In a recent speech, Julie James, Minister for Skills and Science, reaffirmed the Welsh Government’s commitment to deliver 100,000 quality apprenticeships for all ages over the next five years, without comprimisng quality. However, uncertainty lingers for the Welsh construction serctor about how much funding it will receive from Westminster as a result of the UK-wide apprenticeship levy.
“No-one in the skills arena can escape the issue of the apprenticeship levy,” said James. “The levy is a matter of fundamental concern for the Welsh Government. Today [14 June], I regret to say that we still do not have complete clarity from the UK Government about how the planned apprenticeship levy scheme will operate in England and the impact in Wales. While things remain unclear, they should not and do not remove the need for us to seek greater certainty and to begin to plan apprenticeship provision here in Wales in more detail for the first and subsequent years of this new Assembly term.”
“Unfortunately, the Welsh construction sector is in limbo over how much financial support there will be for training over the next five years,” Ifan Glyn, Director of FMB Cymru, has responded. “Though this owes much to the manner in which the UK Government has imposed this new levy, there is urgent need for a commitment from Welsh Government that funding levels will at the very least be maintained, as the current situation is creating the kind of atmosphere which businesses hate most – one of uncertainty.
“We need assurances from the Welsh Government that every penny that is received through the new apprenticeship levy is funnelled right back into funding training, so that we can secure the high quality apprenticeships that our industry needs. SMEs are concerned that if the level of funding on offer from Westminster is less than anticipated, that the quality of training will be sacrificed in order to maintain numbers. This would be extremely short sighted – quality should always be absolutely paramount, lest we risk prolonging our skills crisis even further and inhibiting Welsh productivity in the longer term.”
Given the size of the challenges the Welsh construction sector is facing in delivering its key housing and infrastructure targets, Glyn emphasised that there is precious little margin for error when it comes to apprenticeship policy.