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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

£40 million boost for Welsh apprenticeships

Businesses are being encouraged to realise the full potential of apprentices for the Welsh economy as the Deputy Minister for Skills, Jeff Cuthbert, today outlined spending plans for an additional £40 million over the next two years for apprenticeships in Wales.
The spending plans include expanding the number of apprenticeship places, with a focus on increasing the number of Higher Level Apprenticeships, and incentives to encourage businesses, particularly small to medium businesses, to take on apprentices.

The announcement follows a report from the Business and Enterprise Committee’s Inquiry into apprenticeships last autumn, which found that although we have a strong apprenticeship programme here in Wales not enough businesses are using the programme and are losing out on the opportunity to attract high calibre apprentices and in turn support business growth.

The spending plans include:

* Creating 5,650 additional apprenticeship places, 2,650 of which are Higher Level Apprenticeships, Level 4 and above

* An enhanced wage subsidy of £3,900 over 52 weeks for employers taking on young apprentices aged 16-24 through the Young Recruits Programme, this will also be expanded to include Higher Level Apprenticeships

* A one off payment of £500 for small and micro businesses to cover the time and costs they said were a barrier to recruiting apprentices

* And £3.4 million to support those who wish to complete their training through the medium of Welsh and a commitment to engage more people onto apprenticeships within the STEM sectors.

The plans also include action to address the gender imbalance that currently exists across specific apprenticeship sectors and to strengthen the relationship between employers, schools and work based learning providers to promote apprenticeships as a valued career option.

Jeff Cuthbert said: "Apprenticeships play an integral role in our economy. They increase the skill set of the workforce and make Wales a more attractive place with which to do business.

"This is why I want more businesses to realise the potential of apprenticeships and why we have committed £40 million over two years to increase and support apprenticeship delivery.

"The skills developed by an apprentice are skills for life. This makes an apprenticeship programme as valued as a place at a top university, and I want people to be aware of this.

"The programme continues to support young people, the group that has been worst hit by the recession. Apprenticeship programmes keep them engaged in education, employment and training and make sure we are maximising their opportunities for employment.

"My chief desire is that apprenticeships, underpinned by high quality qualifications and the wider curricula, become the ‘gold standard’ for vocational competence in Wales - where the achievement of an Apprenticeship Certificate is recognised, valued and highly prized by all as an endorsement of the skills, professionalism and ambition of our country within the global economy."

The spending plans also include a commitment to increasing the provision of Welsh language and bi-lingual Apprenticeships. The number of programmes currently available through the medium of Welsh will be assessed and work will be undertaken with Work Based Learning Providers to specifically focus on emerging demands relating to Welsh medium apprenticeships.

The announcement comes during Apprenticeship Week (11-15 March). There will be over 30 events taking place across Wales throughout the week to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the economy.

The Apprenticeship Programme is funded by the Welsh Government with the support of the European Social Fund.

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