting, and these discussions, as I say, are taking place around the world now. I was with the British Council for five days in Kuala Lumpur last week, and so much of the discussion there was about how Government works with universities, with the colleges, to bring about the sort of changes we are all talking about here. So, not only do we adapt to a changing world but we actually help construct it, because we need to be a leader. We've got to get from following behind and trying to recover when things go wrong—. We've got to get from there to how we can be ahead of the technological change and fast. That's the issue, that's the challenge.

So, I've got Mark waiting and then the floor is Lee's. So, Mark. 

Yes. Reference was made to—well, I don't like the term 'people with disabilities' as that's a medical model, but only disabled people are experts in the barriers that disabled people face and the barriers to learning, work and independent living, which the overwhelming majority of disabled people seek. Given that they are the experts, how are you or do you propose to engage directly with them through training, particularly equality training, but understanding those barriers and recognising that it isn't about spending more money but simply doing things differently?

Professor Richard B Davies 12:02:57

Well, oddly enough, some of that actually comes from the private sector. With a big project that we are involved in in Llanelli in terms of a wellness village, some of the private sector companies that we are working with are very interested in how we work with different disabilities to make people effective and allow them to be productive, but they see this partly as a test bed, but by 'test bed' I mean not just taking their ideas and imposing them but using it to understand what people need in order to be able to have a quality life and to be able to do productive things. So, they will put more money into this than Government is ever likely to, so it's working with the grain of what other people want to do that I think is important here.

That's a question of just good-quality engagement and how we gain intelligence and an understanding of the challenges ahead, talking to all groups who are affected. Whether that's disabled people, whether that's women who work in particular professions, whether that's young men, it's about the quality of engagement and shaping the future narrative together. No one group has got all the answers. The private sector has got a role, the learner voice has got a role. There are various different things that we need to bring together to address the challenges, and making sure that underrepresented groups feed in their views is vital. 

Well, what training are you accessing from disabled people?

That will vary from college to college in terms of the further education sector. I don't really have details on that at the moment, but we can look into that further.

I'd be grateful, and for higher education as well if that would be possible. Thank you.

Professor Richard B Davies 12:04:53

We can provide information on this, but there's massive work in every university to support people with different types of disability, from students who are blind, from wheelchair users, all the way through, and adapting courses and providing different materials for people are all to do with—. In one wonderful case we had, a student who was wheelchair-bound had a year in the United States as part of their integral part of their degree. To manage things like that means you finish with somebody who can really contribute to society at the end.

12:05

On that, I think we're sometimes missing a trick as well. It’s not just about when they’re actually through the door. There's some really interesting research by the NHS here around the kind of transport barriers and the physical barriers for people to access work. It's exactly the same for learning. So, I think it's a job of work. We can do more when they’re in the institution, but I think we also need to look at how we actually really, really break down some of those barriers that mean people aren't actually getting the opportunity to come through the door in the first place.

And this is about mental health as well as physical health.

Absolutely, and learning difficulty, and lifelong neurological conditions and various other things.

Absolutely.

I’ve only got Lee waiting, so if you want to come in after Lee, indicate, and then we're going to come onto the last section, which is what Government can do, which I’ll come to David for. But Lee first.

Yes, I have two questions, please, Chair. First of all on the gender element, Professor Davies, you replied, when asked about the impacts on women, that actually the problem concerning people and gender is the gender men in 10 years' time. But can we just focus on women for a second? In terms of the first waves of automation, the big sectors that are going to be hit first as far as we can establish are going to be retail, which is a huge employer of women, and back-office functions, which, again, is where it's clerical work. So, there's going to be a hugely gendered element to automation. Do you think we should be taking a gendered approach in the short term?

Professor Richard B Davies 12:06:47

I really hesitate there because gender is often an oversimplification, because you get many males doing jobs that may be stereotypically female and vice versa. I think the really big gender issues are the ones—and I'm sorry; every time I come in to talk to committees, we always come back to this—about what happens in school in terms of raising aspirations of young people to do different things. So, they're already set off in different directions by the time they leave school, and I think the longer term way of addressing this has to be looking at the way in which we do stereotype people at a very early stage, partly by gender, and that is hugely disadvantageous to women in at least the medium term, given these big changes that are taking place. So, I’ve answered a slightly different question.

