Pwyllgor yr Economi, Seilwaith a Sgiliau - Y Bumed Senedd
Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee - Fifth Senedd19/04/2018
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Adam Price AM|
|Hefin David AM|
|Lee Waters AM|
|Mark Isherwood AM|
|Rhianon Passmore AM||Yn dirprwyo ar ran Joyce Watson|
|Substitute for Joyce Watson|
|Russell George AM||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Vikki Howells AM|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Andrew Clark||Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr, Addysg Bellach a Phrentisiaethau, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Deputy Director Further Education and Apprenticeship Division, Welsh Government|
|Eluned Morgan AM||Gweinidog y Gymraeg a Dysgu Gydol Oes|
|Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning|
|Sam Huckle||Pennaeth Polisi Prentisiaeth, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Head of Apprenticeship Policy, Welsh Government|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Abigail Phillips||Ail Glerc|
|Robert Lloyd-Williams||Dirprwy Glerc|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:18.
The meeting began at 09:18.
Croeso, bawb, i'r Pwyllgor Economi, Seilwaith a Sgiliau.
Welcome, all, to the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee.
I'd like to welcome Members to committee this morning. We move to item 1: introductions, apologies and substitutions. We have an apology from David Rowlands and Joyce Watson this morning, and we have a substitution in Rhianon Passmore, so I'd like to welcome Rhianon to the meeting this morning.
I move to item 2, and item 2 is with regard to a piece of work that we're doing today with regard to the apprenticeship levy, looking at the consequences one year on. I would like to welcome the Minister, Eluned Morgan, to our committee this morning. I'd be grateful, Minister, if you could introduce your colleagues also for the record.
Great. So, I have Andrew Clark with me, who is the deputy director of skills—
Further education and apprenticeships.
Further education and apprenticeships. There we are. And we have Sam Huckle, who is the world Welsh expert on apprenticeships.
Lovely, great. Is—
Is that your title? [Laughter.]
Is there anything you would like to start with, or are you happy if we dive straight into—? Any opening comments you want to make?
I guess that, just generally, I think it's worth pointing out that I think that we've got quite a proud record on apprenticeships in Wales. I think we are on target to deliver our 100,000 apprenticeships. The apprenticeship levy, of course—everybody's aware that that was introduced with no consultation whatsoever with the Welsh Government, and whilst everybody thought, in England, that this would be the answer to their prayers, and a lot of businesses, in particular, thought that, effectively, them being able to control the way that they spend money on apprenticeships—. Actually, what's happened in England is a collapse, a 40 per cent decrease in the number of apprentices in England, whilst in Wales we have seen an increase, so we are trying to respond and to make sure that we actually keep to our agenda, which is one of ensuring that we respond to the requirements of the new economy, making sure we're upskilling our own people, but also making sure that we don't compromise on quality. That's something that has not happened in England. We are absolutely determined to keep the apprenticeship brand as something we should be proud of, and that, I think, has been fundamentally undermined in England.
Minister, the Secretary of State for Wales has said the Welsh Government will receive £133 million in 2018-19 as a result of the apprenticeship levy. Your paper says that you are allocating £115 million in 2018-19. Can you just clarify where the rest of the funds that have come about as a result of the levy have been spent?
So, I'll ask Andrew to come in with a bit more detail, but, just broadly, I think what you have to understand is that, what they give with one hand, they take away with another. First of all, you've got to understand that all of the public sector in Wales who have a requirement to pay the apprenticeship levy—that has, effectively, taken money out of the system, but also there has been a cut in relation to the Barnett formula. So, whilst they've given us money with one hand, they've taken it away with the other. I don't know if you could give some detail on some of the figures—.
I think we have to recognise it's not a hypothecated employment tax, it simply adds to the Barnett consequential and, of course, it's within the gift of Welsh Ministers to carve that up in their budget deliberations, which everybody in this room is more than familiar with. When we looked for funding for the current financial year, our estimate was that our need would be no more than the budget that's been allocated to us. We may need to revisit that in future years, but, at the moment, we believe that we have sufficient funds in play to satisfy the needs that we are having identified by the employer base in Wales.
I appreciate what you said, Minister, but to me there seems to be that gap. If there's £133 million allocated as a result of the levy and you're spending £115 million, there's—the balance, is that going to be identified for skills or spent on other priority areas?
Again, simply the fact that the Barnett consequential exists in terms of the £133 million—. There are many Barnett consequentials that exist. They're not all spent in the area that they were created for by the United Kingdom Parliament, and this is one of those. What we do when we're advising Welsh Ministers is to say how much do we think we need for an area in a particular year, and that's what we've obtained in this year. So, I'm not sure that there is—. I think you're looking for a cause and effect that doesn't exist in the devolution settlement.
Okay, that's fine.
I think it is worth underlining there's £30 million that the Welsh public bodies now have to, effectively, pay into the levy, so you've got to take that into account as well.
Okay. Thank you. Can I ask: do you think, Minister, the Government's doing enough in terms of informing employers about the support that is available to them?
We've got a very active engagement service going on in relation to this. We provide a one-to-one service in terms of helping companies to develop workforce plans. I think it's worth pointing out we've made 400 employer interventions, and most of those have been in relation to the larger organisations that are paying the apprenticeship levy, because, obviously, they are now seeking to get some return, and we are working with them on a one-to-one basis. Sometimes, the apprenticeship model is not necessarily what—there are alternatives that we can offer that would be more appropriate for them. So, we need to engage with them to make sure that they have an understanding of the whole suite of qualifications and training methods that we can provide as a Welsh Government. And, again, one of the key things for us is that we keep that quality standard. We also, of course, have the regional skills partnerships, and we have encouraged employers to make sure that they engage through the regional skills partnerships—that's our intelligence-gathering service, where we ask employers: what is it that you need? What are the skills you need in future? Where and how can we as a Government respond to those needs? So, that's all being fed into the system.
The other thing, of course, is that we've now established the Welsh apprenticeship advisory board, and that's a new group that we've established. It includes not only—. The chair, I think, is the director of the CBI; half of the people on that board are from small and medium-sized enterprises. So, we are genuinely, I think, engaging with businesses and organisations to find out what is it that you want.
In your paper, you talked about that you haven't yet delivered the new apprenticeship matching service. So, what obstacles are there, potentially, with not yet having that work in effect? Effectively, your matching service is matching employers with potential apprentices, but, if that matching service isn't there, is the system not working at the moment in terms of matching the two up together?
