The Welsh Government has identified two areas that are essential for development in Wales: developing a buoyant economy and supporting social justice. In order to address these themes, Swansea Bay City Region must be innovative, entrepreneurial and inclusive. The principal focus of the Swansea Bay Entrepreneurial Learning City Region initiative is on the development of entrepreneurial capacity through lifelong learning. Lifelong learning in this context includes all formal and non-formal learning across all ages and sectors. The ultimate aim of the Swansea Bay City Region Board is that by 2030, Swansea Bay City Region ‘will be a confident, ambitious and connected European city region, recognized internationally for [its] emerging knowledge and innovation economy’ (Swansea Bay City Region Website, 2014). Swansea Bay Entrepreneurial Learning City Region is exploring how, by embedding entrepreneurial skills into lifelong learning, it can create innovation, improve the regional economy, and narrow the economic, education and skills gaps between deprived and affluent areas.
South Wales has a history of profitable mining and heavy industry embedded within an infrastructure that included prosperous ports and a dense transport network. It was characterized by strong communities in which education was highly valued and a radical tradition of adult education flourished. The region featured a variety of associated social and cultural institutions, many of which, along with the mining industry, have been lost or are in decline.
Swansea Bay City Region, which is located in South West Wales, has some major global businesses and strengths in key sectors with significant growth potential. The region has leading higher and further education institutions as well as important innovation and knowledge economy assets. The area also benefits from a stunning natural environment and offers residents a highly attractive quality of life.
However, the Swansea Bay City Region and Wales as a whole are underperforming economically compared to other regions of the UK and Europe. GVA (gross value added) growth – the primary indicator used to measure an economy’s overall performance – in South West Wales has been lower than that of the UK and Wales over the past two decades; in 2010, it was 77 per cent of the UK average and 94 per cent of the Welsh level. Furthermore, the recent international economic crisis has left a legacy of austerity measures that have resulted in cuts to public services. As the public sector is the largest employer in the region, this has had an impact on employment levels. Continuing low economic growth means that Swansea Bay City Region’s poor economic performance is unlikely to improve in the short to medium term. This is affecting health, poverty and community cohesion in the region. There is an urgent need for innovation and change.
Main issues to be tackled
As the foregoing discussion suggests, the main challenge facing Swansea Bay City Region is the creation of employment in the region. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2013), ‘the extent of inactivity, disability and in-work poverty in Wales reflects weak demand for labour. Wales needs job creation to defeat poverty’. Private and public sector collaborations and partnerships are vital for sustainable economic growth and for supporting a diverse range of enterprises and innovation. The Swansea Bay City Region has a history of strong partnerships which provides a firm basis for future development.
Demographic changes are making it increasingly important to create more employment. The key driver of population growth in Swansea Bay City Region is migration. The proportion of people aged between 20 and 24 years has increased by 5,100 (31.4 per cent) over the last ten years, largely due to high numbers of young people moving to the region to study. The development and retention of enterprising young people with higher aspirations and greater ambition is a priority.
The Swansea Bay City Region was created in July 2013 to harness strengths, boost investment and create jobs. The Swansea Bay City Region Board, which reports to the Welsh Minister for the Economy, Science and Transport, includes representatives from the public and private sectors, and brings together business, education, regeneration and local authority partners. All partners are working collaboratively to create a culture of entrepreneurship and develop a city of innovation.
Swansea Bay City Region is committed to ensuring that new opportunities are inclusive of people from disadvantaged communities and that these opportunities reduce poverty in these communities. Swansea Bay City Region has 422 local communities, with 119 of these (each averaging 1,500 people) identified as being within the 20 per cent most deprived communities in Wales (Welsh Government, 2014b). Some communities of multiple deprivation are characterized by third-generation unemployment and a lack of engagement with education. There is a strong link between poverty and poor educational attainment (Welsh Government, 2015).
Another important issue is finding innovative and transparent ways to measure success that take into account both prosperity and quality of life. Recovering from the recent international economic crisis may involve rethinking long-held understandings of prosperity, whereby factors such as citizens’ quality of life, happiness and well-being are used alongside economic data as measures of success. Much depends on finding sustainable solutions to long-term problems. Investment in learning is essential for sustainable development.
Another important issue is finding innovative and transparent ways to measure success that take into account both prosperity and quality of life.
