Policy Forum for Wales

Apprenticeships in Wales - quality, qualifications and opportunities for improving provision

Morning, Wednesday, 6th November 2019

Central Cardiff

Delegates will discuss issues raised by the wide range of stakeholders who were consulted for the independent Maximising the Value of Apprenticeships to Wales report, which looked at how to: improve the quality of Apprenticeships, ensure that they lead to good jobs and career progression, help tackle skills shortages and contribute to improving productivity more widely in Wales.

As the Welsh Government considers its response to the report, this conference is bringing together policymakers with stakeholders to consider the implications and next steps.

It will also be an opportunity to discuss what can be learnt from the progress that has been made so far in meeting the Welsh Government’s target of creating 100,000 Apprenticeships over the current assembly term and in implementing its Apprenticeships Skills Policy Plan.

The future for higher Apprenticeships - and for funding, following calls for the Welsh Government to make provision to meet future demand - will also be discussed.

Keynote speakers include: Jackie Gapper, Assistant Director, Estyn and Cassy Taylor, Director, Qualifications Policy and Reform, Qualifications Wales - as well as Helen Bready, Nations Policy and Stakeholder Manager at City & Guilds, which commissioned the Maximising the Value report.

Ensuring quality Apprenticeships

Discussion will examine whether the current Apprenticeship framework - within current levels of funding - has the capacity to deliver the quality of Apprenticeships that both apprentices and companies in Wales require to develop and grow, in addition to effectively supporting the desired expansion for pathways to higher skill levels in key sectors such as STEM.

This follows calls in the independent report for the Welsh Government to establish a single organisation to govern the quality of Apprenticeships which would report regularly on its assessment of performance in terms of quality, progression, employment outcomes and impact.

Transitions between Apprenticeships, education and employment

Those attending will discuss how young people can be supported to ensure a smooth transition onto an Apprenticeship from further education or school, and into the labour market.

Participation and diversity

Further sessions will look at improving participation and diversity in the Apprenticeship programme - particularly amongst disabled students - following the publication of the Welsh Government’s Inclusive Apprenticeship Action Plan with its focus on how the key barriers to participation could be addressed.

Future Apprenticeship funding

There will also be an examination of the future of Apprenticeship funding, with calls recently coming from the National Training Federation for Wales for an increase in funding to meet future demand.

Delegates will discuss whether current funding levels allow the programme to continue to grow amidst concern over the future recruitment of staff.

The qualifications landscape for Apprenticeships

With Qualifications Wales continuing its programme of sector reviews - with the publication of its sector review for engineering, advanced manufacturing and energy in the autumn of 2019 - the seminar will be an opportunity to engage with regulators and other key stakeholders on the path forward for qualifications related to Apprenticeships in Wales.

There will be a keynote address from Qualifications Wales on the challenges presented to the qualification system by changes to Apprenticeships elsewhere in the UK, the opportunities presented by Wales’ devolved positioning, as well as the work being undertaken to ensure that there are high quality qualifications available for key Apprenticeship frameworks in Wales.

Higher level and Degree Apprenticeships - completion rates, meeting the needs of employers, and impact on HEIs

With the Welsh Government setting out its aim to deliver a further 6,000 Apprenticeships with an emphasis on more technical and higher level skills in the 2018/19 academic year, delegates will consider this more focused approach and the wider delivery of higher level skills through Apprenticeships - particularly in STEM subjects.

This follows recommendations from Estyn, in a report into standards, provision and leadership in higher Apprenticeship programmes released last year, that work-based learning providers should work towards reducing the high number of early drop outs and improve successful completion rates by ensuring learners complete their qualification framework in a timely manner.

Additionally, the report called for the Welsh Government to ensure that higher Apprenticeships - across different sectors - more closely matched the skills needs of employers and the wider economy.

Delegates will also discuss the Degree Apprenticeship pilot programme which was launched by the Welsh Government earlier this year to start in the next academic year. They will consider how to alleviate potential pressures on universities and the impact that the introduction of Degree Apprenticeships will have on the higher level Apprenticeship offer.  

Keynote Speakers

Helen Bready

Nations Policy and Stakeholder Manager, City & Guilds

Cassy Taylor

Director, Qualifications Policy and Reform, Qualifications Wales

Jackie Gapper

Assistant Director, Estyn


Russell George AM

Chair, Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee


Jane Lewis

Manager, South West and Mid Wales, Regional Learning and Skills Partnership

Kelly Edwards

Head, Work-based Learning Quality, National Training Federation for Wales

Iestyn Davies

Chief Executive, ColegauCymru