Funding Cut Will Force Trainers To Turn Away Apprentices

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Training providers will be forced to turn away more people seeking to do apprenticeships in Wales next year because the Welsh Assembly Government is cutting support for work based learning programmes.

That was the stark message delivered by Arwyn Watkins, chairman of the National Training Federation Wales (NTfW), when he addressed the Wales Economic Summit held in Bangor.

The NTfW is a network of 83 quality assured training providers across Wales who are contracted by the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) to deliver £116 million of work based learning programmes from a total allocation of £126 million.

Mr Watkins questioned WAG’s strategies of encouraging young people and adults to improve their skills during the economic recession and then not providing the funding to deliver the relevant work based learning programmes.

“There are currently in excess of 6,000 individuals waiting to start an apprenticeship programme due to lack of capacity on the current year’s allocation,” said Mr Watkins, who is managing director of award-wining Cambrian Training Company based in Welshpool.

“Given the current five per cent reduction in contract allocation on the apprenticeship programme for next year, this situation will not improve and we will be turning individuals and learners away from the very progression route pathway that is the intended outcome of other WAG programmes.

“We recognise the restraints on public expenditure and the efficiency gains that need to be made but I cannot underestimate the demand for work based learning programmes that is currently not being met.

“This is particularly prevalent on the apprenticeship programmes. Demand has increased due to a number of strategies over previous years but there are a number of initiatives within the Skills that Work for Wales Action Plan that are now coming to fruition.

“All of the advice from commentators regarding positive action during the economic recession has highlighted the need to continue to focus on skills.

This has turned on individuals and employers and the demand on our network is greater than the fiscal resource to deliver.

“The real outcome from the apprenticeship programme, the gold standard within work based learning, is confident, motivated and relevantly skilled individuals who are aware of the skills they possess and know how best to use them in the workplace.”

He said WAG had a long established strategic relationship with the work based learning network and had invested in improving quality and effectiveness. Training providers had responded with a 12 per cent increase in the number of apprentices completing the full Apprenticeship framework.

Against this background he questioned why WAG was undermining existing established quality assurance arrangements by “throwing funding open to all”.

“You either invest in building strategic supply chain partnerships and then exploit them or have a free for all,” he said. “You do not do both. It is like investing in a new kitchen, training a world class chef and then ordering a takeaway.”

He urged WAG to exploit the full potential of its partnership with NTfW members, whilst also reviewing all programmes to secure the maximum return on investment by reducing bureaucracy in programme delivery.

“That will involve eliminating all unnecessary bureaucracy, trusting providers to deliver and making the most of existing programmes rather than inventing new ones,” he said.

By having daily contact with businesses of all types and sizes throughout Wales, NTfW members were in a unique position to provide a commentary on current trading positions and business attitudes, he added.

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