A new £5 million Innovation Fund is to be established to support Further Education (FE) colleges look at new ways to support learners, the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles has announced.

The fund will invest in projects which aim to support learners in key areas including skill development, wellbeing and resilience and adaptability while helping FE colleges work together.

Supporting creative solutions is at the heart of the fund; encouraging colleges to explore new ways of working and continuing to ensure Wales is a place where people of all ages receive a high-quality education. Colleges have already implemented successful initiatives like Junior Apprenticeships, Employment Bureaus and Accelerated Learning programmes, the fund will look to expand on these already successful programmes.

Alongside this, the Minister has also allocated further funding to FE colleges to help with rising costs. Over £2.5 million will be used to support learners undertaking vocational programmes by helping colleges to cover the increased costs of consumable materials like wood and steel, critical to vocational courses such as construction.

The Financial Contingency Fund will also receive a boost of £1.345 million. The fund supports learners who are experiencing financial hardship, enabling them to continue to access a college education. Learners who might be entitled to this support should get in touch with their college.

Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, said:

The cost-of-living crisis represents significant challenge to colleges, so we need to look at new ways of working. The Innovation Fund will allow FE providers to consider creative new ways of working and collaborating with others in the sector to benefit learners.

I look forward to seeing new concepts and I know providers will rise to the challenge.

Money should never be a barrier to accessing education, which is why I am also pleased to increase funding to the Financial Contingency Fund, which will now be able to assist more learners. This can help with costs like meals, childcare and travel to make sure learners facing low income can keep learning.