There are, I think—. There is work to be done on this area, there's no question about that. I've been doing some secret shopping to find out—look, how would I go about finding an apprenticeship? It's quite interesting because what happens, for example, if you go on the Careers Wales website and you punch in, 'Right, I want to do an engineering apprenticeship in Pembrokeshire,' it'll come up with a list of options. But sometimes, actually, those options are not there at that moment in time. So, it may be that a company recruits only in September, so you wouldn't see that on the system. So, what we're trying to do is to develop a system where you can get a much broader look at what's happening—and, just in fairness to Careers Wales, I was a bit disappointed with that, but what happens then is, if you punch in the requirements that you're interested in, you then get a weekly report from Careers Wales saying, 'Look, these are the apprenticeships that are available for you' week on week. So, some bits of the system are working really well, but what we want is for people to get a better idea, over the course of a whole year, for example, of what's available, not just the snapshot in time.
What can a local business do, then, if the needs are not met by—or their needs are not met by—the local provider?
Well, we have this engagement process, so they would engage through the RSPs, but also—. The thing is, we've got a really active organisation within Welsh Government that basically gives one-to-one hand holding to those businesses if they need it. Can I ask Sam to just elaborate on that a little bit?
And I ask that question, just to give some background, because a local business last week said that they are crying out for an apprentice in a particular area, and the local provider has said, 'Sorry, we haven't got anybody.' So, that's what's behind my question.
I think one of the areas that we've been working on is pre-apprenticeship-type programmes. If you look at the categorisation of how vacancies manifest themselves, you have employers trying to upskill their workforce. Those vacancies are hardly likely to hit the open labour market. You will have our apprenticeship matching service that will look at matching vacancies. There are opportunities to hit quite a wide field of individuals through advertising on an apprenticeship matching service, or they can work with a provider base in order to pre source some sort of individual who has an element of skills.
So, what we've been trying to do in the last year is improve those pre-apprenticeship routeways. We have implemented junior apprenticeships, preparation to apprenticeships, and we also are looking at the link between further education and apprenticeships then, because the two programmes should be inextricably linked. So, that's one of the areas that we have been focusing on very clearly. Our employer liaison team will be able to have facilities that can provide this direct sort of online advice, and they will work quite hard with our providers, where they're unresponsive, either to apprentices or employers. That is one of the areas that we have set the National Training Federation Wales and their liaison team that's going in place there. That is one of the critical objectives that they will have. As a Government, it's very difficult for us to cover that ground, but, for NTFW, ensuring that very good service to individuals and businesses—it's there, and we will receive regular evaluations of that interface.
Thank you. I won't pursue this. I'll write to you on the specific case, if that's all right, Minister.
Yes, of course.
Thank you. I appreciate that. Vikki Howells.
Thank you, Chair. Minister, I was very encouraged to hear your evidence then about the new advisory panel and the representation of SMEs on that. Clearly, small and medium-sized enterprises are crucial to the future of the Welsh economy, and so my questions are around the impact of the levy upon them. So, firstly, I was wondering whether the Welsh Government kept track of what proportion of apprenticeships are hosted by SMEs, and, if so, what is the current proportion?
So, we do keep track, and I think that it's worth noting the difference between what's happening now in England, where the apprenticeship levy is being driven by the big companies, and the responsiveness of the system means that, actually, SMEs are likely to be squeezed out—. We are determined that that's not going to happen in Wales, and we do keep track. In fact, 57 per cent of our programme is taken up on by SMEs at the moment. So, I think we can be pretty proud of that. We would want to make sure that that doesn't decrease significantly, either. So, we're keeping an eye on it, and it's still relatively early days in terms of the apprenticeship levy.
I was also interested to read that you're looking into a foundational economy apprenticeship, which, clearly, would link in very well, potentially, with SMEs, particularly in the Valleys areas, like my own. Could you give us a bit more detail around your thinking there?
So, we've got frameworks that we're trying to develop to make sure that we're responding to the needs of the Welsh economy. We're starting off with the technical ones—the engineering and those kinds of areas—but there's no question that, then—. We're trying to make sure that we have a breadth to the way that we train people, which is really different from the way they're doing it in England. So, if you look at what's happening in England, they're basically labelling almost anything an apprenticeship. So, if you go and—. You can become a barista, and they'll teach you how to make hot coffee. It's quite incredible that that can be labelled and badged now as an apprenticeship. We're not going to put up with that in Wales. So, on the foundational economy approach, we'll be developing specific frameworks on that. I don't know, Sam, if you can elaborate specifically on the foundational economy.
It's a complex area, the foundational economy, isn't it? Not only is it a stepping stone into high-level skills, but in itself it drives major areas of economic activity, and it's a key engagement tool on social groups. First, there are some areas to be aware of, I think, in terms of foundational economy, and that's low paid, low skill predominance, and this cycle that we seem to have in certain areas with certain sort of gender groups, where they're unable to come out of that sort of cycling around the system and come up into better paid work and more skilled work. I think we want to break that cycle. The constitution of that type of programme, I think—'Would it be qualifications driven, would it be more short course driven, what types of skills and behaviours would it have?'—we're still questioning, if I'm honest. Regulations in certain industries, of course, will play a part in what that looks like, but, for us, I think whatever we develop has to be underpinned with more focus on terms and conditions, fair work and how we ensure that those individuals have a better life chance, rather than moving round and round in foundational economy. There's also a timing issue with the seasonal economy there. Whether we have shorter and sharper training, I think, is an important area. We're out in terms of scoping that particular design and development and for full consultation, I think, because there are many parties interested in it.
Thank you. And will you keep the committee informed of your work in that area?
Yes, definitely. Andrew, you wanted to say something.
Yes. Can I just add to that one? We're very keen to maintain the brand of the apprenticeship as a high-quality brand. There was a report from England a few days ago—there are no qualifications in many of the English standards, and we don't think that that's acceptable, because it's the qualifications, if anything, that are the transferable skills between one employer and another. So, some of what we'll be doing in terms of developing specific tailored courses for the foundational economy won't be under the apprenticeship brand, but they will be relevant to the industry that they are tailored to cater for. I think it's important to protect the name 'apprentice' and to make sure that what we do in that sphere is always held up as a high-quality product.
Vikki, can I just bring in a few other people and come back to you if you want?
Yes, you can.
Lee wanted to come in.
Yes, I agree that the integrity of names is important, so I'd just like a bit of clarity on what you mean by 'foundational economy', because the Government does have a habit of appropriating terms and then changing their meaning. I was only reading the other day about 'sustainable roads', for example. So, you're using the term 'foundational economy'. What do you mean by that?
