Wales sets example over apprenticeships - The BESA
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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Wales sets example over apprenticeships

The Welsh government has committed £111 million towards creating 100,000 new traineeships and apprenticeships in its latest budget.

This dramatic increase in potential apprentice numbers has been widely welcomed and industry leaders have stressed that sectors with greatest need should be prioritised.

“This shows great initiative and welcome leadership on behalf of the Welsh government,” said Paul McLaughlin, chief executive of the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA). “It is an example to the rest of the UK at a time when apprenticeship funding is fraught with uncertainty.

“It is absolutely essential that this funding is ring fenced for crucial industry sectors and those with skills shortages that threaten future economic growth. For example, there is huge demand for more building services apprenticeships to meet the UK’s commitment to infrastructure and built environment targets.

Evidence
“To meet all of the construction targets on which UK plc depends, we need literally thousands of new, skilled people,” added Mr McLaughlin. “And it’s more than just a numbers game – we need to move towards an evidence based model so that apprentice recruitment more closely matches demand in key business areas.”

There has been widespread criticism of the apprenticeship system in the past for appearing to meet government targets by placing large numbers of recruits into lower cost training schemes for industries with fewer employment opportunities.

The Department for Education has sought to address this with a 40% uplift in funding for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subject areas for Level 2 apprentices and 80% for level 3 apprentices. It has also reassured engineering employers that they will receive 90% of the cost of training an apprentice from public funds.

However, the new funding regime is not due to come into effect until May 2017 with the unintended consequence that, in the meantime, recruitment of apprentices into construction and engineering related fields has slowed creating a potential skills backlog.

“Wales is taking a welcome step forward, and we need the same sense of urgency right across the UK on apprentice training,” said Mr McLaughlin. “Employers must get strong funding signals now so they can plan for the future and start plugging our ever widening skills gap.”

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