Professor Richard B Davies 12:07:58

In the short term I'm not an expert.

I think we work on the basis of the evidence. So, if the evidence suggests, as it does, that retail and other industries that are female dominated are the most at risk, then we need to target support at where we know the problems are likely to occur. So, if that means that, yes, in the first wave we need to be looking at women in retail and other sectors, we need to do that. That’s an evidence-based approach.

And it’s a sector-based approach, which was something else in the point you made.  If you look at the sectors and, for example, at retail and if you were to focus on retail, which I think is the right thing to do, workers in retail are going to be displaced. That will have a gender element to it. To be little bit—[Inaudible.]—I think, we've got to be really careful we don’t cop out a little bit and say it's schools on some of this. Schools are important, but there's a challenge here and now for adults as well.

We can’t sort of say, 'We’ve got this wrong for so long'—I know that’s not what you're saying—'but we are going to forget about the problems we've got now in this generation'. We do have to address the immediate challenge as well. But I think certainly a sector-based approach would actually get to where you probably want to get to as well.

Okay. My second question: Professor Davies rightly said that we need to create a fast-moving, fast-adapting environment. You also discussed earlier the problem of scale, and other witnesses talked about the Donaldson reforms—having some of the important building blocks around adaptability, around digital skills, around creativity, which means, as far as we can understand, they're going to be crucial for futureproofing people to an ongoing, changing technological environment. Just to link those two points together in terms of pace, I do worry that the Donaldson reforms and the work going on in schools around digital skills now are far too small in scale and far too long in terms of the horizon to adapt to things we know are coming our way. So, just to return, if we could, just a little to Donaldson and to the education sector—the early age responding to this—do you share my concern about the pace of change, and how can we drive that more?

12:10

Just to point out—and I think everyone realises this—that most of the people who are in this room are still going to be working in the next 10 years. Lots of children in schools are going to be—. The workforce is changing, but we're still there, it's the same people in this space, whereas we have young people coming up who may, eventually, have been though an education process where Donaldson reforms have kicked in, and a new curriculum. We're all going to be working in the same spaces together. So, lifelong learning and adult learning has to encompass these skills; we can't just rely on Donaldson, we need to be thinking about those creative and critical thinking skills in the adult sphere as well.

That's a very fair point, but we still do have a cohort of people going through the education system now, and we know the world of work that they're going to go into is going to require different sets of skills to the ones they're being equipped with, and Donaldson is identifying and discerning the outline of some of the things that need to change. My question is: is it happening fast enough, and if it isn't, do you have any thoughts on how it can be speeded up?

I think one of the issues is around consistency. We know that there are some schools or some institutions doing a really good job, with access to really great facilities, but that's not the case across the whole of Wales; that's not where we need it to be. So, the issue is to roll out that good practice quickly and make sure that we're not just wedded to models from last month, last week, but we're able to respond to the here and now, and some of that is a challenge for the detailed content of curricula.

Probably to respond a little bit to Mair as well, I think she's right, and I know you were asking about young people, but I think it's also important to—. In north Wales, for example, they are struggling with helping to equip adults—mid-life and older workers—with the additional skills that they need. They're actually struggling with this challenge of how do you get people like me, my age and older into their fifties, to get the new skills that they're going to need. The impact of that, of course, is that it's having an impact on the young people coming through the system, but what it isn't doing is it is not creating entry points for those young people to come through. So, even though they do the digital skills, they haven't got the entry points into industry, because older and mid-life workers aren't moving up, because of a lack of digital skills. So, I'm not well placed to answer on Donaldson, but I think there's a similar point.

So, unless anybody else wants to indicate to come in, I'll come to David to lead the last set of questions on what Government can do.

I think, going away from the script a little here, we haven't talked about the freeing up of time that automation should bring. Now, we've always had the situation where, if we automate the time people are in work, it should be much lower. It hasn't really translated all that much, because we're still on the 40-hour week, or 35 hours, something like that. 