That's a good question. Generally, we're looking at what is delivered in a level 2 space, I guess, and a qualification at level 2 that is relevant to industry sectors that are demonstrating very low or limited progression. So, that's our initial starting point for the foundational economy. You are right; there are quite a lot of views on what 'foundational economy' means. Is that something like the social care sector? Is that the tourism sector? Is that the retail sector? Or is that a sector that is much more on a social place, like environmental, which could be a higher level? I think, for us, it's understanding what the needs and skills needs are of those areas, and working on the definition around a level 2 in specific sector areas where we cannot see progression coming through through our other programmes.
The economic action plan refers to 'foundational sectors' rather than the 'foundational economy', because they're different things. Now, you're talking about the 'foundational economy', but I think what you really mean is 'foundational sectors'. So, I think it's really important that we keep the integrity of these terms, because the foundational economy is something different, and it's not about low skill, but it's about sectors that are mundane. So, I think it's really important that Government is clear what it means when it talks about this, because I think there's still a lot of work to be done to develop the thinking around the foundational economy.
I think you're right, yes.
I just wanted to share those concerns. I feel that there's a danger that—. The association of the foundational economy with low-skilled jobs is incorrect, even in the care sector. If you're in the care sector then there's a certain level of skill, knowledge and personal growth and development that you need that go beyond simply mundane and basic skills. It may be a mundane sector, but it's not basic skills. So, I just feel that the expansion of skills—. It shouldn't be considered that, if you're in the foundational economy, the expansion of skills will be considered to be limited when, in fact, it can actually be an expansion of skills into a variety of different transferable areas.
I think that's fair enough, but I think we've also got to be very clear that the priority of the Welsh Government is to drive people into the higher skills areas. We will never address the poverty issues in Wales unless we are driving into those higher skills areas. So whilst, yes, we can get people in at those lower levels, the key thing for us is that we're driving them and pushing them to make sure that they do develop into those higher skilled areas. Now, there will be times and there will be people who won't have the capacity or the ability to go into those higher skilled areas, and it may be that apprenticeships will not be appropriate for them.
That's okay, but the point I'm making is that it doesn't necessarily follow that the foundational economy is a low-skilled area of the economy.
No, and what we're working on, particularly, I think, in the care sector, is to make sure that there are pathways, clear pathways, so that, if you're starting on that route, there is a pathway so that you know you can continue and drive up to level 4 or 5. So, you know, if you're starting on it, that there's a route-map that you can go on. What we don't want is to start people on level 2 and that they just stop. That's not our priority at the moment.
Just to round that off, I think the issue would be that, if the Government assumes it's the case that if they're operating in a foundational sector then that would happen, I think that would be incorrect.
That's fair. Do you want to add something, Andrew?
Yes. I think what you're hearing from us this morning is that, you know, we deal in education levels, primarily. That's part of what our lives, our sad little lives, are about. The programmes that we're thinking of developing are at our lower education levels. That's not implying that the sector is always at that level, but we would wish people to progress, perhaps from a non-apprenticeship programme, into a level 3, level 4, level 5, possibly even level 6. So, please don't misunderstand our interpretation of the words 'foundational economy'; we're just looking at the education levels, really.
Vikki, did you want to come back in? Then I'll come back to—. Is it on the foundational economy?
Yes, it is.
It is. I'll come to you and then I'll come to Adam, if he wants to come in after.
Childcare is one area where I can see this working really well, and it's an area where I've had some discussions with Professor Karel Williams as well. Obviously, we've got a lot of people employed in the childcare sector in Wales, and that's set to rise, but no real clear routeway for people within that sector if they wanted to progress to teacher training. So, would that be an area that you'd consider looking at?
Have we had a look at that, Sam?
Yes. We've been working with the childcare team on workforce development plans. They've been putting some stuff out recently about how they see that progressing. We have obviously reviewed all the qualifications in this space to make the core caring skills much more mobile right across childcare as well as social care, so they'll come into play.
One of the areas that has been under hot debate is those progression pathways as to how can somebody in a childcare setting for only a couple of hours a week—a breakfast club or after school club—how can they fulfil some of the big competencies that we're asking for, as well as the off-the-job. So, we've been having a lot of discussion around this, and that is one of the areas where maybe a different type of approach on the engagement element would work, and then a much more structured career plan towards the end.
I think there is quite a bit of work to do in the space of level 4s and level 5s around that but, yes, we're working very closely with the workforce development team. They're almost leading us in terms of their plans in line with the commitment for childcare.
Rwy’n gallu deall, efallai, y potensial am ddryswch yn y cyswllt yma, oherwydd, wrth gwrs, yn y sector hyfforddiant, mae yna sôn am foundational skills hefyd, sydd yn rhywbeth gwahanol eto. Ond, jest o ran sectorau, mae cysyniad yr economi gwaelodol yn fwy eang na jest sectorau, fel yr oedd Lee Waters yn ei ddweud, ond a yw e hefyd yn cynnwys, yn y sector breifat—? A fyddech chi’n rhagweld y sector manwerthu yn rhan o raglen brentisiaethau ar gyfer yr economi gwaelodol, oherwydd mae hynny’n sector bwysig iawn o ran—?
I can understand the potential for confusion in this regard, because, in the training sector, there is talk of foundational skills too, isn't there, which is a different thing again. But, just in terms of sectors, the concept of the foundational economy is broader than simply sectors, as Lee Waters said, but does it also include, in the private sector—? Would you anticipate the retail sector being part of an apprenticeships programme for the foundational economy, because that is a very important sector in terms of—?
Ai 'manwerthu' yw 'retail'?
'Manwerthu' is 'retail', yes?
Mae hwn yn drafodaeth eithaf diddorol, achos mae lot o’r archfarchnadoedd, er enghraifft, yn talu’r levy, ac yn gofyn, 'A ydych chi’n fodlon i ni wneud prentisiaethau?' Achos, rŷm ni wedi dweud yn glir, nawr, nid ydym eisiau blaenoriaethu yn yr ardal yma. Achos, rŷm ni eisiau, fel yr oeddwn i’n ei ddweud, sicrhau ein bod ni’n cadw’r brand o brentisiaethau, ac, os ŷm ni’n dechrau yn y maes yma, os ŷch chi jest yn cael rhywun i mewn i weithio yn Tesco am ychydig o ddyddiau, rŷm ni eisiau sicrhau bod yna ffordd iddyn nhw ddatblygu ac, os nad oes yna ffordd iddyn nhw ddatblygu, nid yw hynny’n rhan o’n blaenoriaeth ni. Felly, mae yna damaid bach o densiwn, yn sicr, rhwng rhai o’r archfarchnadoedd yna a’n polisi ni, sef i wthio i fyny i’r lefelau uwch hynny.
