Plaid Cymru has called on the Welsh Government to make sure there is a level playing field between academic and vocational education.
The calls come ahead of Apprenticeship Week. This year, Apprenticeship Week Wales will take place between Monday 8 February and Sunday 14 February.
Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Post-16 Education, Skills and Innovation Bethan Sayed
“The political parties represented in the Welsh Government have to be far more strategic in how they respond to problems raised in vocational education such as the delayed qualification completion.
“There is a clear lack of focus on vocational and technical learning. The Education Department is concentrating on schools, and the Economy and Skills Department focusing on the Covid emergency response.
“The Welsh Government should take a cross departmental approach to start to address these issues, but we need to go further. We are calling on Welsh Government to set up a Working Group, yes across Departments, but also involving the colleges, businesses, trade unions, social partners and learners to build a consensus on what needs to be done in the short and medium term. If we don’t get this right there will be serious consequences, both for young people and for our economy.
“The difficulty for vocational education is that many of the awarding bodies are over the border so a joined up approach by any Welsh Government is always going to be harder because we are reliant on goodwill from awarding bodies that have little understanding of the situation in Wales.”
Mid and West MS Helen Mary Jones has also urged Welsh Ministers to bring forward an action plan to ensure there won’t be skill shortages in the future as the economy recovers after the Coronavirus pandemic.
Ms Jones, Shadow Minister for the Economy, said: “It is estimated that at the end of 2019-2020 academic year that at least 7,000 learners in Further Education settings have been impacted by delayed qualification completion because of Coronavirus.
“Learners who lost a lot of vocational learning in the last academic year have been registered for the next level courses in the hope that they will be able to catch up this academic year.
“This is now unlikely to happen with another wave of Coronavirus and there are fears that many learners will get to the end of this year having not been able to learn enough to qualify.
“This issue is important and there needs to be more planning from the Welsh Government around this matter as these are qualifications that lead to work not just to further study. These are essential qualifications for sectors like our care sector necessary as we rebuild our economy.
“This is obviously a problem for learners and their colleges, but ColegauCymru say this raises issues of skill shortages for employers, including in key fields like care and construction.
“There are similar issues with apprenticeships, with a large number of apprenticeships in sectors like hospitality, hair and beauty experiencing a collapse in labour demand.”