Labour’s apprenticeship cuts are ‘putting Welsh economy and workforce at risk’
Plaid Cymru will hold a debate in the Senedd this week (Wednesday 17 January) on the importance of apprenticeships to the Welsh economy and workforce.
The debate comes at a time where 80% of small firms in Wales struggled to recruit in the past 12 months due to skills shortages.
The Labour Welsh Government’s budget for 2024/2025 as set out in December 2023 proposes a cut of nearly 25% to the apprenticeship programme, which is expected to see 10,000 fewer apprentice starters in Wales over the next year – an approximate 50% reduction in the apprentices.
These cuts are expected to disproportionately affect women, young people from disadvantaged communities, and older learners.
Plaid Cymru will warn that the Labour Government is failing to back young people to achieve ambitious futures in Wales as a result of funding reductions. Labour admitted ahead of its budget in December that it wouldn’t meet its target to create 125,000 all-age apprenticeships by the end of the current Senedd term.
Ahead of the debate, Plaid Cymru’s Economy spokesperson, Luke Fletcher MS said: “Apprenticeships play a vital role in supplying skilled workers to the jobs market in Wales. They are a vital part of building the economy. Apprenticeships must be promoted and developed.
“However, in December we saw the Welsh Government propose a huge cut to apprentice funding, something that has caused huge concern to many in further education colleges and the skilled labour industries in Wales.
“Labour’s cuts to the funding of apprenticeships looks likely to see a staggering reduction in the number of apprentices starting this year. This will disproportionately impact young people and women as in the last few years over 50% of apprentices were female.”
“This is unfair and will have a huge, detrimental effect on our economy. We are already suffering a shortage of skilled workers, and this lack of foresight and funding will only make the situation much, much worse.
“It’s surreal to see one of the Labour’s candidates for First Minister this week vowing to ‘restore the national apprenticeship programme broken up by the Tories’, when it is his own government that is initiating some of the biggest and most damaging cuts to apprenticeships in the history of devolution.
“The Labour Government must undo this planned cut to apprenticeships.”
A Welsh Government Spokesperson said: “Despite declining budgets, we will continue investing in quality apprenticeships and provide our young people with successful futures.
“We see the long-term benefits apprenticeships bring to learners, helping them to build strong careers and to earn more in the long term, and to the economy as a whole.
“With a reduction much smaller than in other budget lines, we will invest £138m next year in quality apprenticeships which deliver long-term benefits and stronger careers.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.