Welsh Government challenged to explain apprenticeship funding cuts

An organisation that represents more than 100 learning providers across Wales is calling on the Welsh Government to explain in detail why it has slashed £7 million from its flagship Apprenticeship and Young Recruits Programmes.

The National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW), which has links to 35,000 employers across Wales, is concerned that the budget cut will reduce new Apprenticeship opportunities.

The organisation is writing to Deputy Minister for Technology and Skills, Ken Skates, asking why the Welsh Government is cutting funding for apprenticeships, which he and other ministers have described as the gold standard in vocational training for ambitious young people in Wales.

Only last week, Mr Skates said: “The Welsh Government regards apprenticeships as an excellent way to build a skilled and competitive workforce, address skills shortages and ultimately strengthen the Welsh economy.”

The NTfW is calling on the Welsh Government to reverse the cut by reprioritising apprenticeships.

Following an emergency board meeting, the NTfW’s operations manager, Jeff Protheroe, warned that the budget cut risked destabilising the training network, alienating learners and employers and undermining all the good work done by learning providers over the past decade.

He expressed grave fears that some young people on existing Jobs Growth Wales and apprenticeship programmes will be unable to progress their learning pathway because funding has run out.

“We urgently need transparency from the Welsh Government to enable members to inform our employer network why this cut has been made,” he said. “Members have been left completely in the dark, yet the Welsh Government expects them to deal with enquiries from employers, learners and parents, which is totally unreasonable.

“Bearing in mind recent comments by the Deputy Minister, it’s totally unacceptable that funding of the hugely successful apprenticeship programme in Wales, which is the envy of other countries in the UK, is being reduced. We are talking about the future career prospects of thousands of young learners in Wales.

“The irony of the situation is that the budget cut coincides with a national media campaign by the Welsh Government promoting apprenticeships. It appears that ministers are not communicating their financial policy decisions to their marketing department.

“Having created the demand for apprenticeships, the Welsh Government may now be unable to fulfil it.”

The Welsh Government’s Young Recruits Programme offers support of £50 per week to businesses employing apprentices for the first 26 weeks of employment and learning.

Earlier this month Mr Skates said: “In spite of these reductions, we have been able to maintain funding for traineeships, and we are continuing to fund Apprenticeships for those aged 16-24 and Higher Level Apprenticeships.”

The Welsh Government has been asked to respond to the comments by the NTfW.