ACT has been ‘improving lives through learning’ for 35 years this month.
Wales’ largest training provider launched in September 1988 on The Parade in Cardiff, delivering training to 200 unemployed adults in its first year. Since then it has gone on to help over 75,000 learners achieve their career goals, working with more than 14,000 employers across Wales.
It has also increased its educational offerings, in that time launching its own independent schools for 11- to 16-year-olds, as well as delivering Jobs Growth Wales + – a programme developed by the Welsh Government to give 16- to 19-year-olds the skills needed to progress in their career.
ACT’s Operations Director, Louise Williams, who joined the company in 1999, said: “At the time ACT was founded there was high unemployment in Wales with a severe lack of opportunities for unskilled adults and youths. ACT’s founders felt a real responsibility to do something about it and make a change.”
As well as providing training to adults, in 1993 ACT began delivering a youth training provision, something that has developed into a key offering for the business.
In 2006, ACT became the first work-based learning provider to achieve all Grade 1 in an Estyn Inspection.
Delivery Director, Zoe Goodall, said of the achievement: “The result helped us secure huge growth in our contracts almost doubling by 2010 – and deliver even more programmes to both young people and adults in Wales.
“This success then led to the acquisition by Cardiff and Vale College in 2016 which was hugely important in securing the future of ACT and ensuring we continue to support even more people in Wales to improve lives through learning.”
It will come as no surprise that the education sector has seen huge changes since the eighties, not just in the way courses are delivered with the development of new technology, but also in its challenges and subject matter.
Talking about the importance of training now, Zoe said: “What we are delivering has evolved in line with the changing labour market, the development of new qualifications and even sectors – particularly in the digital and IT space.
“We have developed new programmes and pathways to support employers with continued professional development for their employees and also evolved and adapted the way in which we deliver programmes to young people in Wales to meet their changing needs, particularly post pandemic.”
Louise added: “NEET (not in education, employment or training) numbers across Wales are increasing, along with challenges for young people including additional learning needs, mental health, and a struggling labour market.
“Mainstream education isn’t a ‘one fits all’ so alternative provision needs to be available. The need to support adults in upskilling and changing their career has also increased now that people are working for longer.”
Looking ahead to the future, ACT is keen to build on the success of the last 35 years by being even more innovative and creative with what is delivered.
Zoe added: “We want to support even more people in Wales whether that be in their professional development, to progress in their careers or to ensure young people have the best possible opportunities to reach their full potential.”
ACT’s Managing Director, Richard Spear, reflected on more than three decades of growth in Wales, saying: “To be able to celebrate 35 years as a business in any field is a huge achievement but for us it also means that, for more than three decades now, we have been able to improve lives through learning.
“While the way we deliver training, as well as the needs of our employers, may have changed since 1988, our mission to support learners in their educational, career and personal goals continues to be our focus – this has allowed us to navigate through recent times of uncertainty and development.
“We look forward to building on this incredible milestone as part of the Cardiff and Vale College CAVC) Group and working with the Welsh Government and our partners to help more people achieve their goals.”
CEO of Cardiff and Vale College group, Mike James, said: “Many congratulations to ACT on the significant milestone.
“As a collaborative group we are continuing to increase opportunities for young people, and promoting learning to improve lives, throughout Wales. For ACT to be celebrating 35 years of providing these opportunities is an incredible achievement.”