Motives for becoming a learning city
The challenge for the Swansea Bay Learning City Region is to boost investment and create jobs in the region while developing a model of economic growth that ensures that everyone, including residents in disadvantaged communities, can benefit from enhanced prosperity. If barriers to participation are not addressed, the development of a successful knowledge economy could increase the gap between rich and poor and damage social cohesion. Recent research suggests that a ‘trickle-down effect’ does not necessarily impact on people living in poverty: ‘there is no guarantee that economic growth will reduce poverty: some economically expanding cities experienced unchanged or increasing poverty rates’ (Lee et al., 2014).
The creation of employment opportunities is one key to taking families out of poverty. Swansea Bay Learning City Region will strengthen partnerships between public, private and voluntary sectors in the region to ensure that employment and learning opportunities are accessible to all. This will involve developing skills pathways that enable people from the region to access new opportunities. Engagement with learning in general is a prerequisite. Experience in the region has shown that enterprise education improves engagement and motivation and raises aspirations.
Learning city policies and strategies
Definition of a learning city
The following definition of a learning city is intended to be inclusive, draw upon strengths, address challenges and underpin the entrepreneurial theme for Swansea Bay City Region’s learning city implementation:
A collaborative approach to learning based on partnership can develop entrepreneurial skills and attitudes to meet the identified challenges. Entrepreneurial behaviours, skills and attitudes such as opportunity-seeking, initiative-taking, selling and persuasion skills, creativity, negotiation skills and networking can be developed at any age and in any economic or educational environment. They can be used in many different contexts and sectors, from large businesses to community enterprises, and from finding solutions in the public sector to collaborative initiatives between sectors.
Vision and objectives
The overarching vision of Swansea Bay Learning City Region is to create an entrepreneurial culture that will develop the regional economy and create a sustainable quality of life for all. This vision can be broken down into the following key objectives:
Objective 1: To enhance the capacity for innovation through entrepreneurial leadership by private and public sector leaders.
Objective 2: To provide professional development opportunities for educators and trainers so that entrepreneurial learning can be embedded into both formal and informal learning.
Objective 3: To maximize experiential learning opportunities available for young people to explore entrepreneurship and to embed the development of entrepreneurial skills and attitudes within formal and informal learning provision (see also Hart, 2013).
Objective 4: To provide support for new start-up businesses and regional companies with growth potential.
Objective 5: To develop innovative, robust and transparent ways to measure success that include factors such as quality of life and sustainability as well as economic factors.
The Welsh Government is the devolved government for Wales with responsibility for most key areas of public life, including education, health and the environment. Its policy document One Wales states that ‘our vision is of a society in which learning throughout life is the norm, where the people of Wales are actively engaged in acquiring new knowledge and skills from childhood to old age’ (Welsh Assembly Government, 2007). The Welsh Government’s website also stresses the importance of lifelong learning, stating that ‘lifelong learning is at the heart of the Welsh Government’s objectives for creating social justice and economic success’.
Hart (2013) notes that ‘the Welsh Government’s Youth Entrepreneurship Strategy (YES) Action Plan was launched in November 2010 and focuses on young people and their journey of entrepreneurship. It aims to raise their awareness, develop their entrepreneurial skills, spark ideas and provide practical information and support for those seeking to start up in business’.
Sustainable Development is an organizing principle of government in Wales. It is also an essential consideration in the development of a learning city, and will be considered under Objective Five. Sustainable development can lead to and also be inspired by entrepreneurial activity. For example, the new tidal barrage in Swansea will generate sufficient electricity for 120,000 households, refine new technologies which can be replicated on a worldwide basis and create a new regional industry with highly skilled employment.
The Well-Being of Future Generations Bill, which was introduced in July 2014, sets ‘ambitious long-term goals to reflect the Wales we want to see, both now and in the future. These are for a prosperous, resilient, healthier, more equal Wales; with cohesive communities, a vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language’ (Welsh Government, 2014a).
Learning plays a key role in the City and County of Swansea’s One Swansea plan, which was devised in 2013 and aims to tackle poverty. More specifically, the plan sets out how the Local Service Board intends to achieve the following six outcomes:
• Children have a good start in life.
• People learn successfully.
• Young people and adults have good jobs.
• People have a decent standard of living.
• People are healthy, safe and independent.
• People have good places to live and work.
The overarching vision of Swansea Bay Entrepreneurial Learning City Region is to create an entrepreneurial culture that will develop the regional economy and create a sustainable quality of life for all.
