Wales has introduced a new engineering qualification, developed by Enginuity , to put the country on an equal footing with other countries across Europe. Employers in the sector have been urged to seize the opportunity to grow their own talent and close the nation's skills gap.
EAL centre, Coleg Cambria, have put the first learners through the training.
Wales joins a number of other European nations where Master Craftsperson qualifications are recognised, including Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The Master Craftsperson Diploma in Engineering is a higher apprenticeship used in other European nations.
Enginuity CEO Ann Watson explained why her organisation developed the new qualification, saying: "Wales controls its own skills system and the new Master Craftsperson qualification is unique in the UK.
"Wales has a strong engineering sector and the Welsh Government has identified the sector as one which will continue to play a key role in supporting Welsh prosperity, but more high level engineers are needed.
"I am delighted that the new qualification has been approved and would urge all engineering sector employers with skills needs at this level to start using it to upskill existing employees or develop new recruits."
The new qualification will allow engineering businesses to train the high level engineers they need to stay competitive.
The Royal Academy of Engineering estimates that Wales will need more than 2,500 engineering graduates over the next three years. Nearly 40% of workers in the advanced manufacturing and engineering sector are aged over 50 and nearly 10% are over 60 and set to retire in the next five years. With just 6% under 25, the shortage of engineers could be set to get worse if more aren't trained.
The Welsh Government has said the new qualification marks a milestone in ensuring Welsh prosperity.
Wales' Skills and Science Minister Julie James said "As one of our key priority sectors we are committed to growing Wales' already impressive Engineering capabilities. With exciting projects such as Wylfa Newydd in the North and the proposed Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon power plant in the South, this industry provides well paid employment opportunities for thousands of skilled workers across the country and we are determined to ensure that continues.
"Raising standards and ensuring Wales has the right skills and training to meet current and future economic needs sits right at the heart of our Taking Wales Forward agenda. A Master Craftsperson qualification allows us to nurture the best and brightest in the Welsh Engineering sector using the talent base within our existing workforce. Stronger mentoring and coaching skills for existing Engineering Technicians will allow us to develop skills for those who are recognised as leaders in the engineering field and I am pleased we have been able to support its introduction."
The first learners began training last month at Coleg Cambria. David Jones OBE, CEO of Coleg Cambria said: "We are delighted to be part of this innovative project linking with many of our industrial partners in north east Wales.
"The Master Craftsperson qualification gives us a unique opportunity to support the development of highly skilled employees and those who directly support higher apprentices. This initiative will further enhance current and future apprentice programmes to support the local economy."
Employers who want to find out more should contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0845 643 9001.