Apprenticeships: A Solution to Wales’ Skills Shortage in its Priority and Growth Sectors

updated on 29 May 2024

Discover how apprenticeships can bridge the skills gap in Wales’s priority and growth sectors, and equip the Welsh workforce with the necessary skills for the future.

Wales's priority and growth sectors are vital for the economic and social well-being of Wales, as they contribute to innovation, productivity, and competitiveness. But organisations we need to scale in these sectors are facing a critical skills shortage through an low/under-skilled workforce, ageing workforce, rapid technological change, and increased global competition. 

Skills shortage vacancies have more than doubled in Wales over the last 6 years, but the trend in Welsh school leavers going to university is relatively stable. The university pipeline will not fill the shortage, and employers know it!

A significant reason for this skills gap is the low participation of young people in higher education. Only 29.4% of school leavers in Wales applied for university, compared to 38.8% in England, 32.5% in Scotland, and 46.9% in Northern Ireland. Wales is missing out on a large and diverse talent pool of potential workers who could fill the skills needs of its priority and growth sectors. 

This means that companies need to rethink their talent acquisition and development strategies, and look beyond the traditional sources of talent. University graduates are not the only ones who can bring value, creativity, and problem-solving skills to the workplace. There are many other potential candidates who may have different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, but who share the same passion, curiosity, and willingness to learn.

These candidates may come from vocational training, apprenticeships, bootcamps, online courses, self-taught projects, or other alternative pathways. They may have diverse and transferrable skills that can be applied to various domains and industries, and they may even demonstrate their abilities and potential through portfolios, certifications, or testimonials, rather than through academic credentials. 

To survive this skills crunch it's time to do your future skills forecasting and take ownership of developing your alternative talent pipelines, and we believe that starts with apprenticeships.

Why Apprenticeships? 

Apprenticeships are work-based learning programmes that combine practical training with academic study, leading to nationally recognised qualifications. Degree apprenticeships are a specific type of apprenticeship that allows learners to achieve a full bachelor’s or master’s degree as part of their apprenticeship. Both types of apprenticeships are fully funded by the Welsh Government and the employer, so the learner does not have to pay any tuition fees or incur any student debt. 

Apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships are not only good for individuals, but also for employers and the economy. According to the Welsh Government, apprenticeships contribute £1 billion to the Welsh economy every year

Hiring an apprentice is a productive and effective way to grow talent and develop a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce: 86% of employers say that apprenticeships help them develop skills relevant to their organisation. 78% of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve productivity and 74% of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve the quality of their product or service.

Benefits of an Apprenticeship

For employers, they provide an opportunity to: 

👍 Recruit and retain motivated and loyal staff who are trained to meet their specific needs .

👍 Shape the qualifications and delivery to suit your organisation need.

👍 Access a diverse talent pool.

👍 Fill skills gaps and future-proof their workforce .

👍 Increase productivity and quality of service.

👍 Enhance reputation and competitiveness .

👍 Access government funding and support 

“We have been working with our local university to offer degree apprenticeships in engineering and IT. It has been a great way to attract and retain talented staff who can apply their learning to real-world projects. We have seen a positive impact on our productivity, innovation, and customer satisfaction.”

 - Mark, Company Director 

Ready to Take Action? Here's the Next Steps. 

As the forecast predicts an increase in skill gaps, overlooking the opportunity to benefit from an apprenticeship pipeline could be detrimental. Companies should proactively engage in future skills forecasting and assume responsibility for developing future talent pipelines. Those that do so are likely to fare better during this period of rapidly increasing skills shortages.

  1. There are 10 Training Providers that offer apprenticeships in Wales; check out the list and explore their offers. 
  2. Some Further Education College’s offer apprenticeships; check out the list and explore their offers, too. 
  3. You can explore the employers that have taken the steps to offer apprenticeships, here.
  4. For higher level degree apprenticeships, explore what this list of Welsh universities has to offer. 

Do it for Wales! By investing in apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships, we can ensure that Wales's priority and growth sectors has the skills, talent, and innovation it needs to thrive, with a skilled workforce that has access to higher-valued jobs and a more prosperous career.

You've got this 😎✌️

Gem Hallett, miFuture Founder | @miFutureSkills

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