Apprenticeships have never before been so accessible. In recent years at Bridgend College, we have seen an incredibly successful introduction of programmes such as Junior Apprenticeships (for those aged 14-16) and, in partnership with the local Health Board, Supported Internships (for those with a disability or Additional Learning Need). These innovative projects offer pathways into the world of apprenticeships for the youngest and most vulnerable in our communities.
From September 2019, we are partnering with Swansea University to offer one of the first ever Engineering Degree Apprenticeships in Wales. This potentially game-changing addition to the apprenticeships programme now offers a clear pathway for an apprentice to follow from level 2 right through to Degree Level. Not only will apprentices not incur any debt during this time, but they will be earning a wage throughout and becoming a vitally skilled employee for their industry and the local economy.
It should come as no surprise then, when we look at the range and access to apprenticeships available these days, that our young, potential future apprentices are awakening to the opportunities an apprenticeship pathway can offer as a viable alternative career option to studying at University.
It is hard therefore to see the demand for apprenticeships declining anytime soon. With a finite apprenticeship budget in Wales, Welsh Government – who are well on track to exceed their 100,000 apprenticeships start target during this assembly term – have a vital role to play in ensuring funding is targeted to the right places. We know that Regional Skills Partnerships will be a key influencer, channelling funding to sector priorities and higher level apprenticeships, but it is also encouraging to see Welsh Government prioritising school-leaver apprentices and those with a declared disability in their funding allocations.