A WELSH-SPEAKING Englishman of Scots-Irish descent has been chosen to lead Welsh post-compulsory education and training into the post-devolution era.
Steve Martin, 52, formerly director of the Welsh education department, has been appointed chief executive of the Welsh Funding Councils. He succeeds John Andrews, who has run the funding councils since they were set up in 1992, on May 15th.
One of his most important tasks will be to oversee the implementation of the education and training advisory plan, which was endorsed by the National Assembly in December. Under this the Further Education Funding Council for Wales and the training and enterprise councils will be replaced by the Council for Education and Training for Wales. Mr Martin will become chief executive of the new body, which is expected to take over funding responsibilities in 2001.
Mr Martin spent 25 years at the Welsh Office, including five years (1992-7) as director of the education department, before moving to the Welsh-language television channel S4C last year as secretary and director of policy. When first approached by head-hunters about the funding council's post he was reluctnt to leave a job he had taken only a few months earlier, but changed his mind after a second approach.
"I realised that it would be a fantastic job to play an important part in developing a vitally important area of Welsh life," he said.
He has direct experience of further education as a part-time student at Rumney Tech (now part of Coleg Glan Hafren) in the 1970s, and taught himself Welsh using a "teach-yourself" book. He will also bring contacts and experience from his time as a civil servant.
"One advantage of Wales's size is that you can bring the key people on any issue together in one room, form a
view and work from there."
An early priority will be to bring together groups who have disagreed on some aspects of the education and training proposals.
"The important thing is that there should be a partnership between different groups to ensure that Wales gets the best possible bang for its buck.
"The new council does not represent a takeover by further education colleges. It is a new body representing a new partnership in which the business community will be an immensely important element."