THE success of a pioneering apprenticeship programme that is breathing new life into the advanced manufacturing sector in South Wales has been recognised with a prestigious national award.

Aspire Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil’s shared apprenticeship programme won the large employer of the year award at the virtual apprenticeship awards Cymru 2021 ceremony on June 17.

The shared apprenticeship programme was created six years ago to tackle high unemployment and relatively low skill levels within the manufacturing industry across the two areas.

The programme has directly benefited 123 apprentices, as well as companies that have adopted its innovative approach. Learners are rotated around host employers to plug skills gaps by training on-the-job and working to achieve units towards their apprenticeship.

Celebrating outstanding achievement in training and apprenticeships, the apprenticeship awards Cymru 2021 saw 35 finalists compete in 12 categories.

Highlight of the work-based learning calendar, the awards showcased businesses and individuals who have excelled on the Welsh Government’s apprenticeship and traineeship programmes and gone the extra mile to achieve success during these unprecedented times.

Jointly organised by the Welsh Government and the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW), the awards had Openreach, the UK’s digital network business and passionate supporter of apprenticeships, as the headline sponsor.

Cllr David Davies, executive member for regeneration and economic development said: "These awards are a brilliant opportunity to demonstrate, celebrate and showcase the importance of apprenticeships throughout Wales, whilst highlighting the incredible hard work of individuals, employers and providers.

"A huge congratulations to the Blaenau Gwent Aspire and Aspire Merthyr teams who are making a great contribution through their Shared Apprenticeship Programme. I am so proud of what has been achieved as the competition in this category was extremely high, which makes the win even more impressive."

The apprenticeship programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund. Welsh Government apprenticeship programmes have benefitted 50,360 people across South East Wales since May 2016.

Aspire’s shared apprenticeship programme was first established in 2015 when Ebbw Vale enterprise zone board identified a significant lack of employees with skills at Level 3 and above in Blaenau Gwent. Two years later, Merthyr Tydfil joined to develop its business growth and enhance skills whilst tackling unemployment.

Aspire is now working with both Coleg y Cymoedd, who link with Coleg Gwent, and Coleg Merthyr Tydfil to foster the next generation of skilled workers through apprenticeships covering electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, ICT, applied science, quality engineering as well as business/commercial administration and finance.

With a target to recruit 20 new apprentices every year, Aspire has achieved a 100 per cent success rate through a team facilitating their employment with hosts and then dealing with any issues as they occur. More than 30 employers have engaged with the programme.

"Aspire is a true example of collaboration,” said Matthew Tucker, Coleg y Cymoedd’s assistant principal. “The success of the programme has made Aspire a leading project in the sector.”


Congratulating Aspire, minister for the economy, Vaughan Gething, said: “Our award winners have excelled via the Welsh Government’s Apprenticeship and Traineeship programmes and gone the extra mile to achieve success during unprecedented and extremely challenging times.

“This Welsh Government has ambitious recovery plans to ensure there is no lost generation as we rebuild a new version of Wales that becomes an engine for sustainable, inclusive growth. I believe apprenticeships will be vital as we emerge from the pandemic.

“That’s why the new Welsh Government has committed to creating a further 125,000 Apprenticeship places over the next five years. We are a small country, but we have big ambitions, and our aim is to create a culture in Wales where recruiting an apprentice becomes the norm for employers.”