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Employment & Skills
08 Feb 2023 3 minute read

Apprenticeship developments in Wales: new qualifications, boosting recruitment and growing our influence

Andrew Eldred

Director of Workforce and Public Affairs, ECA

Apprenticeship developments in Wales: new qualifications, boosting recruitment and growing our influence

New qualifications 

Wales now has in place its own distinctive and self-sufficient vocational educational system – a key element of the devolution settlement. ECA members in Wales played an active part in helping this to come about within the construction and built environment sector, and we now need to boost our engagement with education providers and Welsh Government even further.

A new Welsh electrotechnical apprenticeship framework and linked Level 3 qualification launched at the start of the 2022/23 academic year. ECA members and staff had significant input into the content and assessment strategies of both the framework and the qualification, which continue to align well with apprenticeships in other UK nations, as well as with the industry’s own standards, such AM2 and ECS.

Unfortunately, the number of electrical apprentice starts seemed to drop back this Autumn, in comparison with earlier years. This is not unusual when new qualifications are first introduced. In the present case, however, it looks like another factor could be some unwelcome spending cuts by Welsh Government, which I will return to later on. 

Back on the more positive side of the ledger, last year also saw the development of a new fire and security apprenticeship framework and L3 qualification – bringing Wales into line with the other parts of the UK, all three of which had a specialist apprenticeship already in place. 

Jointly funded by ECA/ FSA and SSAIB, this was an employer-led development, with a steering committee made up of several ECA members and staff, and chaired by Gareth Selway of ECA and FSA member, Fire Rite. Pending confirmation from Welsh Government, we expect to see the new framework and qualification rolling out by the beginning of the 2023/24 academic year.

Boosting recruitment

As in other parts of the UK, electrical employers in Wales still aren’t recruiting new entrants in anything like big enough numbers. Average annual recruitment rates in Wales of around 350 apprentices (c. 2.5% of the workforce) are less than half those in Scotland (5%-6%) and even below some parts of England (3%-4%). Other training routes, such as experienced worker assessment or ‘accelerated apprenticeships’ for full-time college learners and career changers, are either not available in Wales or can prove tricky for learners and employers to navigate.

One of our priorities this year, therefore, will be to celebrate those ECA members in Wales who are already recruiting higher numbers of new entrants (4%-5%) each year, and to explore how their example might help others to replicate this success. Given the essential role electricians of the future will play in delivering ambitious national plans for net zero, we feel that Welsh Government too will have an interest in promoting such exemplar employers to other businesses and sectors.

We are therefore interested in hearing from you if you are an ECA member in Wales and have an electrical trade workforce in which apprentices and other learners (e.g., adult trainees and those undertaking the TESP Experienced Worker Assessment) already constitute 16%-20%. We are also keen to hear from ECA members in Wales who aren’t there yet but want to find out more about how to move in this direction. In either case, please drop us a line now to

Growing ECA members’ influence

Over the past few years, ECA has significantly extended its contacts with Welsh Government and other national and regional bodies shaping education and skills provision in Wales. When, therefore, members in South Wales alerted us last September to apparent cuts in electrical apprentice places offered by the Cardiff and Vale College consortium, ECA was able to secure a meeting between two REC members and the Welsh Government’s head of apprenticeships within a week. 

Whilst too late to alter the position straight away, civil servants’ exposure to powerful representations from ECA’s South Wales REC on behalf of almost 80 employers and apprentices impacted by these cuts did at least confirm the strength of industry feeling on the matter. It has also shone an unforgiving light on an apparent contradiction between Welsh Government’s ambitious net zero plans and their withdrawal of funding support for the next generation of ‘green’ electricians. Welsh Government thereafter were quick to contact ECA again when, two months later, Welsh Government announced the release of a second tranche of apprenticeship funding – allowing at least some of the previously disappointed employers and apprentices to pick up again where they had left off.

Building contacts and influence is a slow process, but we are continuing to make progress. As well as our national level contacts, ECA is now a member of both the Cardiff Capital Region and West Wales Skills Partnerships – and chasing up both North Wales and Mid Wales RSPs as well! ECA’s Leading the Charge Campaign and ECA members’ crucial role in Wales’ adoption of net zero technologies are soon to be highlighted in the Welsh Government’s upcoming Net Zero Skills Action Plan, due for publication in March 2023.

Most welcome of all, during the last quarter of 2022 ECA members confirmed a keen interest in establishing a dedicated Skills Forum for Wales. The Forum’s purpose would be to give more structure and focus to ECA’s engagement with education policy and delivery in Wales, and in the process increase our ability to influence important decisions – up to and including decisions on skills priorities and funding. Although serviced by the South Wales region, membership of the Skills Forum will be open equally to Wales-based members from ECA’s West Midlands and North-West regions. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact

Andrew Eldred

Andrew Eldred

Director of Workforce and Public Affairs, ECA

Before joining ECA, Andrew spent four-and-a-half years as Crossrail’s Head of Employee Relations. Prior to this he worked for the Olympic Delivery Authority’s delivery partner, and for several years in employee relations roles at the BESA and the Engineering Construction Industry Association.

Andrew is a member of the JIB National Board, director of Evolve (formerly Blue Sky) Pensions Ltd,. a trustee-director of the apprentice training charity JTL and a regular guest lecturer at Exeter University’s Business School.

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