Employers from both the private and public sectors across Wales have attended a series of three regional events designed to advise them how to engage with the Welsh Government’s Apprenticeship Programme.
The events began in Llandudno and Llandrindod Wells and concluded in Cardiff where more than 80 delegates gathered the Mercure Holland House Hotel.
Delegates included senior managers from a range of public sector bodies across Wales, such as local authorities, NHS trusts and the emergency services, who are responsible for recruitment and staff development and representatives of private businesses. They were able talk to learning providers about their specific apprenticeship requirements and additional training needs.
The events were organised by the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW), which represents work-based learning providers in Wales, on behalf of the Welsh Government.
Public, private and third sector organisations, which have a wage bill of more than £3 million, are now paying the UK Government’s Apprenticeship Levy – 0.5% of their wages bill – to support apprenticeships.
The Welsh Government has pledged to support a minimum of 100,000 high quality, all age apprenticeships during the current administration. Samantha Huckle, head of apprenticeships, said the Welsh Government had adopted a targeted approach with its apprenticeship programme, aiming for higher level skills in sectors, identified by Regional Skills Partnerships, that would drive Welsh economic growth.
The focus was on developing sustainable policies for the future. Therefore, apprenticeship provision was prioritised in sectors that offered the best return on investment. She stressed the benefits to the individual, the employer and the economy of developing higher level technical skills.
She also revealed that a specific apprenticeship was being developed for public sector services and degree apprenticeships in ICT, advanced manufacturing and engineering had been launched, with others to follow, where feasible.
Delegates heard that out of the cohort of 31,500 Welsh school leavers aged 16 to 18 last year, only 401 had become apprentices.
Mrs Huckle said the Welsh Government was doing all it could to reinstate apprenticeships as a valuable employment option for school leavers. She highlighted a summer campaign to recruit 1,000 school leavers to apprenticeships and said junior apprenticeships were being introduced for students aged 14 to 16 years.
Sarah John, NTfW chair, said apprenticeships were a great way to recruit young people and to upskill an organisation’s workforce. The Welsh Government wanted 40 per cent of the Welsh workforce to be upskilled to level four and above by 2024.
Jeff Protheroe, the NTfW’s director of operations, said a third of the 45,000 apprenticeships delivered in Wales in 2015-’16 were in the public services and health care sector.
Of all the apprenticeships delivered, 46 per cent were undertaken by individuals aged 25 years and above and 24 per cent were at level four and above compared to six per cent in 2012-’13.
“What we have seen over a short period of time is a significant shift towards higher apprenticeships,” said Mr Protheroe, who encouraged employers to speak to the NTfW if their business needs were not being met by existing apprenticeship provision.
“We realise that if we are to achieve the Welsh Government’s commitment to engage more young people and deliver higher level skills, it will need a whole government approach. We need to get employers to create demand for apprenticeship vacancies and that will attract the brightest school leavers.”
Jason Hyam, from Llantrisant-based insurance brokerage Arthur J. Gallagher who was a Vocational Qualifications Awards finalists this year, described his journey from an apprentice to a business manager in charge of a team of seven.
The apprenticeship had propelled his career forward and increased his confidence, product knowledge and skills. Recommending apprenticeship to employers, he said the benefits would permeate throughout their organisations.
Emma Cowley, apprenticeship learning manager for Amazon, said the event was “useful” to understand the apprenticeship changes taking place within Wales.
She revealed that Amazon would be recruiting 100 apprentices in England in September and then looking to recruit in Wales and Scotland, probably in January next year. “2018 will be a big year for apprentices in the business,” she added.
Rhys Owen, organisational development advisor at Public Health Wales, which has a workforce of around 1,600, enjoyed networking with other delegates from the public sector in Wales.
The organisation is launching an apprenticeship programme in October for five business administration apprentices and will be looking to include other technical and bespoke qualifications in the future. A public health qualification is being introduced in England and could be applied in Wales.
Carys Samuel, apprentice lead at the DVLA, said the organisation already had a successful apprenticeship programme with 165 apprentices and more currently being recruited.
She enjoyed meeting and hearing how other employers were applying their apprenticeship strategy in response to the Apprenticeship Levy and the Welsh Government’s priorities.
David Morgan, research evaluator at Dyfed Powys Police, described the event as “hugely beneficial” and said he hoped to run similar events to promote the apprenticeship agenda within the force.
He supported a change to a work-based learning culture whereby staff received coaching and mentoring in the workplace rather than attending classroom courses.
Employers can express an interest in the Apprenticeship Programme by completing an ‘Expression of Interest’ form at Business Wales Skills Gateway –https://businesswales.gov.wales/skillsgateway/apprenticeships-0 – which is shared with the National Training Federation for Wales.
The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.