Now, automation should mean that companies are far more efficient and, therefore, profits are far greater. Is there a way that the Government can encourage companies to job share? So, instead of one person coming in for 40 hours a week, two people will do 20 hours a week, but they still get that salary because of the greater efficiencies that automation has given to the company and, therefore, the greater profit. Is there a way that, perhaps, Government could operate—? I mean, you could tax them, but if you tax them, you then have the problem that you have to put the money back in to have the—. Just incentives for the company to take two people on instead of—. I mean, that could make a great impact on that, couldn't it? On redundancies.

Professor Richard B Davies 12:13:48

That's a creative idea for trying to deal with a reducing demand for labour. I worry a little bit about is there an element of surrender if we make that into a big policy. I think there was always scope for that. We do need people taking home healthy wages to pay the taxes, to be able to support all the things that are important to us, which Government has to pay for. And we want a quality of life, which comes from this.

We haven't touched on it here, but there's a very important argument that, if you've got a relatively prosperous economy and you're doing well, that actually supports the arts and it supports cultural things, all sorts of things that pull in other employment, and very much person-based employment, rather than automation. They're not going to be automating the pop concert, they're not going to be automating the plays—there are a lot of things that would happen here. So, I think we need to plan towards a prosperous economy. That is my strong view. It's got to be competitive globally, which means getting productivity up, but that's part of the challenge of automation, industry 4.0 and bringing in artificial intelligence, all the things we've been talking about. I think I'm going to return again and again, until you throw me out, to saying that this isn't a magic bullet. There are a lot of smallish issues to address. The really big issue is transforming the economy, and that will suck in and build on the skills and the expertise you've got.

If I don't mention Diamond, I think my colleagues in Universities Wales are going to shoot me, because Diamond offers the hope that we can return to a situation where we don't lose money in teaching engineering, computer science and any other sciences, which we currently do in universities. So, we've got these perverse incentives, currently. Diamond is a way of beginning to incentivise us to be able to do this properly and continue to do what we can to contribute to this changing agenda.

12:15

Sorry, Lee, can I interrupt? Because I think Mair wanted to come in there.

I was just going to pick up on that. I think the nub of the matter is wages, and the other thing, in direct response to your question, is that if we do see that there are fewer jobs, we would hope that that's because we have higher skilled jobs, higher productivity and, therefore, people should be paid a higher salary for working less time. That's the meaning around it. So then, I think, the point you were making about taxing the technology, or the owners of that technology—we need to make sure that labour share is fair in that. So, where we do have higher productivity, that is passed on through wages. The opportunities for job share, in that case, are really interesting. There was a report out last week that was talking about a gendered approach, and it was also saying that women are still losing out in the gender pay gap, for various reasons. One thing that is kind of radical—well, not really, but an interesting idea—around that is we're offering a lot of flexible time and we promote that for women, but, actually, we should be making sure that that is completely normal for men, as well, so that we have both genders taking flexible approaches to their working lives. 

Have you got any further questions, at the moment, David?

I want to slowly move on—or quickly move on, if we can—to what Government can do. There's a quick question from Lee, and then I'll come to Adam.

I was just inviting Professor Davies to expand on his point.

Professor Richard B Davies 12:17:46

In the current funding model for higher education, we get a fixed sum of money, which is about £7,500 for each student, after we've used part of the £9,000 fee for other things that we're required to do. We cannot teach an engineering student in a way that's globally competitive, where students will want to come to us or go to Cardiff or whatever, rather than go to somewhere in England or somewhere in Germany or wherever—we cannot teach them for £7,500. In the past, we've had extra funding for students in these high-cost areas. That's nearly all disappeared, and medicine is one of the few exceptions now where you get some top up—

Professor Richard B Davies 12:18:32

Under Diamond, we would return to a situation—with the re-engineering of university finance, we would get some Government support for this extra cost of teaching these high-cost subject areas.

