Plans for the new commission come at an opportune time for Mr Watkins as he is calling for a change to the compulsory education system in Wales to give apprenticeships parity of esteem with university degrees to meet the needs of employers.
He maintains that the most talented young people are encouraged to aspire to attend university rather than to consider apprenticeships in sectors, such as hospitality, where there is a desperate need for skilled employees.
“The Commission for Tertiary Education and Research will be in a much better position to respond to national and regional learning priorities based on evidence to fit the actual needs of the economy,” said Mr Watkins. “Commissioning learning, whatever that might be, cannot continue to be a free for all.
“We have to realise that we live on an island and there is no longer freedom of movement of people following Brexit, which should not come as a surprise to any of us. How are we going to fill job vacancies and fill skills gaps?
“There is a high percentage of our talented young people that leaves the area at the age of 18 for higher education rather than staying to develop higher level skills through apprenticeships. Many of these young people never return to employment within the region and this must change.”
Last week, Mr Watkins addressed more than 100 delegates at the Mid Wales Tourism and Hospitality Conference, organised by MWT Cymru at the Metropole Hotel and Spa, Llandrindod Wells, where he spoke about the recruitment crisis facing the hospitality industry following Brexit and the pandemic.
He asked all delegates to stand up and remain standing if they currently employ or have in the past employed an apprentice. Only six delegates remained standing!
He stressed that apprenticeships in Wales are open to people aged from 16 to 65, including those already employed in businesses.
Significant investment in Powys and Ceredigion planned over the next decade had the potential to be a regional economic “gamechanger”, with projects likely to impact positively on the visitor economy which would require a highly skilled workforce.
“Changing the compulsory education system is not likely to win votes but meeting the needs of our regional economy is far more important, in my opinion, to the region than votes,” he added.
“Never in my working life have I experienced the need to reduce the operational hours of a business not because of the limited number of customers but the lack of human resources available to deliver the quality of service expected by the business and its customers. For the past seven months in Mid Wales, this has been a regular picture.”
He urged businesses to put pressure on politicians at all levels to challenge the compulsory education system and to develop innovative ways of engaging with primary and secondary schools to make children aware of exciting career opportunities within the hospitality and tourism sector.
“Let’s see governing bodies, school leaders, teachers and career guidance giving the same amount of support to students to complete an application for an apprenticeship opportunity as they currently do for the completion of a UCAS form,” he said.
He also challenged employers to create apprenticeship opportunities at the same time as students are considering their school options.
He is concerned how much longer businesses can continue to operate with a staff shortage before they become unsustainable, with the consequent impact on visitor experience. “We need to be continually raising the quality and increasing the offer, not reducing it,” he said.
He revealed that Cambrian Training Company has a minimum of £1.8 million available annually for the next five to seven years to deliver apprenticeships within Powys and Ceredigion.
He pledged to secure additional funding for the tourism – the “most economically important” sector in Mid Wales - if there is demand from businesses to make the Apprenticeship Programme one of the solutions to their skills and staffing crisis.
“Our sector cannot take advantage of the technological advances of automation,” he added. “To be at our best, we need human interaction and that requires higher level skilled individuals and teams. That does not in itself mean higher education.”
One hospitality business already benefitting from the Apprenticeship Programme, having already signed up 13 apprentices, aged from 17 to mid-40s, is Lake Vyrnwy Hotel at Llanwddyn.
Operations director Anthony Rosser said: “I don’t understand why more tourism and hospitality businesses don’t employ apprentices. It’s a wonderful opportunity for employees to receive structured training, very beneficial for recruitment, staff retention and progression, helps to drive up standards within your business and is easy to organise and administer.”
Arwyn Watkins, OBE - time to change the compulsory education system.
“We have seen record numbers of people coming into Mid Wales. Staycationing looks as if it is going to be with us for some time to come, especially if people don’t have the confidence to travel abroad.
“Mid Wales has become a recognised destination and our job is to ensure it stays that way. We know that places like North Wales and Pembrokeshire have been very popular destinations for some time but I think Mid Wales is starting to catch up and long may it continue.
