Police apprenticeships falling through devolution crack, says National Assembly committee
The four police forces in Wales are unable to access funding to take on apprentices despite contributing around £2 million per year to UK Government's Apprenticeship Levy, says a National Assembly committee.
The levy was introduced in 2015 and is payable by all eligible employers, including those in Wales. The Welsh Government receives a share of the funding and supports apprenticeships in its priority areas.
The Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee found that because policing is not devolved to Wales, and that training and education in Wales does not sit with the UK Government, apprenticeships for police forces are not supported by either.
English forces can access funding of £24,000 per trainee officer over three-year police apprenticeships.
But Welsh forces would be required to fund the £25.8 million (£8.6 million per annum) equivalent themselves. The costs of the degree in Wales have been reduced to £2.8 million per annum, but the impact will still be substantial.
The Committee is urging the Welsh Government and the Home Office, the UK Government department in charge of policing, to resolve the issue and keep Welsh forces up to date with the negotiations.
Other evidence suggested that differing standards across the UK created difficulties in drawing up business wide job specifications for national employers. There were also concerns that the creation of company-specific standards in England have delivered qualifications that are less portable than the framework qualifications that had been the norm.
The Committee believes the Welsh Government needs to explore how employers and training providers can work together to provide opportunities which serve as a best fit for an employer while protecting the portability of qualifications.
In a previous report the Committee called on ministers to do more to support people on apprenticeships in a similar way to the sort of support available for people studying higher education courses, including concessionary fares on public transport. A year on since that report, committee members have reiterated that recommendation.
"Apprenticeships are a valuable way for people to get on-the-job training in professional environments and learn valuable skills," said Russell George AM, Chair of the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee.
"They are an important and effective way to change the lives of individuals and grow Welsh businesses and the wider economy.
"Although we support apprenticeships, we believe that the Apprenticeship Levy has created cracks in the system. In particular the situation in Welsh police forces is a concern and we urge the Welsh Government and the Home Office to address that issue as a matter of urgency.
"There are also still questions around communication and engagement with employers of all sizes, the portability and relevance of qualifications and the level to which all employers in Wales feel supported to develop and grow new staff.
"We recognise that the situation is clearly still developing, but we will remain vigilant to ensure these opportunities are available as widely as possible for as many people as possible."
The Committee makes 13 recommendations in its report, including:
the Committee calls on the Welsh Government and Home Office to increase its efforts to resolve the issue of funding for police apprenticeships in Wales, ensuring that the police forces are kept fully up to date with progress on the negotiations;
the Committee calls on the Welsh Government to task the Welsh Apprenticeships Advisory Board (WAAB) with exploring how employers and training providers can work together to improve value-for-money outcomes that represent good quality and best fit for the employer, while protecting the portability of qualifications; and,
the Committee calls on the Welsh Government to work with public services to find innovative ways to support apprenticeships and other workplace learning for an increasing number of roles.
The report has been sent to the Welsh Government to respond.
Read the full report:
Apprenticeship Levy: one year on (PDF, 2 MB)