Wrth inni symud ymlaen i'r thema nesaf, roeddwn i jest isie gofyn—. Hynny yw, mae Cymru yn wlad fach, ac mae thema awtomeiddio yn enfawr. Oni ddylem ni, felly, efallai, ganolbwyntio ar elfennau tu fewn i'r holl rychwant o gyfleoedd—hynny yw, meddwl am beth sydd yn nodweddu Cymru? Rŷm ni'n gymdeithas ychydig yn hŷn na gwledydd eraill, rŷm ni'n wlad wasgaredig, fwy gwledig, rŷm ni'n wlad ddwyieithog—hynny yw, mae yna gyfleoedd o ran cyfieithu peirianyddol. Mae amaethyddiaeth yn bwysig, ac yn y blaen. Yn hytrach na thrial mynd ar ôl popeth, fel pob gwlad arall, oni ddylem ni fod ychydig bach yn fwy clyfar a gweld ble mae'r union gyfleoedd inni?

As we move on to the next theme, I just wanted to ask you—. Wales is a small country, and the theme of automation is massive. Shouldn't we, therefore, perhaps, be concentrating on elements within that whole range of opportunities, namely thinking of what are the features of Wales? We are a bit of an older society compared to other countries, we are a scattered, more rural country, we are a bilingual country—there are opportunities in terms of machine translation. Agriculture is important, and so forth. Rather than going after everything, like every other country, shouldn't we be a little more clever and see where exactly the opportunities are for us?

Professor Richard B Davies 12:19:49

A ydym ni'n gallu canolbwyntio ar rai pynciau?

Could we concentrate on some subjects?

I would say, of course, we want to build on our strengths, and you listed some of the things that are sometimes listed as problems. They're not problems. A bilingual country is a huge strength in the world. All the stuff that's going on now in terms of digital translation systems and so on—we're at the heart of that, and we're involved in that, and it gives us a competitive advantage over many other areas. Other examples you gave—I totally agree with that. But we've also got to be broad as well, because we need a broad sweep of jobs. 

I would add one thing to the list that you gave there, Adam. In talking to multinational companies, they're often attracted to Wales because—and this is not a pejorative term—they see us a wonderful test bed. It's a manageable country, they can talk to the politicians, they can talk to the Ministers, they can talk to the few universities—they can actually plan things and invest in something and see how it works. I won't list the companies because I haven't had permission to do that, but privately I could tell you some companies that would quite astound you that want to do work in Wales, and in fact are investing now in Wales, in that sort of role. This is all forward looking. This is all about this new world that we're talking about.

My final point, then, is: please see universities as the window and door to the world, because we work with all the people around the world who are doing all these things, and are at the cutting edge. See if we can help you in Wales through those contacts and through those links, and also help sell what we can do uniquely here in Wales, or at least a special competitive advantage—how we can help sell those globally to our advantage. We can help.

12:20

I'm going to ask Members if they've got any last questions in a moment, but I'll give you advance notice of my last question. I want you to help to summarise this session. I want each of you to tell me your top priority for Government, what Government should do in regard to the future of skills when it comes to automation. Give me your top priority. I will ask Members if they've got any other questions before I come to ask you those questions. Mark and then Lee.

Earlier on, Richard—I think it was Richard, it might have been Rachel—referred to the opportunities to skill up and improve the care workforce as a consequence of automation. In the broader economy, customer care used to be, and in some cases still is, the byword. I'll give you one example—I could go on—but I know that some of the banks got a lot of criticism for closing branches in towns, but some of the banks are now putting in branchless community development people who meet people in libraries, in town halls, at local events and so on, delivering that customer care contact point with people, by people. So, is there an opportunity for a rebirth of a customer care culture requiring upskilling, training and qualifications to get the best possible delivery at the coalface?  

One person to answer that. Who wants to have a stab at that one? Two, then.

Professor Richard B Davies 12:23:43

May I just say 'yes'?

That's an easy one. Rachel, you wanted to come in then.

I think, yes, there is an argument for that. It's looking at those human-to-human skills. As industries change and develop, yes, very much, those people skills that can't be replicated, we know that they're important across industries. Lots of employers of different sizes say that it's those customer care skills—that ability to deal with people—that are lacking sometimes in what's being produced in the education system at the moment. We need to focus on that.

You've talked quite a lot about the lower end of the skills spectrum, but less so about the higher end. I heard a presentation recently by the chief exec of PwC—sorry, the chief economist—and when I pressed him on what was the one thing the Welsh Government should do, his argument was that we should be investing in PhDs in machine learning and automation; those higher-level skills that simply aren't there. Then we'd need to think about how, having trained them, we'd try to keep them, so they're not poached. Because these are skills in short supply across the world. I just wondered, in terms of the higher-level skills we have, if you have any reflections on where we should be putting our focus.

