Sustained investment for apprenticeships and further education vital ahead of “extremely difficult” budget announcement

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The Welsh Government will publish its draft budget on 19 December which is likely to signal very challenging times ahead for the further education and work-based learning sectors.  

ColegauCymru has highlighted concern about the impact of potential reduced budgets across both apprenticeships and the wider FE offer. 

ColegauCymru Chief Executive, David Hagendyk, said, 

“Ahead of tomorrow’s publication of the draft budget, and the significant reductions which are likely to be announced across many sectors, we’re calling for the continued sustained investment in both apprenticeships and wider further education funding.

Further education and apprenticeships are not a ‘nice to have’, but are fundamental, to our economic recovery and building the prosperity of Wales. Our colleges provide opportunities for learners to access the skills and training which employers are calling for to help achieve this.” 

Impact on apprenticeships 

The Welsh Government recently launched its new Economic Mission, with an emphasis on supporting key sectors to grow, and the prioritisation of young people. At the same time, the expectation is that Wales’ flagship apprenticeship programme will be subjected to deep cuts, which will curtail opportunities for thousands of young people across Wales and risk new business investment. An initial analysis indicates:  

  • The total cut to the apprenticeship programme in the full contract year 2024/25 will be 24.5%.  
  • The impact of these proposed cuts will result in circa 10,000 fewer apprenticeship starts on the Welsh Government flagship apprenticeship programme in 2024/25.  
  • The reductions would fall disproportionately on young people (16-24), those in the lowest socio-economic groups and women. The analysis also indicates that it would likely mean a significant reduction in the number of Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic apprenticeship learners.  
  • Feedback from colleges indicates that impacted businesses will include anchor companies who have expressed their desire to expand their number of apprenticeships, and that new inward investment was based partly on the availability of apprenticeships. 

Impact on the broader FE offer 

This year, our further education institutions will see additional financial pressures of over £27million (7.3%) arising from reductions in grants, and additional pay costs. Whilst some of these reductions have been anticipated, it comes at a time when colleges are seeing increases in the number of students enrolling at college, which will compress financial pressures. Added to that, the rising costs for consumables, as well as a significantly increasing demand on for learner wellbeing services is intensifying budget pressures. ColegauCymru are calling for additional funding to cover this continued period of transition. 

Mr Hagendyk added, 

“The ambitious Welsh Government Economic Mission is not possible without sustained investment in apprenticeships and high-quality education and training. A continued commitment to protect these funding streams is needed to ensure long-term benefit and prosperity of Wales.” 

Further Information 

Rachel Cable, Director of Policy and Public Affairs

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