In the section entitled ‘People learn successfully’, the key actions include ‘Develop enterprise education opportunities’ and ‘Deliver actions for Swansea Learning City 2014’ (Swansea Local Service Board, 2014).
Governance and partnership
The Swansea Bay City Region encompasses four local authority areas: Neath Port Talbot, Swansea, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. Each is responsible for education and lifelong learning delivery and they work together at the regional level for aspects of delivery. The Swansea Bay City Region Board is responsible for planning and implementing regional economic development, employment and skills strategies.
The Regional Learning Partnership (RLP) has developed the Regional Plan for Employment and Skills on behalf of Swansea Bay City Region Board. Within this partnership, education and regeneration partners come together to plan provision for learners across the region. Members include representatives from Careers Wales and Job Centre Plus, colleges of further education, universities, local authorities, the Welsh Local Government Association, the South Wales Chamber of Commerce, County Associations of Voluntary Service, the National Institute for Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), the Workers’ Educational Association and the National Training Federation for Wales. The partnership has created a subgroup that is responsible for developing entrepreneurship across the region.
Swansea Bay City Region has established the Swansea Bay Entrepreneurial Learning City Region Steering Group with representation from local government, education providers and local entrepreneurs. Representatives from the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning and PASCAL Observatory visited the group and advised on strategy.
The Swansea Bay City Region encompasses four local authority areas: Neath Port Talbot, Swansea, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire.
Provision of lifelong learning
A wide range of developments, both large and small, are contributing to the development of a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation. Further information about the development of entrepreneurship in the region can be found in Entrepreneurship & Enterprise: Opportunities and Observations from South West & Central Wales, a survey undertaken by the Regional Learning Partnership (Regional Learning Partnership South West and Central Wales, 2014).
As noted above, the first objective of Swansea Bay Entrepreneurial Learning City Region is to enhance the capacity for innovation through entrepreneurial leadership by private and public sector leaders.
Sir Terry Matthews, Chair of the Board of Swansea Bay City Region, is himself a high-tech entrepreneur and a Swansea University alumnus who has achieved global success and supports the development of entrepreneurship in students and graduates through the Alacrity Programme. He provides an example from the private sector of entrepreneurial leadership for the region.
Swansea University’s new beach-front second campus will create around 12,000 permanent jobs by 2020. A key feature will be inbuilt support for entrepreneurship and the commercialization of researchled opportunities. Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard B. Davies explains, ‘it will transform this region from the heavy industry economy of yesterday to the hightech knowledge economy of tomorrow.’ This initiative provides an example of entrepreneurial leadership in the public sector.
The LEAD Wales programme is a flagship programme that develops the leadership and entrepreneurial skills of owners and managers of SMEs. Participants have reported an average increase of 26 per cent in their company’s annual turnover (LEAD Wales, 2015).
The second objective of Swansea Bay Entrepreneurial Learning City is to provide professional development opportunities for educators and trainers so that entrepreneurial learning can be embedded into both formal and informal learning. The University of Wales Trinity St David’s International Institute for Creative Entrepreneurial Development (IICED) brings together international experts in entrepreneurial education to contribute to policymaking and practice. The aim of IICED is to inform international best practice in enterprise, entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial teaching, learning and evaluation. The institute has provided expert advice for the EU’s competence framework for entrepreneurial education and has made substantial contributions to the Quality Assurance Agency’s Guidelines for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education in Higher Education. The University of Wales Trinity St David also established the UK’s first validated teacher training module in entrepreneurial education, which is featured as best practice in the European Commission’s Entrepreneurship Education: A Guide for Educators.
Swansea University’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership is represented on EU advisory groups on entrepreneurship education and provides continuing professional development opportunities for higher and further education lecturers who teach, or want to teach, entrepreneurship in all its forms.
Swansea Bay City Region is making good progress towards achieving its third objective, which is to enable young people to develop entrepreneurial skills. This progress was recognized when Swansea, led by Gower College Swansea, received the UK City of Enterprise Award in 2014. This award celebrated the way in which enterprise education is embedded in Swansea’s primary and secondary education, further education, higher education and lifelong learning within the city region.