Professor Richard B Davies 12:24:53

This is something I talk to companies about almost on a daily basis, and the Government, both here and in London, and we see it across the UK, an interest in just what you're saying there, and there's just been—the results aren't announced—a big round of funding decisions on PhDs from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and I don't think it's any secret that there were a considerable number of proposals from universities across the UK to do precisely what you're saying.

There is a huge problem, however, in how you define the field. I haven't got time to go into this, but if you—. This is a very diverse, broad field, from psychology right through to coding and computer science. And there is no big tradition in integrating all these, so it's got to be built up. The expertise has got to be built up from the pieces and created, and we're doing that. And most of the research-intensive universities are doing this, and they're doing it around the world, and we're talking to other people. We've got less money to do it than many, but you expect me to whinge and I'm trying not to.

So, the industry we talk to does talk about those higher level skills at, not just PhD, but EngD—it's doctor of engineering—which encompasses computer science and other things. They talk about those as the real skills in demand. They're willing to put money into those and they do put money into those things. They cannot get those high-skilled people in any area. 

12:25

So, are you saying it's in hand, or are you suggesting that we as a committee, when we do our report, suggest that more should be done specifically by the Welsh Government?

Professor Richard B Davies 12:26:49

I think Welsh Government should support what is a global trend and what's happening elsewhere in the UK, because it's catch-up—

Professor Richard B Davies 12:26:57

Well, the Welsh Government has been very, very good in supporting and part-funding big schemes for large numbers of EngD students, or PhD students, around technological requirements. So, it's to continue that, but move it into some of these new fields. So, it's an ask of more of the same, really, rather than anything dramatically different. 

We've got quick-fire questions and answers now. I've got David and Joyce. David.

I'm going to bring us right back to the beginning of this session, Richard. You mentioned the word 'aspiration' and I think it is—. I think you apologised for using it because you use it a lot, but I think it's at the absolute core of getting people to aspire to upskilling themselves. Do you have any ideas of how we can instill that right from the children in our schools, right at the beginning of their education, right the way through? 'Aspiration' is a key word, I think. David.

We've done some research on this, and we have done for a long time, around a tipping point for adults in particular—not so much young people, but there is a tipping point for adults as to when they go back into adult education, when they take the decision to go. And the tipping point is, essentially, when you weigh up the cost, which is time, 'Is it worth it? Is it going to be beneficial to me?', and then, actually, you think the benefit to you—'Yes, it will be.' But you can't do that. What you can't do is just put on provision and expect people to make an independent choice to come on their own. You have to get the marketing, you have to get the communication right.

You also have to get a culture of lifelong learning back, because, at the moment, people just do not see lifelong learning as having value. And, actually, what we know is it's going to have enormous value in terms of protecting people from risks, I think. We have to get the marketing right. We have to get the message carriers right, and we have to demonstrate to people that it's got benefit for them. 

Talking about schools, though, there's been some recent research recently in Welsh schools. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has been looking at the impact of creativity and critical thinking interventions on pupils. So, over a term of having artists come in and work on creative practices with them, we were undertaking surveys pre and post that to measure self-efficacy and if there was any development in that. So, there is research in that area ongoing, and the OECD are interested in that, and that's the kind of thing that will feed into the Programme for International Student Assessment. So, it's about self-efficacy, and confidence and aspiration within that. 

And aspiration is wider than just education and skills. Learners spend the vast majority of their time, especially in their early years, with their families. We need to create a culture of aspiration amongst families and communities in Wales who don't always have that culture of aspiration that we need to see. So, it's about addressing some of those wider social justice issues too. 

And the last question is from Joyce before I ask my final question. Joyce. 

You've all talked about lifelong learning, and you've talked about buildings disappearing and other ways of teaching, so how are we going to deliver your aspiration for continued lifelong learning and investment from where we are now to where we need to be?

12:30

Part of it, I think, is actually rebalancing the way we spend money in the education system so that we're not frontloading too much. I think we need to deliver education in a huge range of settings. There's a fantastic school in your constituency—Monkton Priory Community Primary School in Pembroke, which has churned out somewhere around 60 or 70 honour students with the support of University of Wales Trinity Saint David. It's a great example of how you deliver lifelong learning within a community setting. 

