Julie James, Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology
In February 2014, the Welsh Government issued an Invitation to Tender to deliver its Work based learning programmes between April 2015 and March 2019, with an option to extend to March 2021. Officials have now completed the evaluation of the tenders and are now at the point of notifying tenderers of the outcome of the process.
Work based learning covers our Apprenticeships, Traineeships and Jobs Growth Wales programmes.
We have sought, through the tender, to build on a strong foundation of high-quality delivery within the Work-based learning network in Wales. The new network will support key Welsh Government policies in line with our Programme for Government, and we have secured the highest quality learning through a fair, open and competitive tender.
By 2015-16, the Welsh budget will be 10% lower in real terms than it was in 2010-11. The Work Based learning budget has been reduced in light of this financial pressure; the baseline was also cut by £7m during 2014-15.
Despite the reduction in the overall work based learning budget, we are committed to continuing to support the needs of school leavers seeking vocational learning opportunities. Consequently, there will be no reduction in the funding available for our Traineeships programme.
The consequential reductions in the funding available for Apprenticeship delivery will not be across the board. We will direct our funding towards Apprenticeships for those aged 16-24 as well as to Higher Level Apprenticeships. Reductions have been made after careful consideration of all available options.
Taken together, the outcome of the tender and the reduction in budget means that, in the coming months, the network which is delivering Work based learning in Wales will change, with some providers’ contracts coming to an end. Whilst there will be some new entrants offered a Framework Agreement, no new entrant passed the threshold to receive a Programme Commission. Some providers will be offered reduced contract values. I expect that such providers will undertake a due diligence before deciding whether to confirm their acceptance of their offer.
I am conscious that the changes to the network due to the tender outcome have the potential to create disruption for some learners currently in learning. Any current providers who have not tendered or who have not secured future work through the tender have contractual obligations in respect of transition. They are required to support the transition of their in-learning learners to receiving providers.
Any successful tenderers who are receiving providers for learners displaced as a result of the tender have the primary obligation to manage the transition for these learners.
The Welsh Government has a limited role in the transition but will seek to help ensure that learners who are displaced can complete their learning, working with outgoing and receiving providers. We have established a helpline for any learners affected by the changes, as well as their employers. Learners, their parents and/ or employers can contact the helpline 0845 6005779.