In the news

May 26, 2000

Steve Martin knows how important his new job as chief executive of the Welsh further and higher education funding councils is, and he thinks everyone else should know too.

He is struck by how little attention education and training receives in Wales "compared with the National Health Service - or even bypasses". Raising awareness of the key role the councils have to play in developing the Welsh economy is therefore one of the "big prizes" he is aiming for.

And as designated head of the new Council for Education and Training in Wales (the Welsh equivalent of the proposed Learning and Skills Council in England), as well as former secretary and director of policy of the Welsh-language TV channel Sianel Pedwar Cymru, he is well placed to broadcast that message.

Another ambition is to open access and bring education and training opportunities to the poorer communities in remoter parts of Wales. This is a personal goal, he says, "as I come from the other side of the tracks myself".

From an Anglo-Irish family, he was brought up in Northern Ireland and London, and educated in state schools before reading political studies at Hull University.

After a spell as a nursing auxiliary, he moved to Cardiff and took a temporary job at the Welsh Office. He stayed there for the next 24 years, moving up through the ranks to become private secretary to successive permanent secretaries, director of the Welsh Office education department and finally the Welsh Office's principal establishment officer.

His meteoric rise means that, aged just 47, he has experience of a wide range of public policy in Wales, including NHS reform, social services, industry, arts and sports, and housing, as well as education.

Describing himself as "a fluent but far from perfect Welsh speaker", he also had responsibility for the Welsh Language Act 1993 and the establishment of the Welsh Language Board.

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