“Our challenge is to make sure that we can get these visitors to come back.”
But Mr Rees-Evans also warned of “dark clouds looming over the horizon” as the industry grapples with staff shortages, supply chain issues and the expected return of VAT to 20% from 12.5%. There will also be the 1.5% increase in National Insurance staff contributions for businesses to factor in.
“As an industry we are going to have to manage these changes carefully because they will affect our bottom line,” he said.
The human resource shortfall was also highlighted by Arwyn Watkins OBE, managing director of Cambrian Training Company, the conference’s lead sponsor, who urged delegates to challenge the current education system to ensure that apprenticeships are given equal importance for school leavers as staying in education currently is.
“Changing the compulsory education system won’t win votes for politicians, but it will address the needs of the area which is more important,” said Mr Watkins.
But the new chair of the Wales Tourism Alliance, Suzy Davies, also encouraged delegates to “seize the day” and made her organisation’s priorities clear as the industry continues its recovery from the pandemic.
“We intend to continue as the strong and united voice for tourism in Wales whilst at the same time being a critical friend to the Welsh Government by campaigning for better economic conditions,” she said.
“I want to assure the industry that we are a champion for the private sector. Visit Wales and the Welsh Government can’t do everything so we look forward to working with them. We have to get the balance of partnership right.”
That message of unity was supported by Steve Hughson, chair of Mid Wales Regional Tourism Forum, who praised the recent Visit Wales marketing campaigns that had raised the profile of the region to unprecedented levels.
“What is being done at the moment in the name of Mid Wales is absolutely magnificent,” he said, while reiterating that the forum will ensure that the “voice of tourism, hospitality and leisure is heard at the Welsh Government”.
Other enlightening presentations were delivered by travel journalist, York Membery, who gave insider advice on how to deal with the media, while Nerys Howell and Sian Roberts, from Loving Welsh Food, gave a light hearted lesson on improving customer service.
Community-led collaboration in Newtown and Rhayader was the topic of discussion addressed by Bill Stow, Rhayader 2000, Michael Booth, Dwr Cymru, and Stuart Owen, Open Newtown, while Lucy Von Weber, head of marketing at Visit Wales, reviewed their recent promotional campaigns and shared the latest data and research which led to their powerful autumn advertising campaign.
Brand specialist, Roger Pride, director of Heavenly, delivered advice to delegates on how to ensure their businesses are being noticed in a crowded market place.
In summing up the conference, MWT Cymru chief executive, Val Hawkins, said it had injected fresh energy into the tourism sector and encouraged delegates to spread the positivity across the region.
“We have welcomed a cross section of expert speakers with a wealth of knowledge in tourism to this conference which has been extremely well supported by a large number of attendees,” said Mrs Hawkins.
“We have a tremendous opportunity now to build the industry whilst at the same time we all need to listen to what our businesses are warning us about human resource shortages, supply chain issues and the pending return of VAT to 20%.”
MWT Cymru chairman Rowland Rees-Evans addresses the conference.
Delegates are welcomed to the conference by Justin Baird-Murray, managing director of the Metropole Hotel & Spa.
CymruStock - https://cymrustock.co.uk/ - offers Welsh stock film, footage and production services which link broadcasters, advertising, marketing companies and businesses in any sector, especially tourism, to the best content creators covering the whole of Wales.
Customers seeking bespoke filming or photographic services for a specific project in Wales can contact CymruStock with their brief which is then passed on to content creators.
A customer has the option of either dealing directly with the content creators or a dedicated CymruStock project manager, who can also provide complementary creative, technical and marketing services.
“CymruStock is the first collaborative stock film, photography and production hub where customers can harness the power and beauty of Wales in their marketing, production, advertising and social media,” said Charles Symons from Cymru Creative Group.
“Our hugely talented network of creatives across Wales work with customers at both local and national level. We provide creative advice, editing services and specific filming, and we are happy discuss future projects.”
CymruPrint - https://cymruprint.co.uk/ - is an e-commerce digital gallery which enables Welsh photographers to showcase and sell their photography, art and illustrations to a worldwide audience.
