An organisation that represents independent work-based learning providers across Wales has pledged to work collaboratively to shape and deliver inspiring vocational qualifications that benefit learners and employers and support economic growth.
Launching its strategic plan for the next three years at an event held at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff last week, the National Training Federation of Wales (NTFW) set out five strategic priorities. A lunchtime reception for Members of the Senedd was held earlier in the day.
At the heart of the plan, ‘Developing the future workforce of Wales’, is the NTFW’s long held mission to achieve parity of esteem between vocational and academic learning.
The NTFW also calls for parity of funding across all post-16 learning in Wales to provide stability and certainty to employers, learners and work-based learning providers. The plan challenges the Welsh Government to make funding fair and transparent.
“Last year, an increase of 7.1% was granted to all post-16 providers except for the work-based learning sector,” the strategic plan highlighted. “This seems at odds with the aim of parity across all post-16 sectors, which was a founding principle of the post-16 National Planning and Funding System.
“Fair funding would recognise the cost increases being experienced, such as pay rises, pension increases and the cost of introducing the National Living Wage, all of which the sector has needed to bear, given that there has only been a small increase in 10 years.”
Driving the need for fair and transparent funding rates that reflect the real cost of delivery for all apprenticeship programmes is one of the NTFW’s five priorities.
The others are:
- working collaboratively with Welsh Government to influence future policy and thinking, ensuring parity for work-based learning providers and its learners.
- representing its members in talks with stakeholders throughout Wales and the UK to challenge, influence and shape policy on skills and apprenticeships.
- influencing and helping to shape Welsh Government’s new Commission for Tertiary Education and Research (CTER), building on the strengths of the work-based learning sector to meet future challenges and opportunities.
- working with partners to develop capacity and professionalise the work-based learning apprenticeship workforce.
The NTFW will also continue to work closely with Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol to increase the number of qualifications delivered through the medium of Welsh.
John Nash, the NTFW’s chair, said the Welsh Government will need to collaborate closely with its partners to meet economic challenges, deliver regional skills priorities and help establish CTER over the next three years.
“To achieve the NTFW’s vision of developing the future workforce of Wales, it’s imperative that we continue to influence future Welsh Government policy on skills and apprenticeships to ensure parity of funding and esteem for work-based learning providers and apprentices,” he stressed.
“Our continued focus on professionalising the work-based learning workforce will also be key to delivering the Welsh Government’s ambitious target of 125,000 all-age apprentices by 2027.”
Lisa Mytton, the NTFW’s strategic director, said:
“It is vital, now more than ever, that people are provided with the chance to gain skills in a workplace setting, providing real job opportunities, and for organisations to have access to a skilled workforce.
“We want to build on the significant progress made in apprenticeship provision to ensure that our work continues to make a real impact. Through our members, thousands of apprentices across Wales maximise their potential.”
Vaughan Gething, Minister for Economy, revealed that the Welsh Government had decided to defer for one year its target of creating 125,000 apprenticeships in the current Senedd term.
“European Union funds previously supported around 5,000 apprenticeships in Wales each year,” he said. “Without that investment and in the face of real and unavoidable inflationary costs, I have invested an extra £36 million over the next two years to support quality, all age apprenticeships that are proven to help unlock higher earning in even better quality careers.
“That’s a top priority that we support despite the economic crisis that we face. However, even after cutting budgets elsewhere within my department to help boost this investment, the funding gap and greater costs mean that I need to push back the target of creating 125,000 apprenticeships by one year. That means we won’t achieve that within this Senedd term.
“I am determined, nonetheless, to deliver a programme that focuses on equality and outcome. We need to deliver apprenticeships that will raise productivity, create quality jobs and respond to the skills needs of the future, such as growing delivery in the net zero and digital sectors.”
Mr Gething praised the significant contribution made by NTFW members to the skills agenda by delivering high quality, flexible apprenticeships and the Jobs Growth Wales+ programme.
“As a network of independent providers, I know that you have been relentless in your drive to improve people’s prospects and make Wales a better place to do business and a better place for people in business,” he added.
“You have recognised the need to work strategically to deliver an agile and responsive apprenticeship programme where quality is at the forefront. Your relationship with employers has been key to that success in the programme. I am really proud of what we have achieved together.”
Other speakers were Rhian Edwards, the Welsh Government’s deputy director of further education and apprenticeships, whose topic was apprenticeships, James Owen, interim director of CTER, who spoke about the new organisation, Hayden Llewellyn, Education Workforce Council chief executive, who spoke about professionalising the workforce and Paul Evans, project director of Inspiring Skills Excellence in Wales, who focused on the ‘Team Wales’ success story.