Apprenticeships are an essential ingredient of economic success, a vital tool in building a stronger, fairer and more equal Wales and it is crucial that apprentices have the right skills to meet current and future business needs. That is the message from Skills and Science Minister, Julie James, as she launches the Welsh Government’s new Apprenticeship policy today [7 February].
Aligning the Apprenticeship model to the needs of the Welsh Economy sets out the Welsh Government’s vision for addressing the needs of Welsh businesses and the wider economy and has been designed to increase skills levels in priority areas, including where shortages have been reported.
Developed in consultation with businesses, the policy and its five year action plan sets out how the Welsh Government will support the delivery of its manifesto and Taking Wales Forward commitment to create a minimum of 100,000 high quality apprentices in Wales over this Assembly term by focussing on four priority areas:
- Increasing the number of apprentices aged 16-19 by increasing the take-up of quality apprenticeships amongst school leavers.
- Addressing skills shortages by developing apprenticeships particularly in growth and emerging sectors such as the ICT, Engineering, Construction and Financial and Professional Services.
- Developing higher level skills by focussing on apprenticeships at level 4 and above where returns tend to be higher.
- Developing skills pathways by integrating apprenticeships into the wider education system and making it easier for someone to enter into an apprenticeship from another learning route.
Skills and Science Minister, Julie James said: “This policy highlights our intention to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, which will require higher levels of competence than in the past.
“It also contains a stronger focus on both technical and professional skills needed for high quality employment opportunities within our communities. This will send a strong message about the value of apprenticeships and technical education in supporting people into sustainable employment and self-employment.”
The policy and supporting information also outlines how the impact of the Apprenticeship Levy – a UK Government employment tax due to come into effect on 6 April 2017 – will be managed in Wales.
The Minister added: “We have said all along that this levy directly conflicts with areas of devolved responsibility, completely overlooks and undermines our very distinctive approach to supporting apprenticeships in Wales and its introduction means that no new significant money is coming to Wales.”
“To help minimise the impact of the levy in Wales the Welsh Government is taking a different approach to its counterparts in England, one which is better aligned to and supports the growing needs of Wales, its people and economy.”
Support for businesses to recruit new apprentices is already available in Wales and will continue to be available to both levy and non-levy paying employers provided the funding supports apprentices in the identified priority areas.
To deliver these priorities the Welsh Government will be increasing its investment in apprenticeships from £96m to £111.5m for 2017-18. This brings our total investment in apprenticeships and traineeships next year to over £126m.
Of the additional funding, £15.5m will be invested this year to ensure that both public and private sector employers are not disadvantaged as a result of the Apprenticeship Levy.
Julie James added: “Our public services are essential to maintain functions related to education, fire services, waste management, social services and healthcare. We are committed to working with public sector organisations to help them achieve greater consistency and meet future challenges. This will include the publication of specific apprenticeship plans for Local Authorities, the NHS and the ‘blue light’ services.”
The announcement is being made during the Welsh Government’s Jobs Week.
The policy: Aligning the Apprenticeship model to the needs of the Welsh Economy, its five year action plan and additional supporting information is available on the Welsh Government website