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Higher Apprenticeships are the Key to Future Economic Success for the Wider Welsh Economy


What have Elvis Presley, Sir Alex Ferguson, Billy Connolly, Eric Clapton and Jamie Oliver got in common?  They all took the vocational learning route in the form of an apprenticeship before heading out on the road to fame and fortune.

Elvis was an apprentice electrician, Sir Alex an apprentice toolmaker, Billy Connolly was an apprentice welder, rock star Clapton completed a vocational course in stained glass design, while celebrity chef-to-be Jamie began working life as a catering apprentice.


All five followed the route of vocational training to gain vocational qualifications, which have never been as important to the economy and the individual as they are today.  Vocational education delivers the trained and talented employees that businesses are crying out for and ensures young people have the skills needed to succeed in education and work.

The Welsh Government is now supporting Higher Apprenticeships as a progression route from Level 2 and 3 apprenticeships, allowing learners to progress to higher-level learning. This can sometimes take the form of Foundation Degrees delivered on a part-time basis in work, professional qualification routes, such as accountancy, or as an alternative to A-levels and traditional higher education degree routes.

With the Webb Review highlighting that in 2020, 70% of the current workforce will still be in place, it is vital that businesses, training providers and higher education establishments work closely together to ensure that workers have the resources and skills necessary to drive all industries forward.  With the number of full time higher education students expected to drop in September because of the increase in student fees, it could well be that Higher Apprenticeships step in to fill the gap.

From an employee’s point of view, a Higher Apprenticeship could tick all the boxes. With so much uncertainty in today’s economic climate, people are not willing to take breaks in their careers to return to education. Added to which balancing a hectic home and work life can be difficult.

From an employer’s perspective, there are many advantages to investing in the training of existing staff.  There is a strong case to be made for improved staff retention – quality staff will be retained at least for the duration of the qualification, depending on contract stipulations and hopefully longer thanks to the commitment shown by the employer to their individual professional development.

The main impact will be the individual’s improved skill sets and the benefits this is likely to bring to the business.

To find out more about Higher Apprenticeships in Wales, please see here

Sarah John is the National Chair of the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW) and writes fortnightly for Business New Wales

Business News Wales