The Welsh Liberal Democrats have today launched a report calling on the Welsh Government to look at practical ways to encourage young people to take up apprenticeships. The report, 'Widening Access to Apprenticeships', suggests ways to overcome some of the psychological and practical barriers that prevent young people from pursuing the apprenticeship route as a pathway to a career.
The report is calling for the Welsh Government to widen access to apprenticeships by:
â€¢ Developing a school liaison programme to increase the prominence of apprenticeships in the provision of career advice to young people;
â€¢ Establishing an Apprenticeship Ambassador scheme to promote positive role models;
â€¢ Improving the visibility of competitions to celebrate excellence in skills;
â€¢ Trialling a UCAS-style single application process and clearing house system to improve the parity of approach between career routes;
â€¢ Creating a single information, application and support system to streamline information provision and reduce drop-out and disengagement rates.
Since 2010, Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government have helped create more than a million apprenticeships and are aiming to deliver at least another 250,000 by 2015.
In Wales, the number of people on apprenticeships placements fell by more than 29% between 2006 and 2012. The Welsh Liberal Democrats believe that the Welsh Government is failing to be proactive in opening up access to apprenticeships.
Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Members, Peers and Members of Parliament have been spending time as apprentices in businesses across Wales to highlight the opportunities available for young people to gain experience and skills.
Eluned Parrott is also launching a consultation asking businesses for their experiences of recruiting and working with apprentices.
Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Business Minister said:
"Apprenticeships are vital if we are to build the highly skilled workforce in Wales that will ensure businesses are equipped for a modern economy, able to compete on a national and international stage. For some people, that will involve higher education and university, but for many people it will mean getting high-quality on-the-job vocational training.
"The Welsh Labour Government has failed to be proactive in opening up access to apprenticeships to young people in Wales. Youth unemployment in Wales remains stubbornly high. It is therefore essential that we start equipping people with the skills needed to get themselves onto the employment ladder.
"Jobs and economic growth are a priority for the Liberal Democrats. Under the UK Coalition, there's been a 35% increase in the number of apprenticeships offered in England since 2010. In Wales, that number has fallen by a third and communities risk losing a generation of talented young people.
"The Welsh Government should create a single information, application and support system for apprentices to streamline the process and reduce drop-out rates. Unless these practical issues are addressed, apprenticeships will continue to be viewed as a secondary (or even tertiary) route for young people at post-16 level, with university and entering the workplace without formal training taking precedence.
"We want young people to know they have a range of positive options on leaving school that will open up rewarding careers - be that through university or skills-based learning. The Welsh Liberal Democrats want to build a stronger economy in a fairer society.
"Youth unemployment in the UK was allowed to rise by more than 40% during Labour's thirteen years in office. This trend mustn't be allowed to continue. We need to encourage more new businesses to provide apprenticeships as they not only reduce recruitment costs and improve productivity, but are vital if we are to build the highly skilled workforce that Wales desperately needs."