#UndervaluedApprentices - Almost half of apprentices in England (45%) are not confident that they are receiving the 20% off-the-job training required, a new survey by The Apprentice Voice (TAV) reveals.

The same research also shows that a third of apprentices (32.7%) spend more than a fifth of their monthly salary on travel costs. 

The Apprentice Voice was founded by three young apprentices in April 2019 with the aim of representing apprentices’ views to initiate positive change in the system. A total of 370 apprentices across the country responded to the survey, with the research also showing that apprentices still face stigma from colleagues, friends and family, and have few social opportunities to interact with other apprentices.

Two-thirds (67.5%) of apprentices surveyed face stigma or stereotyping – 58% said the stigma came from colleagues and peers, 26% experienced it from friends, 19% from teachers, and 10% from parents. And more than a fifth said that they’d like to see more opportunities to socialise with other apprentices. 

The Apprentice Voice says, “For far too long the government focus has been on increasing apprenticeship starts (three million starts by 2020) and we believe that the ambitious target has been prioritised over quality.”

The group of apprentices believe that by working with apprentices to help address the issues they currently face, the government can work towards increasing retention, before ultimately growing participation. Apprenticeship completion rates have plateaued at around two-thirds, meaning that it is now more important than ever to focus on quality and not quantity.

The report proposes six recommendations for the apprenticeship programme:

1. Reduce public transport costs for apprentices

The minimum wage for an apprentice is £3.90 an hour and salaries for most 18-24 year old apprentices are generally low, so spending a fifth of their net salary on travel is a significant cost. Apprentices were promised a reduction in travel costs at the last election and we would like to see this commitment adopted and honoured by all parties. We recommend 50% off public transport, in line with the 16-17 saver railcard and The Apprentice Travelcard available to apprentices aged 19-24 across the Liverpool City Region.

2. Penalise employers and training providers that fail to adhere to the off-the-job training

Employers and training providers that fail to adhere to the 20 per cent off-the-job training requirement should face penalties – and more emphasis should be given to the fact that it is a legal requirement. Employers should be encouraged to regularly check in with their apprentices to monitor their progression and training providers need to be more alert to employers who do not comply with off-the-job training provision.  

3. Introduce severe consequences for schools failing to adhere to the Baker Clause

The Baker Clause stipulates that schools must allow colleges and training providers access to every student in Years 8 to 13 to discuss all 16-plus options available to them including apprenticeships, training and further education. However, there has been growing concern that compliance with the legislation has been poor and young people are not fully informed of all their options. 

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4. Create an anonymous whistleblowing service

Create an anonymous whistleblowing service for apprentices to report illegal practice Apprentices should be able to confidentially report foul play by either employers or training providers via a website or hotline without jeopardising their futures.

5. Make apprentices subject to the same universal minimum wage

The apprentice minimum wage is too low, is often ignored and should be abolished making apprentices subject to the same universal minimum wage. Apprentices deserve a wage that can support their living costs. By setting the wage so low, it reinforces the perception that apprenticeships only lead to low paid and low skilled jobs. Abolishing the apprentice minimum wage would send a clear message that this is not the case.

Apprentices bring economic value to their employers and this should be recognised in their wage. The idea that apprentices should have a lower minimum wage than other workers to offset their education costs is regressive and unfair.

6. Set up a specialist ‘Apprentice Experience’ organisation

If apprenticeships are to be more appealing to young people and to give them the support they need in order to complete, the social opportunities available to apprentices should be considered. A new or existing organisation should take on the responsibility of organising social and networking events among apprentices.

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