If customers are unable to find the print they want in the gallery, they can email email@example.com and CymruPrint will, wherever possible, source the required image from its photographers.
Both digital platforms have access to some of the top film makers, videographers and photographers in Wales who have their own profile and biography at CymruStock and CymruPrint.
“Our mission is to provide Welsh creatives with a digitally level playing field to be heard, seen and engage in commerce in a hugely competitive world dominated by commercial giants,” explained Charles.
“It’s the first time Welsh creatives have had quality digital platforms of this type to showcase and sell their services and we are delighted with the interest that is being generated at this early stage of development.
“We already have more than 1,000 images stored on CymruPrint and are inviting other talented photographers to join to ensure that every part of Wales is covered
We can also give customers professional advice on how our assets could be used to the best effect.
“The potential for Cymru Creative Group is huge and we already have ideas for developing other platforms to showcase and sell specific services. The model is perfect for franchising to other countries.”
Working with business partners Jamie Walker and Neil Ferguson, Charles has harnessed their detailed knowledge of digital media to develop Cymru Creative Group.
It is a natural extension of his work as managing director of AMP Digital Services in Aberystwyth, which creates and delivers full service content, branding and marketing solutions from conception to production for clients across the UK.
The company specialises in video and film production, music video production, aerial photography and video, CGI creation, website build, augmented reality, strategic marketing, insight brand strategy, development design, art direction print, digital advertising and social media marketing.
CymruStock has received a grant from Ceredigion Council via the Welsh Government funded Arfor Innovation Fund. The fund is designed to pilot innovative approaches in promoting entrepreneurship, business growth, community resilience and the Welsh language in the Arfor region of West Wales.
Matt Wilby, Charles Symons and Jamie Walker from CymruStock.
The Welsh Government is being challenged to prioritise the compulsory education system in Wales to provide the foundation for the future skilled workforce needed by employers.
Arwyn Watkins, OBE, managing director of Cambrian Training Company, the leading apprenticeships provider to the hospitality industry in Wales, will make the call when addressing delegates at the Mid Wales Tourism and Hospitality Conference at The Metropole Hotel, Llandrindod Wells on November 9.
Referring specifically to the recruitment crisis in the hospitality industry caused by Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Watkins will warn that there are no quick fixes and that there is “no workforce riding over the hill to rescue us”.
He believes the long-term solution rests with the Welsh and UK Governments rebalancing the focus of the education system to direct more school leavers towards apprenticeships in industries where they are most needed.
By encouraging so many school leavers to aspire to attend Higher Education Institutions rather than towards Higher Level Skills, he says the “well-oiled machine” is taking a significant percentage of the most talented, productive students from the economy.
He says students often go on to achieve degrees in subjects unrelated to the skills needed by employers in the region. He describes it as a “human resource drain” and wants schools to give apprenticeships parity of esteem with degrees.
Mr Watkins, a former Army apprentice chef who is now president of the Culinary Association of Wales, wants the hospitality industry to engage with children from primary school age upwards to make them aware of rewarding careers within it.
“How are children made aware of the opportunities within our industry?” he asked. “The answer is, they are not and that must change. Every hospitality business needs to have a conversation with their politicians, both in Wales and across the UK.
“Changing the compulsory education system is not going to win votes but meeting the needs of the economy is far more important to the country than votes.”
He says hospitality businesses must learn how to attract people into the industry and retain them by creating a flexible working environment where they feel valued. They must also engage with their local communities to recruit their future workforce.
“There are some really good businesses here in Mid Wales and if an individual has chosen to stay in the region to develop their career, then we have a duty as employers to create opportunities for them,” he added
“The world has changed since the pandemic began and employees rightly expect a good work-life balance. The industry has to respond by creating opportunities for flexible working hours and career development pathways which some employers are already doing.”
He will also question whether consumers are prepared to pay more for hospitality services in the future, which is the inevitable consequence of the rising cost of food, labour, fuel and taxation.