Well, this is quite an interesting discussion, because many of the supermarkets, for example, pay the levy, and ask, 'Are you willing for us to bring in apprentices?' Because, we've said clearly, now, that we don't want to prioritise in this area. As I said, we want to ensure that we safeguard the brand of apprenticeships and, if we start in this area, if you're just getting someone in to work in Tesco for a few days, we want to ensure that there's a way for them to develop, and unless there is a way for them to develop, that's not part of our priority. So, there is a little tension, certainly, between some of the supermarkets and our policy, which is to push upwards to those higher levels.
So, mae yna rywfaint o densiwn yna, onid oes—
So, there's some tension there, isn't there—
—yn y sector breifat, oherwydd, yn fras iawn, fe allech chi ddweud bod yr economi gwaelodol yn cynrychioli nwyddau a gwasanaethau sydd ddim yn cael eu masnachu, felly—non-tradeable goods and services o fewn yr economi lleol. Felly, mae manwerthu, o ran yr economi gwaelodol, yn gyfran helaeth ohono fe, yn y sector breifat, felly.
—in the private sector, because, very broadly speaking, you could say that the foundational economy represents goods and services that aren't tradeable—non-tradeable goods and services within the local economy. So, retail, in terms of the foundational economy, is quite a large proportion of it, in the private sector.
Ie, ac nid ydym ni yn rhoi blaenoriaeth i roi level 2 ar gyfer pethau fel retail, na.
Yes, and we don't give priority to giving level 2 on things such as retail, no.
Reit, ocê. Iawn.
Right, okay. Fine.
Rhianon Passmore, do you want to come on to your questions, after you've done—
Very briefly, in terms of foundation economy. In terms of what's just been said by Adam Price in terms of social mobility and those that are stuck in poverty, generally speaking we are talking about the care sector, we are talking about those on zero-hours contracts in retail. So, I understand that this is a huge area for us as a Government to want to work with in terms of apprenticeships, but are we not missing a trick by trying to do that, for instance, with our supermarkets, in terms of vertical progression pathways, because we know this is where the vast majority of our society who are in poverty are working—in-work poverty?
Well, as I say, one of the things we're trying to do is to protect the brand of apprenticeships, and when we keep on saying, as a Government, that we want to get a better parity of esteem between academic and vocational training, you've got to be really careful that that brand—. As with the academic brand, we need to make sure that the vocational brand is also one that is respected. We can offer training in those areas; it may just not be an apprenticeship training. So, it's not that we're saying, 'No, we can't help you at all'; it's just that we may not be able to help you with this particular programme.
Okay. I'll just lead on from that into my line of questioning. In regard to, then, the support that Welsh Government is offering or outlining in terms of our levy-paying organisations, how would you describe the progress, so far, to date, in terms of the fact that, yes, we are on target to meet our 100,000 apprenticeships despite the Barnett cuts to the formula? How would you, overall, assess the performance of that?
The message we're trying to give out is, actually, 'In Wales, it's business as usual'. We are not going to simply follow England, because they have introduced a system that is falling around behind their ears. Actually, we are quite proud of what we're doing in Wales. So, yes, what we've had to do is to engage very actively now with a lot of those levy payers, because they've woken up to the fact that, actually, they've, effectively, been taxed and they want to get some of that back. So, we're engaging with them. We're making it very clear to them that what's happening in England is very different from what's happening in Wales, but there are lots and lots of different ways that we can help them, and we are engaging them very, very actively.
There was a report that came out a few weeks ago, 'The great training robbery', which highlighted how disastrous the levy has been in England. So, we simply don't want to be comparing ourselves to England in that way. But, of course, if you're a business and you're, effectively, sitting there in England and you have a credit note that you can go and spend on something—. We haven't got that system in Wales, but what we're keen to do is to think about it in the broader context of the wider economy: what is good for Wales plc? That means that we can take account of the fact that, actually, we do need to consider SMEs, we do need to consider the portability of qualifications. People move around from job to job now, and we would rather that they have qualifications that can be transported from one job to another.
Thank you. So, in regard to those levy fee-paying organisations—. We won't necessarily call it a tax—[Inaudible.] But in regard to those that don't have any traditional frameworks—and we've mentioned some of the sectors that are, in a sense, adjunct to that at the moment—what are we doing in those particular areas for those organisations that don't have a relevant apprentice framework or have traditionally not had any apprenticeships?
Well, what we're trying to do is to make sure that we provide frameworks that have that quality standard. In England, now, there are—what was it—800 different—
Five hundred and sixteen, I think.
Five hundred and sixteen different standards—
Five hundred and forty-six, as of yesterday.
—of different qualifications, effectively, and we don't think that—. What we're trying to do is to actually narrow it, but give some breadth to that, so narrow the numbers, so we're down to about 30 that are used practically now, but making sure that, for example, if you start out on an engineering kind of apprenticeship, that there's a baseline approach that would be relevant to lots and lots of different companies, and then you can specialise at a later date. So, would you like to elaborate a bit on that, Sam?
Yes, in terms of our framework development, where we are and where we're going, I think the first touch point is the demand and need that's identified by the regional skills partnerships. That should be drawn off a very wide range of employers. We use those as signalling points for what should be developed in our system. We've been doing that for the last 12 months, and we will continue to do that because we could find ourselves having to try and replicate 500 different industry standards, and that is undeliverable.
So, on that particular point, if I may, Chair, obviously there is a divergence in terms of, strategically, where we're going in Wales, and we feel we've got a qualitative format and model. Do you actually believe that our qualifications, if we carry on—? And I presume we feel currently, and I may be wrong, that the infrastructure is in place—you mentioned the Wales advisory board—that we have that infrastructure in place. But do you honestly assess that Wales has got a preferential model in terms of qualitative apprenticeships compared to England? Would that be fair to make that assessment, or is that something that you would not yet be ready to say?
I think we've used qualifications as a proxy. As an international proxy, that's levelled, that's quality assured, and we have an independent regulator that looks on a sector approach at improving and driving up that quality to make sure that on- and off-the-job training is done appropriately, there's a credit value, and that people actually receive good learning as a result. That filters down through our system, then.
