Ken Skates, Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology
Upon being appointed Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology I was keen to
undertake an exercise in engaging with Apprentices to discuss their
experience and views on Apprenticeships.
Over recent months I have travelled across Wales and met with a diverse range of former Apprentices; from those time-served, who qualified back in the 1970s and 80s, some of whom are now successful business owners or Managing Directors; to those who have completed more recently; and others who are still working towards one of the Apprenticeship frameworks available in Wales today.
I was hugely impressed by the range of sectors represented, from the traditional engineering and construction industries to newer, less traditional Apprenticeships such as management, hospitality and financial services, amongst many others.
Yet, regardless of when, or in which sector they had completed their Apprenticeship, they each shared the strong belief that Apprenticeships had given them a ticket to success.
This is no surprise of course. Our Apprenticeship programme in Wales today is stronger than ever, led by a network of Work Based Learning (WBL) providers, delivering truly outstanding successful completion rates over recent years.
I wanted to learn first-hand what more we could, and should, be doing to encourage young people in Wales to follow this pathway of proven success. Interestingly, there were common themes in the responses I received from all former Apprentices.
There was a clear message on the need to improve the information, advice and guidance given to young people about Apprenticeships and to support young people, at key transition points, to make informed learning and career choices.
The ‘family’ of organisations that deliver careers education, information, advice and guidance in Wales is diverse and includes schools, colleges, training providers, the youth service, Careers Wales, Job Centre Plus and the Higher Education Careers Service.
I chair the ‘Wales Strategic Forum for Career Development’, which brings together the members of this careers family with employer representatives. Key themes for the Forum include developing the career management skills of young people; education-employer engagement (including work experience); and collective accountability. This is an ideal forum to consider how we increase awareness of Apprenticeships among young people.
Our Youth Engagement and Progression Framework Implementation Plan sets out our approach to strengthen employer engagement in schools. We will work with a range of partners to develop a strategic project to enhance employer engagement in schools and build capacity to allow schools to deliver Careers and the World of Work more effectively.
Our recently commissioned STEM project will also raise awareness amongst young people, parents and teachers of the successes that can be achieved following Apprenticeships in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics sectors.
During discussions I also heard about needing to show young people, in real terms, what can be achieved from following an Apprenticeship, using real life examples of those former Apprentices that have gone on to achieve great things in their careers.
There are many high profile ambassadors in Wales that are committed to helping raise awareness of Apprenticeships amongst our young people. We will continue to work with and expand this network of Apprenticeship champions, so that all young people can relate to, and be inspired by, those Apprentices that have achieved success before them.
I also heard that we simply need to do more to celebrate the successful achievement of our Apprentices. I know there is already good practice out there in the WBL network. Some Apprentices already have the opportunity to celebrate their achievements in an environment supported by friends, families and colleagues; the annual National Apprenticeship Awards ceremony is an example of this. I want every Apprentice to have this opportunity.
Celebrating success is important in every environment; it solidifies the memory of success and inspires individuals for future success. Apprenticeships make a significant contribution to the Welsh economy and it is only right that everyone has the opportunity to have their achievement recognised and celebrated. From April 2015, providers who are funded by the Welsh Government to deliver Apprenticeships will have a responsibility to provide all Apprentices the opportunity to celebrate completion of their Apprenticeship in a formal, graduation type ceremony of recognition.
There is no better opportunity to raise awareness and celebrate the success of our Apprenticeships than during National Apprenticeship Week (3–7 March 2014).
I encourage all those involved with Apprenticeships to use this platform as an opportunity to showcase to all young people what we have here in Wales - a world-class Apprenticeship programme and a ticket to future success.