Apprentices can earn as they learn, combining studying with practical training and gaining valuable workplace experience for up to four years.

To mark National Apprenticeship Week (7 – 13 February), Chambers Wales South East, South West and Mid brought together experts from industry, further and higher education to discuss why apprenticeships could be a productive and effective way of growing talent in business.

In Wales, apprenticeships are available to learners over the age of 16, people who are unemployed, people looking to switch careers and those who are currently employed but looking to develop their skills further.

Courses range from level 2 (foundation) to level 7 (Master’s degree equivalent), and, with the exclusion of level 7 apprenticeships, all programmes are currently fully funded by the Welsh Government.

Hosted by James Ellis, Head of HR at Celsa UK, the virtual event featured contributions from David Elsmere, Partnership Manager, Restart – Serco; Alan Mackey, Head of Work-Based Learning at Cardiff & Vale College; Bridget Moseley, Head of Apprenticeships at University of Wales Trinity Saint David; and Nicola Thornton-Scott, Assistant Principal: Skills at NPTC Group of Colleges.

In a survey facilitated by the Chamber, it was revealed that 64% of businesses in Wales experienced difficulties in recruiting skilled employees. The panel explored how apprenticeships offer businesses an opportunity to recruit and train new employees, as well upskill existing staff.

Alan Mackey said: “Not only can businesses help kickstart a young person’s career, but they can also make the training very targeted to support their company’s specific skills needs. Apprenticeships now stretch beyond the traditional trades, so it is very likely that there is an appropriate apprenticeship aligned to your sector.”

David Elsmere said: “We work with long-term unemployed adults to ensure they achieve a sustainable provision of work. We want them to gain skills to grow a career, not just a job. Apprenticeships are now available to a wide range of sectors and there are numerous delivery options to take people, whatever their age or employment situation, forward in their careers.”

The panellists also offered guidance for businesses wishing to hire an apprentice.

Nicola Thornton-Scott said: “Recruiting an apprentice is a relatively easy process and you can advertise on the Apprentice Vacancy Service for free, use online recruitment sites or your own website. I would strongly recommend that businesses engage with training providers who will guide and support employers through the recruitment process.”

Bridget Moseley said: “Now would be a very good time if you are thinking about promoting apprenticeship opportunities, especially to attract young learners who are about to sit exams at school or university and are thinking of their future pathways. If you are an employer looking to recruit, it’s time to put the wheels in motion.”