The industry standards are very interesting in that they're much more focused and they're much more specific. But I don't think that we can ignore where industry standards have a critical mass of employers attached to them, and we haven't been. What we've said is we'll take the general thrust of what an industry standard is doing, and if there's a critical mass in Wales and it aligns to the regional skills partnerships, we'll convert it, and we have done that. We've done that this week with publishing the operational delivery industry standard. It's in the form of an apprenticeship framework so we can ensure that the qualification levels are right and the delivery is appropriate. So, in that respect it meets our quality requirements. So, we're not being completely inflexible, but where we see there's a demand and need, and where we see that it can be flexed and moved to meet qualifications, we are doing that. We've done quite a bit of that this year with a number of key employers. Not everyone, but with a number of key employers.
Thank you. Hefin David.
I think you mentioned at the beginning, Minister, that the levy is potentially causing employers to upskill existing staff rather than training apprentices. Did you say that at the beginning?
I didn't, but it's true.
Right, okay. I thought I picked you up saying it. So, to what extent is it true, and what evidence have you got that that's the case?
It's certainly true in England. So, that's what we've seen—that people, for example, or companies, for example, who might have been training managers internally are now rebadging them as apprenticeships, and using up the money that they would have spent internally to basically take it back from the public purse. So, they've been taxed and they're getting it back through the public purse. So there's a lot of rebadging going on within businesses, certainly in England, and we've got—
Where's the evidence for that? Where do you get the evidence of that from?
Well, the evidence does exist.
Yes, there have been a number of reports that have noted concerns in relation to that.
It's in that 'The great training robbery' report.
I understand the Federation of Small Businesses have asked, and CollegesWales have asked, for a Wales-based piece of research on this. Is that right?
We're in daily contact with the FSB, so I think what's important is that we are responding on a daily basis to exactly what they're looking for. We want to make sure that we reach out to small companies in particular. We're determined that they shouldn't lose out.
Okay. So, do we understand the impact in Wales, then? Do we understand the impact in Wales? Because you've mentioned the English experience. Do we understand the impact of the levy in that sense in Wales?
It won't impact in the same way because our model is fundamentally different, but if you'd like to come in, Andrew.
What I think we're seeing in England is increasing inventiveness from levy-paying employers, because they will talk about getting the return on their investment, so they don't think of it as an employment tax; they actually think of it as a levy. And in England, if you get six companies together, they can write an industry standard that will then be approved by the Department for Education, usually. So, what they're doing is they're writing standards that allow them to substitute their existing training programmes with what they're now badging as apprenticeships, because if they badge it as an apprenticeship they can use their levy voucher to pay for it. So, we're seeing substitution in play, we believe. And that's part of the reason for going up to the 500, or whatever it is, industry standards that now exist in England.
Here, we haven't allowed that to happen because we've maintained the system that existed prior to the introduction of the levy. We're controlling the frameworks that we're allowing to put in play, and we're controlling at the priority areas for Welsh Ministers in terms of the sectors of the economy that we wish best to support. So, the free-for-all, if you like, that happens to the east of us isn't happening here.
So, I had a look at the skills, higher education and lifelong learning evaluation of apprenticeships 2015-19 document—
Which is ESF-focused.
Yes, but there is a mention of the apprenticeships levy in it.
Yes, there is.
And in it it says that a minority of employers were concerned that the apprenticeship levy would in practice mean they would provide fewer apprenticeships, because after levy payments they would be less able to afford the cost.
We do get, if I may, the communication saying, 'The levy has taken half my training budget.' That kind of a comment does come from employers. What we then have is an interaction with those employers to say, 'Yes, but do you realise what Welsh Ministers are providing to your company and companies like you by way of the training that's available through our apprenticeship programme?' That's more of a communication issue, I think, than it is about anything else. So, we've worked quite hard on that over the last 12 months.
So, your intervention would be a communication intervention.
It's a very intense communication intervention, and it's also—and I think it really is important to underline this—that it may not always be appropriate that it's actually apprenticeships that are right for their company. It may be that we could offer another kind of training that would be more appropriate for them.
Okay. And that kind of displacement would be for managerial kinds of roles that would be caused by the levy. It would be your existing employees that you're trying to upskill.
It's not necessarily managerial, but we are determined to keep an eye on the danger of the fact that, actually, they will focus on upskilling just their own employees and that we may see a lessening of the fact that, actually, what we would like to see is more younger people taking up apprenticeships.
Yes, and that's the purpose of your intervention.
So, you're categorical that what is happening in England is not happening to anywhere near the same extent in Wales.
I think that's fair. Certainly, we wouldn't allow it to happen in the same way, because we have more control. We don't have absolute control. You've got to remember that we don't offer apprenticeships ourselves—it's companies that offer apprenticeships. But, what we can do is to pay for the training within those apprenticeships, and that's the bit that we are able to steer.
You know, I think it's about keeping a balance across our system, if I'm honest. It's about us working with employers on workforce development needs. When we've met with some of these employers, they've asked for one thing. We've pulled the job descriptions out and said, 'Have you thought about cyber security apprenticeships? Have you thought about accounting apprenticeships?' So, it's really taking and analysing what they have against what the higher skilled offer is, and what those business benefits can give them. Often, there's a default to things like business administration, which doesn't drive the skills of individuals. They might credit skills that they've had for years, but that doesn't give them any more knowledge or drive us forward in terms of digitalisation or the new artificial intelligence agenda. And we've got to put apprenticeships in that space where it does that: it accelerates those skills for the current workforce.
But we also still have a responsibility for the new generation of apprenticeships. They're more important than ever, given our decision on Brexit and the changing technology. And encouraging them to think about those new apprenticeships, encouraging them to take those forward and put incentives in play, to get them to think about the active ageing going on in the workforce. We're doing that through the workforce planning arrangements, so it's quite a one-to-one service. And, generally, they see the benefits of it, if I'm honest. Plus the other support that we've got coming in from our FE learners, making sure they've got the right skills to join the workforce. We're just trying to mesh all of that together at the moment for them, because it's not just apprenticeships; it's the full workforce. Undoubtedly, management development is an easier route, a more attractive route to deliver in certain areas, but we really want to drive some of those big technical skills, and also those self-learning skills, to ensure that we accelerate where we are. Is that making sense?
I want to ask about the cross-border issues. The committee's had some evidence about employers on the English side of the border having some concern and confusion about the different regimes. So, can you tell us a little bit about what you've been doing to address that please?