There's a real challenge, as Adam was talking about, in rural communities, and we can't be fixating on asking people to travel. There's a great quote that I was given second-hand by an further education principal, who said, 'Yes, we're really, really flexible, as long as you can start in September and as long as you can travel to the campus.' And I think that's a real challenge for us—to redesign the system. We are delivering more lifelong learning opportunities in the community, where people can travel to and get to.

Right, in that case—. Did you want to come in, Rachel?

I just think it's about making use of the resources and facilities that we already have. So, although some of them are under threat, community settings like libraries—going where people are in that first instance. Taking learning out rather than expecting learners to come in makes a huge difference.

Professor Richard B Davies 12:31:38

Most learning should be at work. That's the bit I think we're missing here and that's what works very effectively in many other countries—that the upskilling is in work, and when you talk to major companies, they'll often say they want every one of their employees to know how to access the training to get to the next level in their company. Companies are willing to do this, and I'm not sure whether we engage enough in that.

Yes, and that's fine for people who are in work, but we're now talking about mass unemployment with new technologies, so we need to do both.

Professor Richard B Davies 12:32:14

Companies will take people in and allow them to move up within their organisation. If Government pays for all the training that's needed—I think that's going to be an insurmountable challenge over the next 20 years.

That comes on to my last question. So, my last question is: succinctly, what is your call to Government—succinctly? Richard.

Professor Richard B Davies 12:32:41

It is to think big—to realise that they need transformation over a relatively short time and to concentrate on supporting and encouraging others to help deliver it and not just expecting to do it all themselves.

I think to rebuild that culture and investment in lifelong learning, including access to careers advice—the whole system. I'll be very cheeky and say that I think there's one thing the committee should do as well—

One is to look abroad at other small nations and how they're responding to this, and the second one is to scrutinise the Government on their process at the moment of reforming the post-compulsory education and training system, and how they're implementing Hazelkorn. We're in the middle now of a technical consultation on what this new body's going to look like. It'll be introduced potentially by 2022/23 and will start making decisions about the future of the skills system. Now, actually, we're talking about the future of skills, and by 2030, there will be, potentially, if the legislation goes through, a new body that is to make those decisions. It won't be Welsh Government Ministers making those decisions anymore, and I think, as part of this review, or as part of your work, looking at how that is going is a really important part.

And you said abroad—where abroad should we be looking?

[Inaudible.]—Richard will know this as well, and we've got some great examples from Austria of the way they've managed to raise participation levels. Estonia's done a good job. France, as a bigger country, has done a really good job of raising participation levels in lifelong learning as well.

Long-term, targeted investment into education, because we need to upskill, or make more resilient, people at all levels, whether they're learners coming through school or whether they're adults in low-paid occupations or those who are out of the workplace at the moment. And to quote a president at Harvard University, 'If you think education's expensive, try ignorance.' We've got to get it right.

Finally from me, I think I would just say that we need a lot of further research and evidence in this area, particularly at a Wales level and at regional levels as well. The information isn't there, so we're speculating quite a lot about what will be needed. We know we have an inefficient and unequal society. The job matching is very poor. We have graduates who are in non-graduate jobs. We have a net migration of graduates, so we really need to think about labour market information. We need to think about sophisticated and clever ways of matching that so that we are very much better informed at making sure that our economy works for everybody. I think Phil Brown's review, we'll be looking at a little bit of that as well, in terms of the software and some of the data and learning that we can get from that. But it's really important that we invest and ensure that we do have intelligent systems and evidence and research in that area.

12:35

Okay. Diolch yn fawr. Thank you ever so much for your evidence to us this morning. It's been a really interesting session. We will send you a transcript of the proceedings. Have a look over it, and if there's something that you want to add to what you said, by all means drop the committee a note. But we appreciate your time this morning. 

Next week's session is—we continue our work on automation with regard to self-driving vehicles. That's our next session for next week. I draw this session to an end, so thank you for your time this morning.

Daeth y cyfarfod i ben am 12:35.

The meeting ended at 12:35.

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