More apprenticeships in Wales call from Welsh government

6 February 2012 Last updated at 12:40

Sophie Knight, 20, from Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, is about to attain her NVQ level 3 in plumbing

Employers across Wales are being urged to offer more apprenticeships despite the tough economic conditions.

Welsh Deputy Minister for Skills Jeff Cuthbert said the move would give businesses vital skills for survival and growth in the future.

Figures show the number of apprentices in Wales has dropped over the past three years.

Mr Cuthbert said on-the-job training led to “better motivated workforces and an improved bottom line”.

The Welsh government quoted research, undertaken by Populus, among employers who had trained apprentices.

This suggested that 77% believed it made their firms more competitive, with 76% saying it led to higher overall productivity.

Some 88% said apprenticeships resulted in better motivation among their workforces, while 57% reported that a high proportion of apprentices moved into management positions in their businesses.

The Welsh government also quoted labour market information which it said showed that those who completed apprenticeship training at level 3 were likely to earn up to £117,000 more over their working lives than those who did not undertake such training.

However, figures show the the number of apprentices in Wales has dropped from 42,590 in 2007/08 to 36,380 in 2009/10 – a reduction of around 15%.

On Monday afternoon Mr Cuthbert will launch a week of events designed to raise the profile of apprenticeships among employers with a visit to the ACT Skills Academy in Cardiff.

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Nick Servini, BBC Wales business correspondent

The Welsh government spends £90m a year on apprenticeships. Broadly speaking, it will pay for the training and the employers will pay for wages.

The National Training Federation for Wales is making efforts to lower the average age for apprenticeships in Wales, which currently stands at 26.

The challenge is that in tough economic times, it is expensive for companies to run apprenticeship schemes.

However, in the long run, there is plenty of evidence to show that they benefit companies.

There is an average staff retention rate for apprenticeship schemes of over 80%, which means it is a very effective way of getting young people into the workforce.

Apprenticeships used to be more popular because there used to be more manufacturing in Wales and fewer people used to go to university.

Only around 10% of apprenticeships in Wales are in manufacturing.

The big numbers are in the service sector in areas such as care and hospitality.

‘High performers’

Speaking before the event he said: “Research shows that apprenticeships are good for business.

“Employers who use this form of training say it leads to better motivated workforces and an improved bottom line.”

Mr Cuthbert added: “Apprenticeships represent an opportunity for employers, with Welsh government and European Social Fund support, to turn unskilled young people into high performers who will be the backbone of their companies and the Welsh economy in the years ahead.

“We will continue to support employers who are looking to take on apprentices.”

His call was backed by ACT managing director Andrew Cooksley.

Mr Cooksley, who is also spokesman on employability for the National Training Federation for Wales, said: “Learning providers in Wales have thousands of talented young people on their books who would be major assets to employers, and making the commitment to recruit them as apprentices would be a very positive move for their businesses.”

Meanwhile two employers in north Wales have announced apprenticeship opportunities.

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus said it was taking applications for undergraduate apprenticeships at its base in Broughton, Flintshire.

Civil engineering company Jones Bros, based in Ruthin, Denbighshire, is set to take on six apprentice plant operators.

Paul Champion
07540 704920

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Twitter: @champouk

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