The Welsh Liberal Democrat manifesto recognised the need to support vocational education and invest in apprenticeships, as well as calling for public sector organisations becoming living wage employers.
The Progressive Agreement contained a commitment that the Welsh Government would:
“Promote and enhance both academic and vocational routes into and through further and higher education, and the national, international and civic roles of our educational institutions. This includes both full and part-time opportunities that will benefit learners of all ages, employers and communities.”
Reforms following the Hazelkorn Review are promoting student choices and parity of esteem between vocational and academic education. The Welsh Government consultation on ‘a reformed post-compulsory education and training system’, launched by Kirsty Williams, promotes vocational learning. It includes a proposal to establish a new strategic authority to provide oversight, strategic direction and leadership for the post-compulsory education and training sector, named the ‘Tertiary Education and Research Commission for Wales’. A key focus of the Commission would be ensuring vocational and academic routes are equally valued with a focus on collaboration rather than competition, ensuring the focus is on the learner.
Furthermore, in the remit letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales which sets out the strategic direction for Welsh higher education, Kirsty Williams called for greater use of high level apprenticeships in further and higher education.
Welsh Liberal Democrats have also promoted the civic role of educational institutions, encouraging all Universities in Wales to become Living Wage employers.
Kirsty Williams, Welsh Liberal Democrat Cabinet Secretary for Education, said:
“Universities’ commitment to a civic mission requires reach beyond campus and into their host communities. This is not restricted to teaching and research and widening access. It should be demonstrated in how they value their staff and students, and be an example of a progressive and fair employer.”
All Welsh Universities have since agreed to become living wage employers.
Changes to student finance will also see students receive support equivalent to the Living Wage, as part of reforms that will see support extended to part-time and postgraduate learners.