Well, I guess the message we're giving out is that we are trying to do business as usual in Wales and that we are not diluting the quality of our apprenticeships. In fact, we're making it clear that whilst, in England, nothing has been tested—. They're putting these stamps on things, and, you know, some of the things are frankly scandalous that are going on. So, there are apprenticeships, for example, for people who, when they finish their apprenticeship, they can become self-employed delivery people. And you just think, 'Really, is that what we're talking about here?' And that's what's happening in England. So, we're trying to make it clear that that is not what we're about in Wales.
We have this whole-system approach in Wales, which is driven by the regional skills partnerships. So, we are trying to make sure that it's for the benefit of the wider community, that it's not just about the needs of big businesses. But what's good for big businesses quite often is also good for smaller companies as well. So, if we've got a big engineering company, actually that could be of benefit. If we get the right framework, it would be of benefit also to lots and lots of SMEs in that field. So, that's why that framework is important.
Yes. I think the evidence we had was that UK-wide employers were under the impression that the English framework would be available in Wales and there was confusion around that and some frustration on the side of the employers that the incentives available in England weren't available here. So, what work have you done to work with the larger employers to overcome those issues of misunderstanding?
Well, I think we've made it clear that we are not in the game of having these 546 industry standards, that we are concentrating on quality. So, we are trying to make the case to businesses in Wales that, actually, what they will be getting out of the end of the process is a much better quality product and that we are not going to copy the English model.
I understand that. My question was a little bit more specific.
How do we communicate that?
The first thing that we've done is worked with the Department for Education in England to try and ensure that the comms coming out from that point truly reflect the devolution settlement, not only for ourselves, but Scotland and Northern Ireland have had similar concerns that the communications almost don't provide employers with that full picture. We have had a range of marketing and workshops that we've done with levy payers, particularly in the public sector, who have not used apprenticeships. We've done a one-to-one activity. We've provided an employer toolkit that explains the differences. It explains what providers we have where, what they're delivering, and the contacts. So, if a company has access to that toolkit, they can very easily navigate around the Welsh system and understand the differences as opposed to the English system.
On top of that, we've been using the intermediary business bodies like the Confederation of British Industry, the Federation of Small Businesses, to get our messages out, using their newsletters, et cetera, and we attend quite a lot of those intermediary meetings. Andrew often attends some of the night ones; me more in the day, because of the little one. So, we are trying our best to get those messages out. It's really difficult against a big English system that has—you know, 'You've got your levy voucher, spend it on what you want'. It's difficult. But we have been trying to raise that. We do it through the ministerial articles and as many press lines as we can. And, through apprenticeship week, we also try and illustrate what we have to offer in Wales and why that's different. But it often comes down to that workforce planning with that company and what we can provide to them that isn't just about apprenticeships. It's much broader than that: how we can work with them to access schools, how we can work with them in terms of higher education provision. So, for me, our strength is the one-to-one—because there's no way in England they ever get that close to Government, I don't think—and the general, broad communication strategy approach that we've rolled out.
In terms of the three-year funding agreement on the levy, which is coming to an end, what impact do you think that would have, and are you going to have to make any changes resulting from the removal of that funding?
What will happen now is that that'll go into the Barnett big pot, so I don't foresee that that will have a big impact on the way that we organise ourselves, no.
But from an employers' point of view, they may not fully understand 'the big pot'. They can't get their hands on the big pot.
They can't get their hands on the big pot, but in terms of some of the things that Sam has just outlined, that's the message that we're trying to give—that actually, we don't have a voucher system, you need to engage with us and we will give you a one-to-one bespoke offer for your company, effectively, which will guarantee quality in a way that they don't in England.
What we're trying to do with the employer base in Wales is to move them away from this concept of, 'What am I going to get from my levy payments and levy taxation?' and to demonstrate to them what the Welsh offer is. They're starting to get there now. At the last meeting we had with the Confederation of British Industry, the conversation moved away from, 'What am I going to get back?' to 'What can Wales provide?' A big part of our shift is to try desperately to get away from this hanging on this concept of a levy all of the time, when, actually, it isn't a levy; it's an employment tax. So, the more of that we can do, the better it will be.
Okay, thank you.
Adam Price, do you want to come in?
Roeddech chi wedi cyfeirio at y gig economy, mewn ffordd, wrth sôn am y delivery drivers ac yn y blaen, ond sut ydych chi'n gweld y berthynas rhwng prentisiaethau a'r sector hunangyflogedig? Yn draddodiadol, wrth gwrs, rydym yn meddwl am brentisiaethau yng nghyd-destun cyflogwyr, ond mae yna sectorau fel adeiladu, er enghraifft, sydd yn draddodiadol wedi defnyddio pobl hunangyflogedig fel rhan o'r model fusnes, ac, wrth gwrs, mae canrannau hunangyflogaeth yng Nghymru, yn sicr mewn rhannau helaeth o ardaloedd gwledig, ond nid yn unig hynny, yn uchel iawn. So, a oes prentisiaethau hefyd ar gael ac yn cael eu hyrwyddo ar gyfer pobl hunangyflogedig?
You mentioned the gig economy, in a way, in talking about delivery drivers and so on, but how do you see the relationship between apprenticeships and the self-employed sector? Traditionally, we think of apprenticeships in the context of employers, but there are sectors, such as construction, for example, that traditionally have used self-employed people as part of the business model and, of course, the percentages of those who are self-employed in Wales, certainly in large parts of rural areas, but not only rural areas, are quite high. So, are apprenticeships also available and being promoted for people who are self-employed?
Rwy'n meddwl bod hwn yn faes mae'n rhaid inni edrych arno'n fanwl. Os ydych yn edrych ar y patrwm sy'n digwydd, mae cynnydd o tua 2 y cant y flwyddyn o ran pobl hunangyflogedig. Os ydych yn edrych ar y States nawr, maen nhw'n meddwl, erbyn 2020, y bydd 40 y cant o bobl mewn rhyw ffordd yn cael eu heffeithio ac yn byw o dan y system yna. So, rwy'n meddwl bod hwn yn faes—. Ond mae'n anodd iawn, achos, yn amlwg, os ydyn nhw'n hunangyflogedig, i ba raddau maen nhw'n gallu—? So, wrth gwrs byddan nhw'n gallu 'access-o' y system, ond iddyn nhw eu hunain ac nid eu cyflogwyr.
