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Wales gets WISE with sustainable skills training


Wales has had a good week in terms of training opportunities following the opening of an institute to deliver learning in new environmental technologies and the provision of funding to teach traditional conservation skills.
Jane Davidson, Welsh Assembly Minister for the Environment, opened the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education (WISE) yesterday, which will specialise in offering post-graduate courses in renewable energy, green architecture and sustainable land use.
The Masters courses are aimed at architects, engineers, energy experts and other professionals and will be validated by the University of East London. WISE is part of the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Machynlleth, which was expanded to try and meet demand for such qualifications.
Davidson said: “Education and training are at the heart of our efforts to build a more sustainable future in Wales, which is why the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education’s role in delivering high quality training and education is so important.”
But according to the Independent newspaper, the project almost never happened. The arrangement with an initial contractor was terminated following a dispute and ended up in the High Court. It ordered the company to pay £530,000 within two weeks - during which time it went into liquidation. As a result, CAT was forced to launch a fundraising appeal and appointed a new contractor to finish the job.
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), meanwhile, has provided £1.3 million-worth of work-based training grants for The Skills for the Future scheme in Wales, which is intended to fill skills gaps identified by local museums, libraries and visitor attractions.
The funding will create 70 placements for job seekers wanting to learn skills ranging from digitising archives to make them available online, conserving historic gardens and heritage building, which includes activities such as lime plastering and stone masonry. Placements are due to start at the end of this year and start of next.
Dame Jenny Abramsky, the HLF’s chair, told the BBC: “When the recession kicked in last year, we thought very hard about how the Heritage Lottery Fund could make a different to people’s lives at a time of real need. The answer was an innovative and ambitious programme focusing on equipping people with practical skills to help them secure future employment.”
The hope is that the range of placements on offer will attract people, who might not previously have considered working in the heritage sphere, she added.
Just over 800 training places will be created in total across the UK, with overall funding amounting to £17 million.

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