Cuts 'will undo' apprenticeship work, training body says
The main body providing apprenticeships in Wales is warning that budget cuts by the Welsh government will have a "massively de-stabilising effect" on the programmes.
National Training Federation Wales (NTfW) said funding will drop from £105m this year to £74m in 2015/16.
Ministers are giving priority to apprentices aged 16 to 24 and to higher level apprenticeships.
Around half of apprentices are aged over 25 years old.
NTfW operations manager Jeff Protheroe told BBC Wales that the funding cut for over 25s means there will only be enough money to fund 7,000 apprentices, down from just under 24,000 this year.
He said: "It's going to have a massively destabilising effect on the apprentice programme in Wales which is one of the most successful in Europe.
"We have a very high success rate and high completion rates, and for the last two years the Welsh government and NTfW have been working hard to try and raise the awareness of apprenticeships as an alternative to higher education and other forms of education.
"And I think a lot of that hard work will be undone because we now have a situation where we've created a demand but, because of budget reductions, we're unable to fulfil that demand."
A Welsh government said it faced "unprecedented cuts" from the UK government and a 10% fall in real-term budgets in 2015-016.
"In spite of these challenges, we have been able to maintain funding for traineeships, we have continued to fund apprenticeships for younger people aged 16-24 and we have maintained our support for higher level apprenticeships," said a spokesperson.
"We will continue to work closely with the network and NTfW to see where and how we can mitigate the impact of these cuts."
But Mr Protheroe said he thinks those over 25 need apprenticeships just as much as anyone else.
He said: "What you'll find is that a lot of employers will use apprenticeships to progress and develop their workforce.
"And when you bear in mind that a lot of individuals go into new roles then employers will use those programmes to develop the skills of these individuals as they move through their career path.
"So apprenticeships are just as important for people of 25 and over as they are for people aged 16-24."
Another issue of concern for apprentice providers is that, as of 1 April 2015, the Welsh government will no longer fully fund the costs of apprenticeships for employers if the apprentice is over 25.
In future, the promise is to pay "up to 50% of the costs".
Terry Williams runs Terry's Patisserie in Aberbargoed, Caerphilly. She set up the company 19 months ago and supplies cakes and tarts to hotels and restaurants.
She works with Jason Shuck, who has just finished his apprenticeship.
Because Terry is trying to build up the company, she says she does not take a salary for herself; the money goes straight back into the business.
She says she could not afford to take on another apprentice if she had to pay all the training costs as well as a salary.
She said: "It takes a lot of time and energy to train someone up and it does cost money to do it.
"We expected, when Jason started, literally for him to turn up and have good manners. And from there we would teach him the skills. We wouldn't be able to do that, to afford to pay for that, just for someone to come in to learn these skills.
"We would have gone for someone who already had those skills."