I think this is an area that we need to look at in detail. If you look at the pattern that happens, there is an increase of about 2 per cent a year in terms of self-employed people. If you look at the States, they think that by 2020, 40 per cent will be affected and will be living under that system. So, I do think that this is an area—. It's very difficult, because, if they're self-employed, to what extent are they able to—? So, of course they will be able to access the system, but for themselves and not their employers.
Would you like to come in?
Apprenticeships are an employed-status programme. That's entrenched in law. We'd need a law change to do anything about that. So, we would tend to use vocational training in further education colleges for self-employed people rather than an apprenticeship programme, because the whole idea behind the apprenticeship programme is that you are learning from somebody else in the workplace. If you are self-employed, that's pretty difficult to do. So, we wouldn't tend, I think, to try to change the existing law on that, but we would try to make sure that there are appropriate vocational training opportunities available in further education, to satisfy that particular training need.
I think there are exceptions to that. Sea fishing, for example, is a non-employed apprenticeship in statute, and I think there's been a long-standing discussion around construction, which is a sector that has always underperformed in terms of apprenticeships—well, look at the figures—in terms of the size of the sector. Part of that is this issue of self employment, because that's not to do with the rise of the gig economy; that is a historic pattern. Indeed, in many parts of Wales, that is basically the core business model of the construction sector. So, there's a bit of an issue there then, isn't there, if we can't—. You know, young scaffolders and the rest of it working in Swansea—other than some of the medium-sized firms, by and large, they will be training in order to get their certification, but we can't provide them to apprenticeship because of a legal definition. Shouldn't we be seeking to address that?
I'd need to check. The area you're referring to in our legislative process is called alternative completion certificates and requirements, and it allows an exemption to that rule, and fisheries is one. I'd need to check the construction, because I'm sure construction is one and that we can issue certificates for construction. I'm sure that's quite flexible. I'm sure we came across it a couple of weeks ago. I would need to check that with my team.
Construction is a very interesting sector cluster. Not only have you got the predominance of self-employment but you also have quite big organisations that win a lot of the contracts and then there's that supply chain and a mobile labour market. There's work that we've been doing around social clauses, for instance, to support apprenticeships through that system.
I think Andrew's point is interesting. We deliver many more construction places in FE than we do in apprenticeships, and we've just designed a new qualifications model that utilises further education for year 1 for basic construction skills that you would need, and then you'll come out into apprenticeships and do the specialist area. So, we've actually locked the two estates together through the qualifications and I think that's going to deliver some improvements. I can forward that document to you and I think you'll start to see that that will have quite a radical change on that sector.
There's more to do, I think, with social clauses, and more to do to understand about where the contracts are going and the mobility of the labour market, because we will have to ensure our assessment practices can go wherever the work needs to be assessed, and that often isn't in Wales. So, a little bit more around that I think we need to do.
It would be helpful if you could send that document to us over the next few days.
Yes. Qualifications Wales—
This is their review.
Yes. We've had it this week. It's been published. So, I'll send it. Very interesting. Big report.
We'll need to check whether it's actually in the public domain yet, because it might be in final draft. As soon as it's in the public domain, which will be very soon—. It may be with us for final checking as to accuracy at the moment, so there may be a slight delay.
Okay. I appreciate that.
But I take the point. I think this is an area that we need to keep an eye on, because it strikes me that the way that things are moving is that there are people who traditionally would have been seen as people who are employed—. And this is happening. I've been told about a factory somewhere recently where, in the past, they would have been defined as somebody who's employed, but now they are self-employed. But, in our traditional understanding of employment, you would expect there to be a relationship with the employer. So, I think we've got to keep an eye on this area because—
We've just got one last area of questioning. Have you finished, Adam, with your questioning?
Thank you very much indeed. Earlier, you said that sectors in Wales have just woken up and are asking you questions. In fact, our original inquiry was triggered because sectors—particularly retailers, SMEs, the FSB, the police, and many others—raised concerns that the proposals for Wales and the context of the levy would create significant problems for them. So, the situation we found ourselves in was despite our report, which was triggered by them—not them coming late to the feast. The report we referred to, 'The great training robbery' report—my understanding is it recognised the apprenticeship levy was a good idea in principle. It concluded:
'If the necessary changes described in this report are made then apprentices, taxpayers and employers...stand to benefit for many years to come.'
So, what consideration have you given to the changes it proposes as they apply to the delivery of cross-border apprentices and the opportunities for apprentices in Wales to find employment in England, in areas such as where I live, which is very much a cross-border economy—obviously Airbus, Toyota, Chester business park and Wrexham business park and so on—but also the concerns originally expressed to us in our original inquiry by some of the large UK public limited companies such as BT over how they manage the cross-border placements necessary to the career paths of their employees?
We can't effect the changes in England, so what we have to do is communicate what's working well in Wales and make sure that they have an understanding of that. We're not going to be bullied into changing our system to conform with what England's doing, which has been a bit of a disaster. Those big companies that were crowing before about how great the levy was going to be in England are not crowing quite so loudly now because they've understood that the whole system is basically—you know, a lot of the system has collapsed. I think we do have a job of work to do in terms of those cross-border areas in particular. But there is a broader issue here. If we're training somebody in Wales, I'm a big fan of portability and making sure that these people we train can carry those qualifications to England and beyond. What we've done is to make sure that we've kept the standards. We've kept in with Scotland and understood that we need to keep that European approach to the quality, so we're not prepared to compromise, as I say. There is a job of communication to do with those companies. But I think we're doing that job now.
My question was that there's been a one-year review in this report, it has proposed changes, recognising the principle is correct. Some of the recommendations, presumably—or all of them—the Welsh Government needs to be aware of, and some of them might impact on your programmes, particularly where you're dealing with cross-border employers, but also colleges like Coleg Cambria, who are servicing students from England and vice versa, and companies like Airbus that employ huge numbers from both sides of the border, as do many others on both sides of that border, with thousands crossing the border every day. This means we have to have a seamless system. So, what work are you doing with cross-border employers to ensure that we can deliver interoperable, similar or even identical apprenticeships wherever people live and work now or choose to in the future?
I'm not sure if we can have a seamless system. I think our approach is fundamentally different. So, what we need to do is to make sure that we can sell the merits of our system. The big employers, we've interacted with most of them, those that have cross-border issues. So, they have had one-to-one hand-holding of the understanding that, actually, whilst we understand the system in England, where basically there's that stamp of approval of their internal system and 'There you go, there's a whole load of cash', we are not doing that in Wales. They need to try and fit in with our broader agenda.
