From education to employment

Over 60 employers voice concern over potential cuts to apprenticeships

Young adult student in a science lab

Over 60 employers from across Wales have joined together to call for funding for the Welsh Government’s flagship apprenticeship programme to be protected, to ensure the economic prosperity of Wales.

In an open letter, employers say that cuts to the apprenticeship programme announced by the Welsh Government on 19 December 2023 will have a devastating effect on apprentices, employers, and communities, signalling very challenging times ahead for the FE and work-based learning sectors.

The proposed 24.5% cut – £38m – is a combination of a 3.65% cut to the apprenticeship budget and the loss of previous European Union funding. The cut comes on top of £17.5m recently slashed from the apprenticeships budget.

It could mean 10,000 fewer apprentices able to start next year, with the reductions falling disproportionately on young people, and those in the lowest socio-economic groups.

Open letter from employers on apprenticeships budget cuts

The National Training Federation for Wales (NTFW) and ColegauCymru have previously highlighted concern about the impact of potentially reduced budgets across both apprenticeships and the wider FE offer.

The NTFW’s strategic director Lisa Mytton said:

“We must say a big ‘thank you’ to the 65 employers who have shown their support by putting their names to the open letter, expressing their concern about the proposed catastrophic apprenticeship budget cuts.

“The impact on employers who pay the apprenticeship levy and career opportunities for thousands of young people in Wales will be huge. There is still time, before the Welsh Government publishes its final budget for 2024-’25 on February 27, to avoid catastrophic and irreversible damage to the apprenticeships programme in Wales.

“Skills and further education are fundamental to our economic recovery. The time to invest in our learners and workers is now.”

Reacting to the Welsh Government’s draft budget, ColegauCymru Chief Executive, David Hagendyk, said:

“The NTFW is a network of work-based learning providers across Wales who deliver apprenticeships for employers in a wide range of sectors. The providers inspire businesses, their workforce and the wider community across Wales to engage with apprenticeships to achieve their goals.”

“As Wales navigates turbulent economic times, colleges are the skills engine needed to drive our economic recovery, and future inward investment mustn’t be damaged. The draft budget is a huge gamble for Wales’ economy and communities. The Welsh Government must think again and reverse the catastrophic decision to cut the apprenticeship programme.”

Further education colleges are fundamental to a fairer, greener and stronger Wales, but they need sustainable funding to be able to support learners and to deliver for employers. The combination of the cuts to the apprenticeship budget and reductions in funding elsewhere means there is a perfect storm facing the sector as a result of the proposals in the draft budget.

Related Articles