Examples of learning institutions that offer enterprise education for young people include the Entrepreneurship Academy Wales, which is led by Gower College Swansea and provides enterprise and entrepreneurship education for people aged between 18 and 30. At the University of Wales Trinity St David, 15 per cent of all courses have been devoted to developing entrepreneurial skills since 2014. University staff have also assisted in developing the Welsh Baccalaureate 2015 to include entrepreneurship.
The new Enterprise and Innovation Committee within the College of Medicine at Swansea University has developed a master’s degree in bio-entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurship skills have been embedded into all courses. Swansea Start brought the first and second ‘Startup Weekends’ in Wales to Swansea. All further and higher education institutions within the region run many informal events during Global Entrepreneurship Week and the Welsh Festival of Entrepreneurship. Through Adult Learners’ Week, the initiative aims to provide experiential opportunities for adults across the region to explore entrepreneurship.
Providing support for start-up businesses and regional companies with growth potential is Swansea Bay City Region’s fourth objective. The Welsh Government provides a range of support for start-ups, including a bursary for young people and graduates. Swansea University’s College of Medicine supports new enterprises within two Institutes of Life Science. The Data Science Building opening in 2015 will unleash the potential of large-scale data to support meditech enterprise. Companies with growth potential have expressed a need for a single point of contact. A possible solution that is being explored is the establishment of a Centre for Regional Economic Development.
Other organizations providing support for start-ups include Swansea Start, a community for tech businesses and startups. Swansea Start has been instrumental in bringing a new tech incubator, the Swansea Tech hub, to Swansea. Coleg Sir Gâr’s Innovation for Industry provides support for businesses and organizations of any size to develop new products, processes and services. Centerprise is Neath Port Talbot College Group’s student enterprise and business incubation centre. The centre provides a professional, supportive environment for individuals who are setting up their own business and offers access to a range of free facilities and support services.
Dulais Opportunities for Voluntary Enterprise (DOVE) workshop and Glynneath Training Centre are social enterprises in former coal-mining villages that have provided learning opportunities in their communities for more than twenty-five years. Formal education providers work with these centres, which offer strong local relationships, expertise in the needs of local communities and accessible community venues. The VIEW model of community-led social enterprise has inspired communities across Europe and internationally.
Developing a better understanding of what being an entrepreneurial city region involves is crucial for achieving the fifth objective: to develop innovative, robust and transparent ways to measure success that include factors such as quality of life and sustainability as well as economic factors. In order to develop this understanding, Swansea Bay City Region is working with an international group of entrepreneurial learning cities through the PASCAL Learning Cities 2020 network. In addition, Swansea University held an international symposium, which was supported by UNESCO, on Entrepreneurial Learning City Regions (May 2014). The University of Wales Trinity St David followed this in June 2014 with an International Summit for Entrepreneurship Educators. Both events supported regional collaboration and provided an international perspective on local developments. One outcome is a book on entrepreneurial learning city regions, which is currently being prepared for publication.
Example of innovation or good practice
The Science and Innovation Bay Campus, Swansea University
Swansea University’s new Science and Innovation Bay Campus, opening in September 2015, will increase innovation and research impacts resulting from growing capacity, industry collaborations, spinins and spin-outs, and the development of high-tech clusters in the region. This exciting development will provide a unique opportunity for the region to develop the knowledge economy and enhance opportunities for growth and new employment.
Main target groups
Swansea University’s Science and Innovation Bay Campus will provide an intensive, open innovation environment that will facilitate the growth of high-tech clusters in Swansea Bay City Region. The campus will provide teaching, student accommodation and research space, the latter with the help of a series of agreements with international and national companies such as BP, TATA Steel and Rolls Royce. Colleges based at the Bay Campus include the College of Engineering and the School of Management.
Swansea University’s US$677-million beachfront second campus, which is currently under construction on a 65-acre site, will create around 12,000 permanent jobs by 2020. It is part-funded by the European Investment Bank and is expected to contribute more than US$4.5 billion to the regional economy over the next ten years. The campus will continue Swansea University’s tradition of co-location of research and industry to drive innovation, economic growth and entrepreneurship in the region. The integration of academia and industry on the campus will enhance students’ applied knowledge and provide ‘real-world’ experience for students. Aligned to the development of the Bay Campus, the College University Skills Partnership has been established between Swansea University, Gower College Swansea, Neath Port Talbot College and Pembrokeshire College. This regional partnership identifies skills shortages in knowledge economy sectors and companies with growth potential and develops innovative solutions to meet these needs. The development of a skills pool will attract further inward investment and support new clusters of enterprise.
