High unemployment and relatively low skill levels within the manufacturing industry across two South Wales local authorities has led to the creation of a pioneering Apprenticeship Programme that is breathing new life into the advanced manufacturing sector.
Aspire Blaenau Gwent & Merthyr Tydfil’s Shared Apprenticeship Programme has directly benefited 123 apprentices as well as companies that have adopted its innovative approach.
Learners are rotated around host employers to plug skills gaps by training on-the-job and working in order to achieve units towards their apprenticeship.
The programme was first established in 2015 when the Ebbw Vale Enterprise Zone Board identified the significant lack of employees with skills at Level 3 and above in Blaenau Gwent. Two years later, Merthyr Tydfil came online to develop its business growth and enhance skills whilst tackling unemployment.
In recognition of its commitment to apprenticeships, Aspire has been shortlisted for the Large Employer of the Year award at the prestigious Apprenticeship Awards Cymru 2021.
This annual celebration of outstanding achievement in training and apprenticeships will see 35 finalists compete in 12 categories for awards. The winners will be announced at a virtual awards ceremony on April 29.
Highlight of the work-based learning calendar, the awards showcase businesses and individuals who have excelled on the Welsh Government’s Apprenticeship and Traineeship Programmes and gone the extra mile to achieve success during these unprecedented times.
The awards are jointly organised by the Welsh Government and the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW). Openreach, the UK’s digital network business and passionate supporter of apprenticeships, has renewed its headline sponsorship of the awards.
The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.
Aspire is now working with both Coleg y Cymoedd, who link with Coleg Gwent, and Coleg Merthyr Tydfil to foster the next generation of skilled workers through apprenticeships covering Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, ICT, Applied Science, Quality Engineering as well as Business/Commercial Administration and Finance.
“The development of a Shared Apprenticeship Programme was identified as a mechanism for addressing both existing indigenous employer skills needs and those of any new inward investors,” said Tara Lane, Aspire’s regional skills development manager.
“It is also a vehicle for providing aspirational opportunities for young people that complement existing provision and does not displace directly employed apprenticeships.”
With a target to recruit 20 new apprentices every year, Aspire has achieved a 100% success rate through a team facilitating their employment with hosts and then dealing with any issues as they occur.
“Aspire is a true example of collaboration,” said Matthew Tucker, Coleg y Cymoedd’s assistant principal. “Over the past five years, the Apprenticeship Programme has successfully engaged with apprentices across multiple pathways, developing a Shared Apprenticeship that has engaged more than 30 employers in a region where apprenticeships engagement was non-existent.
“The success of the programme has made Aspire a leading project in the sector.”
Minister for the Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skates, said:
“Our Apprenticeship and Traineeship Programmes are helping people fulfil their career ambitions and I’m delighted we have already reached our target of creating 100,000 apprenticeships in this Senedd term.
“This has been key in helping apprentices of all ages to gain important skills and experience that we know businesses across all sectors of the economy in Wales really need. This will be vital as we emerge from the pandemic.
“Apprenticeship Awards Cymru provides an excellent opportunity to celebrate and showcase the achievements of all involved, from star apprentices to skilled learning providers.
“I’d like to congratulate all the finalists announced for this year's event and wish each and every one all the best for the future.”