Tickets for the conference, which is organised by MWT Cymru and supported by Visit Wales, must be booked by October 31 at www.midwalestourismconference.co.uk . It will be the first major tourism and hospitality conference held in Wales since the Covid-19 pandemic began in the UK last year.
Arwyn Watkins, OBE, Cambrian Training Company’s managing director.
An impressive line-up of speakers has been secured for the 2021 Mid Wales Tourism and Hospitality Conference will be held at The Metropole Hotel, Llandrindod Wells on November 9.
Organised by MWT Cymru, it will be the first major tourism and hospitality conference held in Wales since the Covid-19 pandemic began in the UK last year. The conference is being sponsored by pan-Wales apprenticeship provider Cambrian Training Company and supported by Visit Wales.
The morning speakers will be Lucy Von Weber, head of marketing at Visit Wales, experienced travel journalist York Membery, Arwyn Watkin, OBE, managing director of Cambrian Training Company and president of the Culinary Association of Wales and Suzy Davies, Wales Tourism Alliance chair. They will be introduced by MWT Cymru chairman Rowland Rees-Evans.
Steve Hughson, Mid Wales Regional Tourism Forum chair, will introduce the afternoon speakers who include Roger Pride, brand specialist and former Visit Wales marketing director and Cardiff & Co chief executive and Nerys Howell and Sian Roberts who will speak about customer service.
There will also be presentations by Bill Stow, Rhayader 2000 and Michael Booth, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water’s property manager for the Elan Valley and by Stuart Owen from Open Newtown.
To help ensure a safe conference, everyone attending must adhere to Covid-19 measures to ensure a safe conference.
MWT Cymru is an independent organisation that represents more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Powys, Ceredigion and the Meirionnydd region of Gwynedd.
“I am delighted with the calibre of speakers we have secured for the conference which is a must for tourism and hospitality businesses in Mid Wales,” said Val Hawkins, MWT Cymru’s chief executive.
“The focus this year is to explore how individual businesses, communities and organisations can pull together and rebuild from the impact of the pandemic, as we move forward to 2022 and beyond
“The conference is designed to give businesses a clearer idea of what's going on, what's changing and what we can all do to better work together to keep Mid Wales at the forefront of people's minds.
“Providing an opportunity to cover topics that matter most to tourism and hospitality businesses, it’s an event not to be missed, no matter how big or small your business is.”
Tickets must be booked by October 31 at www.midwalestourismconference.co.uk
Lucy Von Webber from Visit Wales.
Arwyn Watkins, managing director of Cambrian Training Company, main conference sponsor.
The first major tourism and hospitality conference held in Wales since the Covid-19 pandemic began in the UK last year is to go ahead in Llandrindod Wells in November.
MWT Cymru has announced that the 2021 Mid Wales Tourism and Hospitality Conference will be held at The Metropole Hotel on November 9 from 9.45am to 3.30pm
To help ensure a safe conference, everyone attending must have an up to date NHS Covid pass, details of which are available at https://covid-status.service.nhsx.nhs.uk/
“We all have a responsibility to keep each other safe at this year’s conference,” said Val Hawkins, MWT Cymru’s chief executive. “Whilst the success of the vaccine programme in Wales has provided us with the opportunity to meet in-person this year, we all must take steps to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
MWT Cymru is an independent organisation that represents more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Powys, Ceredigion and the Meirionnydd region of Gwynedd.
“The tourism and hospitality sector has been one of the economic sectors hardest hit by the pandemic,” said Mrs Hawkins. “The focus of this year’s conference is to explore how individual businesses, communities and organisations can pull together and rebuild as we move forward to 2022 and beyond.
“With the unlikely return of the international market to the levels seen pre-pandemic for another few years, destinations across the UK will be focusing their attention on the domestic and staycation trend. With increased destination competition, how will Mid Wales compete?
“Our conference provides an opportunity to cover topics that matter most to tourism and hospitality businesses. It is an event not to be missed, no matter how big or small your business is.
“The conference is designed to give businesses a clearer idea of what's going on, what's changing and what we can all do to better work together to keep Mid Wales at the forefront of people's minds.”
