TO round off National Apprenticeship Week, First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford met Welsh Rugby Union apprentices as they taught a girls’ class of wheelchair rugby to pupils from Cardiff’s Ummul Mumineem Academy.

The visit follows the Welsh Government’s announcement at the beginning of the week that it is on track to exceed targets to deliver 100,000 all-age, high-quality apprenticeships in Wales by the end of this Assembly term.

The Welsh Government is delivering its apprenticeship programme differently to the UK Government’s approach in England and evidence shows it is right to. The National Audit Office reported in March 2019 that the number of apprentice starts across the border had dropped by 25 per cent in two years.

A driver of its success is its commitment to equal opportunities and additional support to those who need it, made possible by tailored mechanisms such as those articulated in the Disability Action Plan.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We want Wales to lead the world when it comes to apprentices. Investing in higher level skills and focusing on equality in opportunity will create a level playing field, plug any gaps, and ultimately create a strong, happy and diverse workforce. The WRU’s fantastic programme is showing that our investment and tactics are already paying off.

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“Seeing the pupils of Ummul Mumineem playing wheelchair rugby has been really amazing to watch. I’m thankful we have such a high calibre of apprentices working within our communities and building networks in the best way Wales knows how…through rugby!”

WRU Group Chief Executive Martyn Phillips said: “Our apprentices are key members of our WRU workforce across Wales whose hands-on experience sees them coach rugby in a rich and diverse range of community settings.

“We are now in the fifth year of a hugely successful apprenticeship scheme which allows young people to earn while they learn. The apprentices earn a Level 3 NVQ in Sports Development, as well as other rugby specific qualifications. Since we have begun our apprenticeship programme, doors have opened to all of the young people involved, and also to us as an employer.”

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