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Apprentice pay: a disgrace


Young Women's Trust, survey, apprentice pay, pay-time apprenticeships, apprentice minimum wage, Apprentices are exploited by being given the same work as non- apprentice workers.

Just one in five MPs think the apprentice minimum wage is enough to live on, a Young Women’s Trust survey has shown

Less than half (45 per cent) of the MPs questioned in a ComRes survey for National Apprenticeship Week said they would encourage someone to undertake a job paid £3.50 an hour – the apprentice’s minimum wage.

This is despite MPs firmly believing that more young people should take on apprenticeships; 83 per cent said they were concerned that some young people are encouraged to go to university when an apprenticeship might be more appropriate.

And earlier Young Women’s Trust research showed that apprentices are some of the hardest hit financially, with two in five spending more on the role than they earn.

The Young Women’s Trust polled apprentices and found that half struggled to cover basic living costs and transport to work.

Others have told the Young Women’s Trust that they were put off doing an apprenticeship altogether because it wasn’t financially viable.

The legal apprentice minimum wage of £3.50 an hour falls far short of the government’s £7.50 ‘National Living Wage’, leaving apprentices £7,280 a year worse off than workers aged 25 and over.

And the Young Women’s Trust has found that, in some cases, apprentices on the minimum wage are being exploited by being given the same work and responsibilities as non- apprentice workers.

A separate survey of more than 4,000 young people by the charity found that raising the apprentice minimum wage was one of the most popular ideas the government could implement.

That policy was supported by 83 per cent of respondents, and was more popular than abolishing university tuition fees, which 59 per cent agreed with.

Another issue was raised in a report from Young Women’s Trust, Trust for London, ‘flexibility experts’ Timewise and the Learning and Work Institute, and published last month: potentially thousands of people are missing out on the opportunity to train because of the lack of part-time apprenticeship opportunities.

Just one in ten apprentices are contracted for less than 30 hours per week, leaving such training out of reach for many who are unable to work full-time – particularly women, people with caring responsibilities, disabled people and young people leaving the care system.

Instead, these groups often find themselves in low-skilled work with little opportunity to progress, or out of work altogether.

Existing reports show that opportunities are particularly lacking for women trying to enter male-dominated sectors like engineering, IT and construction.

Women instead tend to go into lower-paid sectors, such as care and beauty, contributing to an apprentice gender pay gap of eight per cent – or more than £1,000 a year.

They often receive less training during their apprenticeship and are less likely to get a job afterwards.

But supporting more women into apprenticeships would benefit businesses that are experiencing skills shortages – particularly in areas like construction and engineering.

This report showed that employers see a huge potential for part-time apprenticeships to increase diversity.

Polling by YouGov for Young Women’s Trust showed that more than half of employers (54 per cent) would be willing to offer part-time apprenticeships, including 65 per cent of employers in the public sector.

Despite these findings and some excellent examples of employers making part-time apprenticeships work, many employers – wrongly-  continue to believe there is no demand, or that part-time apprenticeships would be difficult to administer.

Meanwhile, potential apprentices found that resources such as the government’s ‘Find an Apprenticeship’ service did not allow them to search for part-time apprenticeships, meaning many thought they were simply not available.

The organisations behind the research now hope to develop and test a model of part-time apprenticeships that will benefit both businesses that are experiencing skills shortages and those looking to get back into work or progress their careers on a part time basis.

The Young Women’s Trust chief executive Carole Easton said: “Young people – and especially young women – are being shut out of apprenticeships by low pay.

“Their wage barely covers the bus to work, let alone bills and rent.

“Even MPs agree that the £3.50 apprentice minimum wage is not enough to live on.

“If it is serious about supporting more people into apprenticeships, the government must significantly raise the apprentice minimum wage.

“Creating a system that makes apprenticeships attractive and accessible to a wider range of people will bring huge benefits to employers and the economy as a whole.

“It’s time the government made apprenticeships work for young people.”

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