PROJECTS to increase the number of local food businesses supplying the public sector and set up an apprenticeship scheme in the construction industry are among eight schemes to win Welsh Government funding from the new Foundational Economy Challenge Fund.
First Minister Mark Drakeford and Deputy Minister for Economy Lee Waters made the announcement during a visit to University of Wales Trinity Saint David, in Carmarthen today (Thursday, November 7).
They were met by catering staff who are part of a scheme being run by the Carmarthenshire Public Service Board, which is being awarded £100,000 to improve the procurement of local food from the area.
It is one of 52 experimental initiatives across Wales to receive a share of the £4.5m Foundational Economy Challenge Fund. The project will provide business opportunities for locally or regionally-based companies and bring environmental benefits by lowering food miles and associated carbon costs.
The foundational economy approach is being adopted by cities and regions across the world, but Wales is the first country in the world to embrace it on a national scale. It is made up of the everyday goods and services we all need and use with estimates suggesting it accounts for four out of every 10 jobs and £1 in every three we spend.
The Economy Challenge Fund aims to support a series of experimental projects which will enable the Welsh Government, with support from partners, to test how the foundational economy can best be supported.
Eight schemes in Mid and South West Wales will share almost £650,000 from the fund.
Speaking about the food procurement scheme in Carmarthenshire, Barry Liles, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Skills & Lifelong Learning), University of Wales Trinity Saint David and Chair of Carmarthenshire Public Services Board (PSB) said: “As a PSB we are really pleased to have been successful in our bid to the Foundational Economy Challenge Fund.
“Public sector procurement is an area that we as partners recognise as having scope to have a greater impact on local economic wealth and development and this something we will test and develop in our project. We will focus on public sector food procurement but we firmly believe that if we can develop a multi-agency progressive procurement methodology as part of this project, there would be scope to introduce this in other areas of procurement.
“Carmarthenshire has a rich history of food production and supply and as well as the economic benefits of enhancing the local supply chain we will also be looking at the potential health benefits for the pupils, students and staff that consume the food we procure, by promoting good food for all.
“We look forward to working with our PSB members and partners in the commercial sector to consider and develop opportunities for moving this much talked about agenda forward, learning from the other successful projects as we go.”
Another project to be awarded funding is being led by Cyfle Building Skills Ltd. It will receive £86,500 to work with construction employers and provide opportunities for apprentices to receive valuable work experience placements throughout the industry.
Anthony Rees, regional manager of Cyfle Building Skills, said: “We are delighted to receive this funding, which will be of huge benefit to our young learners.
“We see this project as providing the crucial, first stepping stone for them into the world of work and the construction industry specifically. It will both develop their skills and employment prospects, and provide a boost to the industry at the same time.”
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “I’ve been delighted to visit University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s campus in Carmarthen to hear more about this innovative project which really puts a sense of community at its heart.
“Looking at ways of ensuring local food is used and enjoyed in the area where it’s produced will be a boost for businesses and ensure it doesn’t need to travel far which supports efforts to improve our environment.
“The Foundational Economy Challenge Fund is all about making a real difference to people throughout Wales. It aims to drive prosperity across the nation and reach out to communities.
“As a government, we are committed to supporting all parts of Wales and help safeguard and create jobs and build the economic growth that we all want to see.”
Deputy Minister for Economy Lee Waters said: “Supporting the Foundational Economy is a key priority for the Welsh Government. This is a vitally important part of the economy which makes a big difference to the livelihoods of many people as well as our cities, towns and villages.
“The standard of applications throughout Wales has been so high that we have been able to treble the amount available from the fund to £4.5m, supporting 52 projects.
“It’s been great to join the First Minister in Carmarthen to learn more about what it potentially a very exciting project and one which will change the way food is procured locally for the benefit of area’s communities.
“The Foundational Economy Challenge Fund is a clear demonstration of our commitment to supporting people in all parts of Wales today, tomorrow and into the future.”
More information on the successful projects can be found on the Business Wales website: https://businesswales.gov.wales/foundational-economy