Posted: Tue 2nd May 2023

MS says Government changes ‘put construction apprenticeships at risk’

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

Apprenticeships in the construction sector are being “put at risk by changes being imposed by the Welsh Government”, according to Plaid Cymru’s North Wales representative in the Senedd. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Llyr Gruffydd MS has raised concerns with First Minister Mark Drakeford in the Senedd. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He made his comments after a visit to bosses at Jones Bros, one of the region’s largest civil engineering firms and also one of the area’s biggest construction industry trainers. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The company has trained 308 apprentices in the past decade. It currently takes on about 20-30 apprenticeships a year but fears that could reduce to just a handful in future if the new Level 3 apprenticeship is the only means of entry. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Mr Gruffydd said: “Jones Bros are among our regional success stories – a homegrown company that’s expanded into employing 460 people. They’re building windfarms, roads, coastal defences and many of their senior team started life as apprentices. I was impressed to hear that 50% of senior management started life as apprentices within the company and have been able to progress. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Growing our own talent and enabling youngsters to stay in their own communities to gain valuable experience in the construction trade is essential, not least because these are well-paid jobs and wages can stay in the economy.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He added that he was concerned that a lack of Government understanding of the trade was undermining the company’s ability to take on future apprentices: “From speaking to managers who have responsibility for the apprentices, it’s clear that ditching Level 2 apprenticeships to introduce the new Level 3 apprenticeships – which have a higher academic – is a hindrance to recruitment. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Young people who were perhaps not the most academic would be expected to gain a higher academic qualification to enrol on these courses and that could limit the numbers taken on by the likes of Jones Bros by 75%. It’s a huge blow to both those youngsters and the company’s intention of training young people from north Wales. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Jones Bros can utilise heavy plant equipment they have in their fleet to provide real hands-on training for plant operative apprentices, something colleges can’t always offer. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“I’m encouraged that the company is looking at alternative training plans so that youngsters can continue in the industry but I raised this with the First Minister during questions in the Senedd. It was encouraging that he understood the pressures facing the industry and the need to provide apprenticeships at all levels for our young people but there were no firm commitments or promises. I urge the Welsh Government to think again about removing these opportunities to access the construction industry for many young people.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Top pic: Training manager Garmon Hafal, Jones Bros managing director Huw Jones and Llyr Gruffydd MS. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

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