Three Welsh businesses are throwing their weight behind a new campaign by Careers Wales which aims to encourage us to shine the spotlight on Welsh language skills.
A Cardiff bakery that is fast developing a dedicated following, an environmentally-friendly childcare provider in Carmarthenshire and a multi-million civil engineering company based in Ruthin have all come together to champion the business value of speaking Welsh.
In 2021, the Annual Population Survey revealed that 29.1% of us – aged three or over – can speak Welsh. That’s 883,300 people – an increase of 24,600 from the previous year.
And, as the Welsh language grows year on year, so too do the businesses and organisations who recognise the value of Welsh. Whether it can help speak to individual customers in the mother tongue, build relationships or help craft a strong brand, it seems the power of the Welsh language on your CV should not be underestimated.
“The Welsh language is part of our brand”
Before you even push open the door of Let Them See Cake in Cardiff (pictured above), customers will spot the beautiful gold lettering spelling out, ‘Siop Cacennau, Parc Victoria’.
And as you enter, you’ll not only be drawn in by the smell of fresh baking, sumptuous swirls and pretty piping, but also a warm greeting – ‘Hello Shwmae’ – which also happens to be the shop’s catchphrase.
The infectious warmth of what has been dubbed Wales’ most instagrammable bakery has been captured by BBC Three series Hot Cakes which follows the shop’s success and the stories behind customer orders.
If you’ve watched it, you’ll know that owners Gareth Davies and Ryan Rowe decided to open a shop specialising in celebration cakes when the business below their flat became vacant. It was 2020 and, while some may have thought the couple was crazy to open in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, the business has gone from strength to strength. And the pair believe that the power of the Welsh language has helped them prosper:
“Gareth grew up speaking Welsh and we are smack bang in the middle of a Welsh speaking community so it feels natural to speak Welsh here. But it’s more than that – it’s our unique selling point,” explains Ryan.
“We have a Welsh speaking team and we’re really known by our customers that they can come in and speak Welsh here. We incorporate it into our social media too. We strive to make the shop as welcoming and inviting as possible – whether that’s through the décor or how we interact. Speaking Welsh feels homely and warm.”
Ryan reveals that he learnt Welsh online:
”I’ll slip up sometimes but it’s all good fun, people do appreciate it when you’ve made the effort to learn.”
The Welsh language is also woven into product names – Seren, Cwmwl and Cariad can all be ordered in store or online.
So popular are their creations that the business has outgrown the shop space and Ryan and Gareth have now leased a commercial unit where the team whips up the cakes and treats. And with more space available in the shop, they plan to offer afternoon teas. And they are not stopping there:
“We’re forward-thinking and you can’t rest on your laurels. We’re looking at book deals, we’d like to explore other TV opportunities and we’re also considering how we could offer a UK-wide delivery service.
“We’ve built a brand that people seem to love and the Welsh language is really woven into it. It’s very much part of our ethos and how we present ourselves. There is a culture attached to the language and whether people follow us on social or pop into the shop, they want to feel like they are in a special part of Wales.”
“As a practitioner, speaking Welsh is a huge asset”
Cylch Meithrin Eco Tywi is an eco-friendly nursery that operates through the medium of Welsh in Carmarthen. Although it only opened three years ago, it is thriving with 28 children on its books.
The Cylch leader, Lleucu Edwards, says:
“We are a Welsh language provider and that gives us a huge opportunity. People come to us because we are a fully Welsh setting. Parents want children to get a good start before they attend Welsh medium school.”
Carmarthenshire has the highest rates of Welsh speakers in Wales. With 94,600 Welsh speakers reported in the local authority at the last Annual Population Survey in 2021, so it is no surprise that Lleucu and her team are in demand.
However, she reports that approximately 60% of the families they support are English speaking while 40% are first language Welsh which suggests that the numbers of Welsh speakers in the county are set to soar even higher in the future.
“As a practitioner, speaking Welsh is a huge asset. If you work in education and childcare and you speak Welsh, it is really important to highlight these skills to an employer or a potential employer. I would see the ability to speak Welsh as being a huge advantage if someone is looking to secure work in this sector because it is so important that we can teach and care through the medium of Welsh.
“I was brought up speaking Welsh at home, went to Welsh school and I did my BA degree in Early Years through the medium of Welsh. I want to be able to offer the opportunities and experience I had growing up to children in the area. It’s also of huge benefit to be bilingual – it can strengthen cognitive abilities.”
And Lleucu says that anyone in the childcare sector wanting to learn Welsh will be welcomed with open arms:
“We have one colleague who wasn’t very confident with her Welsh but through online learning and working here, she has come on leaps and bounds because she has been immersed in the language. People need to know that we won’t judge you as a learner, just start speaking Welsh and you’ll be supported.”
And Lleucu already has designs to grow the business further too:
“We currently offer all day care and wraparound care for those children starting out with half days at school. We’d like to offer after-school clubs in the future for older children too and we’d love to be able to offer more spaces because the demand for Welsh language childcare is huge.”
“Speaking Welsh helps build rapport in our business”
Jones Bros Civil Engineering UK is a family business that was founded in the 1950s. With a head office in Ruthin, today it directly employs around 500 staff and operatives and has grown into a hugely successful firm.
From windfarms in Scotland to a reservoir project in Portsmouth, Jones Bros is responsible for projects right across the UK and turns over around £140 million. Yet it is still firmly rooted in Wales, as contracts director, Hefin Lloyd-Jones, explains:
“Most of our staff are from North Wales and I’d say around 250 can speak Welsh. 170 of those are fluent speakers while the remainder have either a basic understanding of – or are learning – the language. We work on projects all over Britain, so you’ll hear Welsh being spoken daily in places such as Hull, Peterborough, and Buckinghamshire.”
“We also operate on many projects in areas where Welsh is used as a first language. For example, we worked on the A487 Caernarfon and Bontnewydd Bypass and most of the meetings and emails were carried out in Welsh. Having a workforce with an understanding of the Welsh language definitely helps build relationships and trust within the business, as well as bringing a warmth and instant rapport.
“Having Welsh speaking staff isn’t just important, it’s absolutely vital so that we can liaise with landowners and local businesspeople who speak it as their first language.”
And Hefin believes that speaking Welsh is a skill that has been vastly under-estimated in the workplace:
“We do take it for granted a bit that we can communicate in two different languages. To be able to talk technically, give instructions and make decisions in both Welsh and English is a real skill. Communicating in Welsh is absolutely key to our delivery and is vital in our success as a business.”
Philip Bowden, Careers Wales Head of Quality and Planning, said:
“As the national careers service for Wales, Careers Wales is committed to supporting the Welsh Government’s vision of a million Welsh speakers by 2050.
“We do this through our bilingual service delivery and ensuring young people and adults are fully aware of the opportunities that Welsh language skills offer to future career choices.
“There is real value for employers in supporting the language, with 94% of Welsh speakers feeling that Welsh language service provision helps a company make a good impression as well as adding valuable skills to their workforce.
“The three companies who are supporting our campaign, Let Them See Cake, Jones Bros and Cylch Meithrin Eco Tywi, are proof that a real commitment to the Welsh language can have real benefits for companies in Wales and beyond and we’re extremely grateful for their passionate support.”
To find Welsh language resources or learn more about Welsh go to Careerswales.gov.wales and search ‘learn Welsh’.