General election: Do young people need to leave Wales to work?


By Brendon WilliamsBBC News

BBC Conor FaganBBC

Conor Fagan is living the dream.

While many of his friends chose to work in trades, he wanted something else and, at the age of 23, owns his own watersport business on a beach on Anglesey.

If he had not chosen his own path, how easy would it be for him to find work nearby, in the current economic climate?

He believes there are career options in the area, but “obviously there’s less opportunity for people that want to earn more money in the area here”.

Conor believes living on Anglesey means people have to “apply themselves a little bit more,” in order to find higher-paid work, much more than those in larger towns and cities.

He added: “I’m very fortunate in that I have my own business here, so I can afford to live here.

“But a lot of my friends and peers, maybe not so much, and they do have to move away to find a better career path to be able to sustain living here.”

Edward Altoft

Edward Altoft believes he will probably have to look for work elsewhere

Edward Altoft, 18, is one of Conor’s part-time watersports instructors at Funsport in Rhosneigr.

But later this year the first-time voter will leave sixth form and study engineering at university in England.

Asked if he would like to return to work on Anglesey, he said: “100% yeah. I’d want to stay here the rest of my life if I could. It’s perfect for me, I love it.

“But if there’s not the job for me here – which I don’t really think there is at the moment for engineering – then I’ll have to move inwards and come here on holiday.”

He said work for people interested in trade and hospitality was good on the island, but with colleges “pushing you to go into jobs such as finance, engineering, things like that”, it was “super difficult round here to find jobs like that”.

Osian Buckland

Fellow sixth-former Osian Buckland, 18, works part-time at Funsport.

He is about to leave sixth form to study sports science at university, and said people in the area would “struggle to get further up” than hospitality or labour.

“I’d like to stay here forever but there isn’t the right jobs. It’d be much easier for a lot of people to move into a city and get a job there.

“My aim’s definitely to come back here and hopefully I can find something for me.”

Nadine Moore

Nadine Moore thinks she would struggle to find another job she wants to do

Graduate Nadine Moore, 28, is Funsport’s manager and loves her job but has friends from the area who have moved across the border to find work in England.

She said she would worry too if she was forced to look for work: “I do think to stay in the area I’d potentially struggle to go down a career path that I’d really want to do.

“I think for myself I would either look at moving a little bit more inland and towards a city.”

Becky Bevan

Becky Bevan says there are jobs – but do they pay enough to allow people to live on the island?

Just up the road from Funsport, Becky Bevan, 27, who owns Cafe Notos in Rhosneigr, said she would not want to be job hunting now.

“I think it would be difficult, and I say that from a place where I’ve been there. Just after Covid, I was like ‘what am I going to do?’

“I’ve got a degree, I moved back here – exactly in the position that lots of people are in in their 20s….what am I going to do for work?

Becky believes the desire for well-paid work means “a lot of young people are moving away, and I don’t know if necessarily a lot of them are coming back either,” because of high house prices.

We can see there has been steady trend of net migration out of Anglesey for young people aged 15 to 29.

Ynys Mon also has the third lowest proportion of this age group of all Welsh parliamentary constituencies.

Young or talented people leaving for better pay – or brain drain – is not unique to the island – Wales has a pattern of net migration of 15 to 29-year-olds leaving for other parts of the UK.

Health and social care is the sector employing the most people in Wales, followed by retail.

There is a similar picture at a local level on Anglesey, which has proportionately more people than average working in the hospitality, construction and farming industries.

There are fewer opportunities in manufacturing, however.

Anglesey has one of the highest employment rates in Wales, which saw more than 77% in a job, for the working age population, at the end of last year.

Huw Brassington, from Llandwrog, Gwynedd, is a senior mechanical engineer who himself relocated from Wales to Cumbria in order find a suitable job.

He now works with Tenet Consultants, which provides engineering designs for large-scale projects including nuclear and renewables.

The company recently opened an office on Anglesey, which he heads, and he says the company is focussed on providing well-paid jobs and encouraging skilled workers back to Wales.

The former lecturer said: “I understand the challenges faced by young engineers in north Wales firsthand.

“I witnessed many eager and talented students with limited opportunities. Despite their potential, only a handful secured apprenticeships.

“I have remained in contact with many of my former students and am now striving to recruit them.

“Many excel in their careers but often face long commutes or permanent relocation. One of my best former students, for example, commutes from Bala to Bristol weekly.”

Stopping brain-drain, he said, “requires a long-term strategy” to “start cultivating our engineers of the future”.

On the economy and employment, the Welsh Liberal Democrats said they would “offer something different from the current status quo and that is a fair deal that will deliver a strong economy through investment, fair taxes, and responsible management of the public finances”.

The Welsh Conservatives said a strong economy “delivers strong public services”, but added “Labour has no plan to grow Wales’ economy, to get people into work, to boost wages for Welsh workers or to support Welsh businesses”.

Labour said: “The Welsh Labour government is focused on protecting Welsh jobs, getting people out of poverty and addressing the Tory-made cost of living crisis,” but said it had been “compromised by a Conservative government” in Westminster.

Plaid Cymru and Reform have been asked to comment.

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