The Real Conversation

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The Real Conversation – Y Sgwrs Go Iawn

First of all, a fun fact! How many breeding sheep are there in Wales? The answer is somewhere in the article below, so to find out keep on reading…

As an 18 year old who studied his A-levels during a time of recession and mass-unemployment, I witnessed first-hand how the economic climate was affecting the way we were being ‘prepared’ for the world-of-work.

I remember being pushed and pulled by teachers who always threw around phrases like “You have to be employable”, “Key Skills are so important”, “Confidence is key” and so many more – but did any of it work?

A recent UK survey said that in the last 12 months employers spent an estimated £49 billion on training, with just £1.7 billion of this going to Wales. Yet it seems that up and down the high streets, those small, neighbourhood familiars have shut-up shop due to the crippling rise in tax and the drastic fall in revenue.

With the introduction of mandatory Welsh Baccalaureates, vocational courses being offered in high schools and career advisors at our disposal, whose job is it to help you find a career suited to you? It would seem we have all we need, but the real conversation is this – are we prepared for the outside world, or pre-packed?

The Real Conversation conference, organised by the Welsh Government, took place this June in the Mercure Holland hotel in Cardiff. The day was organised as a ‘call to action’ bringing together business leaders, young people and other stakeholders to discuss opportunities for businesses, teachers and trainers, and also barriers to employment in the current climate.

The Welsh Government this year began re-modelling the existing framework for post-16 education funding to be in place from September 2014.

With 87,000 employers and between 35 – 40,000 people who took GCSE examinations last year you would assume that people are qualified, however Andrew Clark, Deputy Head of Further Education in the Welsh Government said: “Too many young people have skills employers don’t want.”

The debate was heated amongst the young people and employers who discussed various questions posed to us, and over three hours the issues and concerns came to the surface.

Some questions raised included:

“Can you teach a skill?” Is it teachers who put it in place and let it grow, or see it and provide opportunities for the person to practice?

Should education funding meet economic need or what people want? 40% of people agreed with economic need as opposed to 27% for personal want.

What is a good course? Is it the job prospects afterwards? And should course satisfaction be monitored and published?

From the poll results it seems that education may be a game, but no-one is playing around – the young people frequently answered that they wanted their education to prepare them for employability, give them more skills and develop them as people and employees.

James Taylor, Managing Director of Superstars (a business that has grown to over 100 employees in just 3 years), said: “Experience, experience, experience, it’s what every employer wants – qualifications are good, but they don’t fit the bill. You won’t get to the interview without experience!”

On the topic of personal development and growth, Taylor said “Many young people come and go in my business, and I take the attitude that I’m totally committed to developing young people in regards to their career – as long as it’s 110%!”

So after reading all of this, please comment below with your experience in school – what career advice did you get? Do/did you know what you want to be? What skills are the most important? Please give any opinion on the issues raised; we’d love to hear from you.

For more advice, please visit: or

P.S By the way, there are 4.1 million sheep in Wales, thanks for reading!

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