Ken Skates, Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology
As part of the 2013-14 Budget Agreement (which covers financial years 2013-14 and 2014-15), the Welsh Government agreed to provide an additional investment of £40 million into the Welsh Apprenticeship programme. Significant progress has been made during the first financial year and, to date, many of the achievements have exceeded expectations.
We committed to increase the number of Apprenticeships available at all levels, with a particular focus on expanding the number of Higher Apprenticeship frameworks delivered in Wales. We enhanced the Young Recruits Programme (YRP) to encourage employers to take on additional Apprentices, and the Small and Micro Business Programme was launched, offering a one-off payment to Small and Micro Businesses to assist with the cost of recruitment. Equality, Welsh Language and STEM Apprenticeships are also key themes being explored through various project related activities
Our network of Work Based Learning Providers has made excellent progress on Higher Apprenticeships and there are now more Higher Apprenticeship frameworks available in Wales than ever before. In addition to the successes at Level 4 and above, it is clear that the additional funding is helping improve both accessibility and availability of places for young people across Wales at Level 2 and Level 3.
From April 2013, the level of wage subsidy available under YRP was increased to a maximum of £100 for the first 26 weeks and £50 for the second 26 weeks (rather than a flat rate of £50 for 52 weeks). During November 2013, we exceeded our annual target on YRP. It is therefore clear that the enhanced subsidy of £100 per week for 26 weeks has been very popular with employers.
However, given the level of demand, and in order to continue to support employers to recruit additional apprentices, we have reverted to our previous level of subsidy (£50 per week for 52 weeks) from 1 January 2014. The annual target will remain at 2,000 learner places. We believe that this rate will not only continue to stimulate demand for apprenticeship places but also clearly demonstrate a sustainable shared responsibility that we would like to see between employers and the Welsh Government. Encouraging and helping employers to support themselves, rather than relying on high levels of subsidy, is undoubtedly the responsible course of action, and will ensure that welsh businesses build strong foundations for a sustainable future.
Finally, in addition to the exceptional and quantifiable successes of this additional investment, I am delighted to see how the marketplace has responded so positively to the expansion of the Apprenticeship offering in Wales. By Government, training providers and private sector working collaboratively, young people in Wales are gaining the appropriate skills to offer a valuable contribution to a recovering Welsh economy.