An North Wales MS has slammed the Welsh Government for its plan to make “shortsighted” cuts to apprenticeships.
Llŷr Gruffydd, who represents North Wales in the Senedd, says Welsh Labour ministers are “sabotaging” the region’s economy and are “turning their backs on young people.”
The Labour Welsh Government’s budget for 2024/2025 proposes a cut of nearly 25% to the apprenticeship programme.
This is expected to lead to 10,000 fewer apprentice starters in Wales over the next year and is an approximate 50% reduction in the apprentices.
These cuts are expected to disproportionately impact women, young people from disadvantaged communities, and older learners.
Plaid Cymru recently held a debate in the Senedd on the importance of apprenticeships to the Welsh economy and workforce.
The proposed cut comes at a time where 80% of small firms in Wales have struggled to recruit the workers they need in the past 12 months due to skills shortages.
Labour also admitted ahead of its budget in December that it wouldn’t meet its target to create 125,000 all-age apprenticeships by the end of the current Senedd term.
Llyr Gruffydd MS said: “If Wales is going to become the prosperous, dynamic, ambitious and forward-thinking country we all know it can be then it’s vital that we invest in apprenticeships.
“Only that will enable the workers of the future to their develop to their full potential.
“However, in its recent draft budget, we saw the Welsh Government propose a significant cut to apprentice funding.
“This has understandably caused huge concern to many in further education colleges and the skilled labour industries in North Wales.
“This decision would likely lead to 10,000 fewer apprentice starters in Wales over the next year.
“For context, these are some of the biggest and most damaging cuts to apprenticeships in the history of devolution. This is effectively sabotaging the North Wales economy.
“Not only will this mean that many young people won’t get opportunities to develop the skills to move their careers forward, it will also mean that local businesses will be left without the skilled workers they need to grow.
“Apprenticeships play a key role in supplying skilled workers to the jobs market in North Wales as well as the rest of the country.
“There are many businesses with a fantastic track record of investing in their workforce. Unfortunately they are being let down by the Labour Welsh Government.
“The Government should be promoting and developing apprentices because we need far more highly skilled workers not fewer. Instead it is turning its back on young people by failing to invest in their futures.
“This decision is unfair and will have a detrimental effect on Wales’ economy well into the future if it goes ahead. Labour ministers need to seriously rethink this.
“We are already suffering a shortage of skilled workers, and this lack of foresight and funding will only make the situation worse.
“The Labour Government in Wales must reconsider this planned cut to apprenticeships before it causes damage to our economy that may take generations to put right.”