Dating-style app needed for Welsh apprenticeships

Apprentice at Airbus in Flintshire Image copyright Getty Images

A dating-style app is needed to attract people to apprenticeships in Wales, the skills minister has said.

It comes as industry experts warned "inadequate" advice and "out-dated perceptions" were preventing people taking-up placements.

Last year, 45,295 apprenticeships were taken up - a 6% drop from 2014-15.

Julie James said careers advice had to be "fit for the 21st Century" and said there was a disconnect with young people which needed addressing.

Ms James told an assembly committee that changes were under way to modernise careers services in order to give school leavers all options on clearing this summer.

She added a Welsh Government-funded apprenticeship app was "not fit for purpose" and would be scrapped and replaced.

Image copyright Senedd live
Image caption Julie James told an assembly committee progress had been made with promoting apprenticeships

"What we have is a disconnect with young people, because I say this all the time, how can you want to be something you have never heard of? That's a big issue for us," she said.

Industry advisors from Wales' three regional skills partnership bodies (RSP) told the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee last Wednesday "inadequate" careers advice and "out-dated perceptions" about apprenticeships by teachers and parents were stopping young people making informed choices about their futures.

The bodies - charged with advising the Welsh Government on funding priorities for skills - highlighted issues including:

  • Issues selling the benefits of apprentices to small and medium-sized businesses, which do not have human resources departments
  • A shortage of Welsh speakers to train care and health service apprenticeships in Welsh speaking heartlands
  • The introduction of the UK-wide apprentices levy has caused "confusion and concern" among employers in north Wales - especially those close to the English border
  • Apprenticeship matching service is "not user friendly" and limited and finding information about placements can be "difficult"
  • Perceptions about apprenticeships by teachers and parents need to be challenged

According to the latest figures there is approximately one careers advisor for every six schools, the equivalent of one to about 4,500 pupils.

Careers Wales - a Welsh minister-funded service charged with providing impartial careers advice - will have all its web-based tools redesigned, with its apprenticeship-matching tool scrapped.

The service has experienced cuts to its budget from the Welsh Government since 2012, with funding now standing at £18.8m in 2017-18.

Ms James told the assembly inquiry that, while Careers Wales was adequately resourced, it needed to "rebalance where it puts its efforts".

The apprenticeship-matching tool was "not fit for purpose", she said, adding people wanted "a sort of Tinder" way of viewing careers options where they could swipe through and think "oh that one looks nice".

"I will not be happy until a parent can find out as easily how to get their child an apprenticeship as it is how to get them a psychology degree," she added.

Ms James said completion rates for apprentices in Wales were "good" and the Welsh Government engaged with 77,000 employers and 382,000 individuals in apprenticeship week.

The Welsh Government said Careers Wales was working to reduce the ratio of careers advisors to about one to every two schools.

In north Wales the number of apprentices fell by more than 14% in 2015 compared to 2014.

At the same time the number of female apprentices dropped by 1,145, while the number of men taking up the placements fell by 605.

This is despite of the success of schemes with Airbus in Deeside and Horizon Nuclear Power's Wylfa on Anglesey.

Ten apprentices for the plant are currently visiting Japan for training towards gaining a Level 2 NVQ in performing engineering operations.

Horizon will have 22 apprenticeships by September. Director of Operations, Greg Evans, said the trip would be a "character building experience for all".

Image copyright Horizon
Image caption 10 Welsh apprentices from Horizon Nuclear Power's Wylfa plant in Anglesey are in Japan for two weeks training

Conservative skills spokesman Mohammad Asghar said while social media was a "vital tool" for engaging young people, direct engagement would be better.

"Millennials will see right through insincere attempts to ape youth culture," he said.

"Frankly, the idea of basing an apprenticeships application on Tinder sounds like something their parents would come up with - and that's just not going to cut through more than existing tools.

"But there are clear issues around the perceptions parents and children have around apprenticeships, and we do need to make information around opportunities more accessible."

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