Swalec Smart Energy Centre to create 250 jobs in south Wales

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Image caption Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) says it is the UK's largest generator of renewable electricity

Up to 250 jobs are to be created in south Wales with the opening of a new £7m renewable energy training centre.

The Swalec Smart Energy Centre in Treforest, Rhondda Cynon Taf, will receive £2m in Welsh government funds.

Business Minister Edwina Hart said the centre would offer "excellent training and employment opportunities".

Meanwhile, latest quarterly unemployment figures saw a rise of 11,000 in Wales to 133,000 between August and October - a rate of 9.1%.

The announcement, by Swalec's parent company Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), comes amid a turbulent week for the Welsh economy.

It is thought the centre, which will train staff from Wales and the rest of the UK in new 'green' technologies, will take about six months to complete.

Fast-growing sector

SSE chief executive Ian Marchant said the project showed the strength of the firm's commitment to Wales.

"It demonstrates our willingness to invest and create new jobs and this exciting new training centre will ensure our staff will have the skills to be at the forefront of this green energy revolution," he said.

Mrs Hart described the move as "a significant investment" in a key sector for Wales.

The centre would create several hundred sustainable 'green' jobs and boost the skills base needed to support the fast-growing sector, she said.

"The expansion will offer excellent training and employment opportunities for young people in the area while contributing to and supporting the Welsh government's low carbon targets," said Mrs Hart.

SSE, which describes itself as the leading generator of renewable energy in the UK, said it had created more than 800 jobs in Wales in the past four years.

Swalec employs more than 2,000 in Wales.

'Significant decrease'

The announcement comes a day after more than 110 job losses were revealed around the country.

Image caption Crunch Christmas sees the BBC examining the state of the economy

Nearly 80 jobs were said to be at risk as the DVLA revealed it was to close three regional offices in Wales under plans to centralise operations at its Swansea headquarters.

A further 36 job losses were announced by Norgine Pharmaceuticals Limited in Hengoed, Caerphilly county.

The company said there had been a "significant decrease" in demand for some of its products, and blamed the global economy and increasing use of generic copies of brands.

It said it remained committed to the factory, which employs 350 workers.

On Tuesday three senior economists warned that the Welsh economy would struggle to achieve growth in 2012.

Wales lags behind the UK average for economic activity and around 50,000 jobs have been lost since 2007.

Meanwhile the current state of the Welsh economy should become clearer later with the release of the latest unemployment figures, public sector employment figures and the regional Gross Value Added (GVA) figures.

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Media captionMusic graduate James Thomas reflects on his struggle to find work after leaving university.

Last month unemployment figures showed that Wales had reached its highest level since comparable records began in 1992, with an unemployment rate of 9.3%.

For the three months to the end of September unemployment stood at 137,000, a rise of 14,000 on the quarter.

The publication of the regional Gross Value Added (GVA) figures for 2010 will provide an indication of how the Welsh economy is faring in comparison with other regions of the UK.

Last year the headline GVA in Wales for 2009 was £44.5bn down 2.2% on the previous year, whereas the GVA for the UK fell by 2.1%.

BBC Wales across online, TV and radio is looking at the economy in a Crunch Christmas series this week. On Wednesday, unemployment will be examined and retail will be the focus of Thursday's coverage.

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