The impact of such investment was demonstrated by Swansea University’s success in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) in December 2014, which showed the largest climb up the rankings of any research-intensive university in the UK, up to 26th place from 52nd in 2008.
Mobilization and utilization of resources
The Entrepreneurial Learning City Region initiative is also being supported by entrepreneurs from the region, who lead, encourage and mentor new entrepreneurial start-ups.
Core funding from the Welsh Government provides most funding for entrepreneurial learning in the region. School education and adult community learning is also funded by the Welsh Government through the Local Education Authorities. The government’s Department for Education and Skills (DfES) funds further education for people aged over 16, from basic skills and work-based training to foundation level degrees.
Structural Funds provide EU member countries with financial support. The aim of Structural Funds is to help close economic and social gaps between regions by investing in areas where the GDP is less than the EU average. The EU has recognized that West Wales and the Valleys is still recovering from a legacy of economic decline and that Swansea Bay City Region qualifies for Structural Fund support, with a focus on developing the economy.
National Lottery funding is provided to community groups and some formal education institutions in order to support innovative projects that meet the needs of the most disadvantaged groups in society. The Entrepreneurial Learning City Region initiative is also being supported by entrepreneurs from the region, who lead, encourage and mentor new entrepreneurial start-ups. For example, successful entrepreneurs in the region are invited by the Welsh Government to take part in a role model project, which involves providing workshops and mentoring in schools and further and higher education.
Monitoring and evaluation
In response to the UNESCO initiative, the Key Features of Learning Cities (2013) defines a set of data which has been gathered for the city region, providing a baseline for the measurement of change. In addition, a mapping process of all current entrepreneurial learning has been undertaken by the Regional Learning Partnership, which also provides baseline information.
Data on the development of entrepreneurial skills, attitudes and outcomes with regard to start-ups is gathered annually by each provider of further and higher education in Wales. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2013 Global Report found that 9.5 per cent of young Welsh people were engaged in early-stage entrepreneurial activity in 2012 (Amoros, Bosma and Global Entrepreneurship Research Association, 2014). The UK rate was reported as 8.3 per cent in 2012. The Higher Education Business and Community Interaction 2012-2013 Survey reported that universities in Wales make up 5 per cent of the UK’s higher education population but generate 9.1 per cent of all UK graduate business start-ups and 11.33 per cent of active firms lasting three years or more (HEFCE, 2014).
Impacts and challenges
The impact of the Entrepreneurial Learning City initiative cannot be measured at this early stage. However, it is clear that it is important to raise aspirations and ambition in the residents of Swansea Bay City Region and to ensure that everybody – including people living in disadvantaged communities – can take advantage of opportunities arising from an improving economy. Craigfelen Primary School, located in a disadvantaged community in Swansea, has found that building enterprise into the curriculum is motivational for all children. The enterprise curriculum at Craigfelen was featured as a case study in An Education System Fit for an Entrepreneur, a report by the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for Micro Businesses. The report notes: Most notably the school also collaborated with Gower College Swansea in a project where further education students helped the primary pupils to gain insights into entrepreneurial behaviour through a range of activities. The collaboration was supported by Swansea City Council’s Building Enterprise Education in Swansea (BEES) network (All-Party Parliamentary Group for Micro Businesses, 2014, p. 36).
The main obstacles to developing, planning, implementing and evaluating learning city programmes are mainly related to a lack of resources. For example, further assistance in devising a development plan would be useful. Swansea Bay City Region also requires funding for celebrating achievements, hosting meetings, visiting other learning cities, publishing research and outcomes and launching a Festival of Entrepreneurial Learning. In addition, Swansea Bay City Region wishes to establish independent evaluations of progress.
Lessons learned and recommendations
Swansea Bay City Region recommends following these stages in the process of building a learning city:
1. Invite a representative from UNESCO to visit the city and provide initial guidance.
2. Identify significant partner learning cities in your region so that an exchange of ideas can be facilitated.
3. Identify a theme for your learning city initiative.
4. Attend an International Conference on Learning Cities in order to learn from other cities in similar or different contexts.
5. Join a PASCAL Observatory Learning City Network and invite a network representative to assist with further development of the theme for the learning city.
Programme Manager, Strategic Regional Engagement, Swansea University
Director of People,
City and County of
Programme Coordinator, Department of Adult Continuing Education, Swansea University
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