Delegates will hear from experts in their fields and have an opportunity to network with other tourism and hospitality professionals, industry leaders, suppliers and business support organisations.
The line-up of speakers for the conference, which is being sponsored by pan-Wales apprenticeship provider Cambrian Training Company and supported by Visit Wales, will be announced in the next two weeks. For more information and to book tickets visit www.midwalestourismconference.co.uk
MWT Cymru’s membership and marketing manager Claire Owen chats with Populate Social founder Dan Simmons at the Mid Wales Tourism Conference in 2019.
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We're delighted that Iolo will be one of our key note speakers at the 2017 Mid Wales Tourism & Business conference.
Iolo Williams is a Welsh naturalist, broadcaster, public speaker and writer who’s worked in conservation for over 30 years.
He is most widely known as a popular member of the Springwatch, Autumnwatchand Winterwatch presenting team and for presenting series such as Wild Wales, Rugged Wales and Great Welsh Parks for BBC 2.
Iolo’s early years
Iolo was born and brought up in mid Wales and studied in London for a degree in ecology at North East London Polytechnic. After graduating he went on to work for the RSPB for almost 15 years as Species Officer for Wales, a job he loved as he worked with some of the country’s rarest breeding birds.
Eventually this brought him to the attention of the media and BBC 2’s Visions of Snowdonia and Birdman followed Iolo’s work as an RSPB officer.
In the late 1990s Iolo left the Society to work full-time in the media. His series, in both Welsh and English, concentrated on the wildlife of Wales and the world and he co-presented several network series such as Nature’s Top 40 and Countryfile.
Iolo has written several books on Welsh wildlife in both English and Welsh and he is a regular contributor to several magazines, including ‘BBC Wildlife’.
Iolo gives informative and entertaining talks about Birds of Prey and Wildlife in Wales and he’ll shortly be touring with Martin Hughes-Games (from the ‘Watches’) with their new, fun and fact packed show Wildlife Road Trip. More about Iolo’s talks >
As someone who is utterly dedicated to conservation, Iolo has used his knowledge and experience to address the Welsh Assembly, proving to be a power-house of a speaker.
Sky high and oceans deep
In his spare time Iolo contributes to wildlife surveys in Wales. He is very well travelled and enjoys tour guiding throughout the UK and in other countries.He’s a patron of several Welsh conservation organisations and is currently president of the Welsh Ornithological Society.
He’s undertaken charity walks up Kilimanjaro for Velindre Cancer Care and has twice trekked the length of Wales for Air Ambulance and Hope House/Ty Hafan children’s hospices. More about Iolo’s charities >
Iolo is a qualified paraglider, PADI Divemaster and a keen sportsman who’s played rugby for most of his life.
We're pleased to announce that Malcolm Bell (Chief Exec of Visit Cornwall) has agreed to speak at this years conference. We had the pleasure of hearing Malcolm talk at a Tourism Society conference in Cardiff earlier in the year and it will be a pleasure to hear him speak again.
Over the last 12 months Malcolm has steered Visit Cornwall, the Tourist Board for Cornwall, as it established itself as Community Interest Company having been a service of Cornwall Council for 40 years.
With 100% loss in council funding Malcolm and his team had to make significant changes to their business model and worked with key partners from across the tourism industry to secure visit Cornwall's future and the vital services it provides for it's members and the destination as a whole.
Malcolm is a really dynamic and straight talking speaker who really understand the tourism industry.and we're delighted he will be attending the 2017 Mid Wales Tourism Conference!
Early Bird Tickets are Now On Sale!
Members £12 | Non Members £17
Members £15 | Non Members £20
SUE CLARKE - FAIR BOOKING UK
Fair Booking UK - Due to unforeseen circumstances Anthony Climpson will be unable to present his talk on Fair Booking UK on Thursday but we have a fantastic replacement! Sue Clarke from Cumbria Tourism who has also played a big part in getting the Fair Booking project off the ground has kindly agreed to step in and present at the conference!
Sues Bio is now up on the website so take a look!!