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NUS calls for end to ‘exploitative’ pay rates for apprentices

by on February 23, 2015

Back to youth (un)employment. The BBC News website features this item in which the National Union of Students calls for higher wages for apprentices (at least the national minimum wage) if the apprenticeship programme is to solve youth unemployment.  It is reported to say that many apprenticeships are not financially viable, leading many to take another jobs at the same time.

This relates in part to the age-differentiated wages under apprenticeship schemes. The NUS claims that the apprentice minimum wage of £2.73 an hour for 16 to 18-year-olds, and 19-year-olds in their first year, is “exploitative” and doesn’t cover basic living expenses, arguing that apprentices cannot afford to travel to their place of work or study, or take time off sick.

It raises some interesting questions including the notion of incentives to employers to take on apprentices through being exempted from National Insurance payments for each apprentice they take on.  Plus the low pay rates noted above (£2.73 an hour equates to £95 for a 35-hour week). Remenber our post a week or so ago about the Barclays’ over-50 apprenticeship scheme and the reader comment about whether this new scheme would be just another form of ‘cheap labour’ (from an older worker age group) for employer organizations?

The article refers to a report (whose focus is on the individual everyday experience of being a young apprentice) but there was no link from the BBC site/ After some hunting, I managed to find it here (called Forget Me Not) on a beta NUS website. It’s billed as seeking to ‘initiate a long overdue and serious debate over the state of support for apprentices, and lead to a commitment to removing the financial barriers which currently exist‘. It would certainly be interesting to hear more on the discrepancies between what students v apprentices can access such as bursaries and interest-free bank accounts for the former but not the latter; the article also mentions the impact on family budgets given how apprenticeships do not count as “approved” education or training courses in relation to child benefit for those 16 and over.

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