AN inquiry into the Welsh Government’s degree apprenticeship pilot programme is being launched by the National Assembly’s Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee.
Degree Apprenticeships combine the workplace learning of a traditional apprenticeship with a degree. Currently they are only offered in the two areas of digital, and engineering and advanced manufacturing.
When announcing the scheme, the Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams, said that Degree Apprenticeships would be ‘good for diversifying entry into the professions’ and set out ‘social mobility and widening participation’ as objectives. However, the Committee is concerned that the £20 million pilot scheme may not be working as well as it could be to unlock potential for all.
Figures shared by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) show that 80% of the first intake of 155 apprentices are men and almost none have a declared a disability. The Committee is keen to learn more about the backgrounds of apprentices and how this programme will help people from a diversity of backgrounds realise the value of a Degree Apprenticeship.
The Committee’s inquiry is also focusing on:
The rationale for and cost effectiveness of Degree Apprenticeships.
How providers were chosen to deliver degree apprenticeships.
How well the Welsh Government’s approach to their rollout is working.
The value of degree apprenticeships and their future direction.
The Committee will engage with employers, providers and degree apprentices themselves as part of its inquiry.
Russell George AM, Chair of the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee said:
“The Degree Apprenticeship programme is an exciting pilot, but it is important that it gets off to the right start and offers opportunities for everyone. It’s disappointing to see that women represent only 20% of the first cohort. We will be keen to know why this has happened and understand more about under-represented groups’ access to the programme.
“We recognise the potential for Degree Apprenticeships to help change lives, upskill workforces and improve prosperity across Wales. It’s vital that the significant £20 million investment that has been made in them has a real impact, especially when the wider apprenticeship programme is experiencing huge demand.
“That is why today our committee is launching an inquiry to understand what is going on with Degree Apprenticeships and whether they are on the right track to deliver their potential for Wales.”