A new report by Estyn published today explores the impact of the junior apprenticeship programme in Wales.

It highlights a number of positive outcomes for learners including very high success rates in vocational qualifications, improved levels of engagement and attendance, and strong progression rates into further education and training.  Learner numbers are small however and young people in many areas of Wales however are unable to access the opportunities through local providers.

Junior apprenticeship programmes are designed to help local authorities, schools and colleges work together to offer vocationally-focused full-time learning for Year 10 and 11 pupils within FE colleges. Introduced in 2017, the programme is now well established in five of the twelve colleges in Wales, involving approximately 150 learners. Learners in many areas of Wales however do not have similar opportunities because there are no collaborative local arrangements in place within their areas to support delivery.

His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales, Owen Evans, says, “Our report highlights the positive impact the junior apprenticeship programme is having in extending pre-16 vocational opportunities to learners struggling to engage with the mainstream school curriculum. However, with only five of the twenty-two local authorities throughout Wales delivering the programme, we can clearly see the limitations of the provision and the inequity in learning opportunities between regions and local areas within Wales currently. 

“Where junior apprenticeship programmes are available, they make an important contribution to helping support young people who may be at risk of being NEET (not in education, employment or training) and combatting disengagement with learning but there is work to be done to ensure the opportunities are offered more consistently.

“The report makes eight recommendations in total, and I would encourage Welsh Government, further education colleges, schools and local authorities to reflect on these as they further develop the programme to ensure more learners can access this unique route of structured vocational learning.”

Report author Ian Dickson said: “This report gives a voice to college leaders and staff, representatives from learners’ schools and local authorities and junior apprenticeship learners in Year 10 and 11. We have highlighted good practice and identified barriers to the effective delivery of the junior apprenticeship programme by further education colleges. We focus on the impact of the programme on learner outcomes and identify a number of recommendations to support future development and delivery.”