We clearly, you know, in priority areas—you're citing Airbus and engineering—. I think, you know, even though we have two different types of system, skills aren't fundamentally different in engineering. They may be from aerospace to something like nuclear, but even then the core skills of engineering are pretty much transferrable. For us, we've been trying to get down past the system structures to the skills content. The industry standards are very much on an outline brief and then they have a delivery plan and they have an end test. We have an apprenticeship framework that has an outline brief and has qualifications, sometimes an end test but not necessarily. But as long as we're aligning those skill levels, that is the important factor. The reality of the difference between the two systems is we will go broader with the skills and they're going much narrower with the skills. So, what we will have is a much more rounded skill approach, where they will have a much narrower skill approach. But, generally, if you put the aerospace industry standard up against our apprenticeship framework, they're not that different and, for us, it is getting down to those practicalities. That's why we've had to roll this one-to-one type of approach out. Our liaison team triggers changes to our frameworks, we bring qualifications in, Qualifications Wales commissions qualifications, we map industry standards into qualifications, so at that grass-roots level, it's trying to get to—. Are the skills fundamentally different? If they're not, we can work with the systems to ensure there's parity. It's where they're fundamentally different we have a problem, and that's in quite unique and strange areas, which is what we've found to date.
I think the other thing that's more important for us is to ensure that we get all the new technologies built through what we're doing. For us, software programming into engineering is a much more important priority. In that respect, we may be ahead of England—where we want to take our engineering apprenticeships. That is the answer for me—to come down below the systems to the skills, because they're not really different, the skill levels of one engineer or another. Individuals might have better skill levels than others, but, generally, there is parity when you look at those big sectors and they've been developing these types of skills for years, so we're all building up off that system.
That's the key point. We can dispute or debate how this is funded and what the funding streams are, but the key thing is that the programmes are designed and delivered in partnership so that students, employers and trainers are not disadvantaged. It's what's in the programmes and what actual work you're doing to ensure that that might be the case.
If I may conclude: HE—I understand that last week the higher education sector, working with employers, submitted their proposals for apprenticeship degrees to you. Again, do you expect or want to see parity in the availability of degree and higher level apprenticeships with those in England, utilising, where practical, levy funding to support that aim, given, particularly, that HE students—not always, but particularly—are more likely to travel away from their homes to study?
We've committed to a target of about 6,000 places on our higher apprenticeship programme every year, because, actually, that's where the skills gap is. And if you looked at our employability plan that we published a month ago, we had targets in there and one of the targets was that we want the qualification levels to be at least equal to England. The gap we have is actually on levels 5 and 6, not the kind of degree level courses. Levels 4 and 5, rather than 6, sorry. So, it's the technicians—that's the gap that we're trying to fill and that's why we've got a very clear picture of where we want to go on those higher level apprenticeships. So, that's where we are parking our tanks. Of course, now we will be moving into the degree apprenticeships, but it's very early days on that for us in Wales and, obviously, we're going to be very specific and targeted in terms of what kind of degree apprenticeships are on offer. But, to a large extent, that then becomes out of our control, because that's now been effectively handed over to the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the universities, and they have to find the employers for people to engage with on those degree apprenticeship courses.
I understand the submission made to you is with the employers who are already working with the universities in Wales on this agenda, so hopefully HEFCW will be able to engage with them.
If I can ask one very last one, as it's still a hot point—
Just briefly, yes—we're running out of time.
We received evidence originally regarding the impact on the police. They pay £2 million a year into the levy and, because of decisions in Wales, they've been unable to access that. Your predecessors have sometimes indicated that there was dialogue to find a resolution, although sometimes in the Chamber we've heard to the contrary. I know from my own meetings this is still a big issue for the police forces. What are you doing about it?
Just to be clear, we have given, and we give, support for apprenticeships within the police for the civil areas, so the kind of administrative side of things. We've given a lot of support for that, but there is a fundamental devolution issue in relation to the police, and that is that the police are non-devolved. Therefore, we think it is the responsibility of the UK Government to fund apprenticeships in that area.
Have they given you the money?
Can I add to that a little a bit? We talked earlier about ministerial priorities in different sectors. So, for example, we do prioritise engineering. We don't prioritise the police, primarily because of the lack of transferability of the skill set. If you're a trained police officer, trained to do policing, where else would you use that skill? That is something of a major issue for us.
However, this one is still in dialogue. We're in contact with the Home Office on it, the Home Office are very aware of this issue, and I am hoping that we will reach a satisfactory conclusion fairly soon, but we haven't got there yet.
My understanding is that the training would either be delivered at the police college, as currently, or on a hub and spoke into Wales with the police college. Either way, they need to utilise their funding, and, unfortunately, the blockage is here.
That discussion has not yet been concluded. We are still in negotiations with the Home Office, but we are very clear that that's a non-devolved area.
Okay, thank you. I think we better draw things to—. Rhianon, did you have a quick question?
Very quickly, then, thank you, in regard to—you've mentioned degree apprenticeships, and we've mentioned progression pathways throughout the whole of this session. How important is it, in terms of aspiration and ambition for Wales, that we do have those vertical progression routes, particularly for women, who are often working in the care sector in very low-paid jobs part time? There hasn't traditionally been that vertical progression to get out of that poverty trap, particularly after having children, so would you quickly outline before the end of the session how you feel about that and how important that is or not?
I think that one of the greatest challenges in Wales today is in-work poverty. Unless we address the issue of in-work poverty, we will not improve the poverty levels within our society. So, what we do need to do is upskill those people. Women are fundamental to that. Actually, there are more women trained as apprentices in Wales than England, but it's about that career progression. In-work progression is absolutely key, but we cannot and we will not stop at level 3. The gap we have is in those levels 4 and 5, and that's where we are absolutely determined to keep our focus.
Okay, thank you.
Minister, can I thank you for your time with us this morning and thank your officials as well for their contribution? We're very grateful, thank you.
I move to item 3. There are a number of papers to note. Are Members happy to note those papers? Yes.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o’r drafodaeth ar eitem 5, eitem 6 ac eitem 7 ac o ddechrau'r cyfarfod ar 25 Ebrill yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from items 5, 6 and 7 and for the start of the meeting on 25 April in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
I move to item 4. Under Standing Order 17.42, can I resolve that we exclude the members of the public for items 5, 6 and 7, which is the remainder of the meeting, and for the start of next week's meeting on 25 April? Thank you.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:28.
The public part of the meeting ended at 10:28.