Dr Lowri Morgans works as the Academic Manager for Colegau Cymraeg Cenedlaethol. Here she talks about progress made on the Further Education and Apprenticeship Welsh-medium Action Plan and what the future holds.
In January we will mark two years since Education Minister Kirsty Williams launched the Further Education and Apprenticeship Welsh-medium Action Plan.
It is an ambitious plan that sets out a vision to enable all learners and apprentices to maintain or develop their Welsh language skills while contributing to the Government's aim of creating a million Welsh speakers who are confident to use their Welsh language skills in their everyday lives, including in the workplace.
During the first two years of the scheme, Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol has worked in partnership with apprenticeship providers and further education colleges to begin the work of developing more opportunities for learners and apprentices to study through the medium of Welsh and also to use their Welsh in social contexts.
A limited number of development grants have been awarded to pilot the priority areas including Health and Care, Childcare and Social Services. With a suitable budget, the intention over the next few years is to invest in developing new provision on a larger scale across Wales extending into areas such as Construction, Agriculture, Business, Sport and Leisure and the Creative Industries.
A number of new resources have been developed such as Prentis-Iaith, an online resource that introduces Welsh language skills to apprentices, and the Public Services App for learners training to join the emergency services. A further education and apprenticeship subject specialists project to better understand the needs of the sector has recently been funded to commission a programme of suitable new resources.
Improving the skills of staff already working in the further education and apprenticeships sector is clearly a priority and the Work Welsh Scheme in conjunction with the National Centre for Learning Welsh and ColegauCymru, as well as the training and mentoring scheme run by Sgiliaith, helps build capacity and support staff already working in the sector. But if we are serious about ensuring that all learners and apprentices in the post-16 sector receive an element of their education through the medium of Welsh and bilingually, it is clear that new staff with the necessary linguistic skills also need to be attracted to the sector and that a budget is needed to achieve this.
It is true to say, therefore, that we have seen promising progress in realising the short-term goals of the Action Plan and that one of the main reasons for that is the response of the further education and apprenticeship sectors to the scheme. From membership of the Coleg's post-16 Strategic Board which includes college principals and representatives of the apprenticeship providers, to officers promoting the Welsh language in the Colleges and the champions in the apprenticeship providers to the learners and the apprentices themselves - the desire to increase Welsh-medium and bilingual provision across the post-16 sector is evident. The main challenge for the next period is to turn that goodwill and support into meaningful progress and to realise that requires dedicated political support, will and investment.