Earn while you learn. But is that the reality for apprentices?


To mark the midway point of the government’s plan to recruit 3 million apprentices by 2020, the Young Women’s Trust (YWT) conducted a survey to see how financially viable it is for apprentices on these schemes.

Conducting a survey of 500 apprentices, it showed that two in five apprentices spend more than they earn. The apprentices said that after they’ve paid for work clothes, travel and childcare, there’s not much to live on. And with more than half the apprentices being paid as little as £3.50 an hour, it’s not surprising. Many apprentices said that they were put off doing apprenticeships because they can’t afford to.

The YWT also says that the situation is harder on young women, as they’re more likely to have childcare costs. The same can be said for parents too. Three in five apprentices with children say their apprenticeship costs more than they earn, and that a lack of part-time / flexible apprenticeships means they struggle to balance family and work. 36% of apprentices are receiving some kind of state benefit whilst completing their training.

What’s more, female apprentices face an 8% pay gap. Much of this pay gap is down to the widespread gender segregation that we see in the broader employment market. One in 25 engineering apprentices is female. The average pay for this sector is £289 a week. Compared with female dominated sectors such as hairdressing and childcare where we see weekly pay sit at £161 and £206 respectively.

As such the YWT has put forward recommendations to make apprenticeships for women and they are as follows:

  • Significantly increasing the apprentice minimum wage, so more people can afford to undertake apprenticeships
  • Providing bursaries to support young people to train in key sectors
  • Working with local authorities to ensure apprentices are able to access childcare support even when working part-time, including ensuring local provision is adequately funded and available
  • Extending Care to Learn eligibility to apprentices and increasing the upper age limit to 25
  • Providing more apprenticeships on a flexible and part-time basis to help people balance family and work

Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton OBE said: “If the Government is to meet its target of creating three million apprenticeships by 2020 and plug the UK’s skills gap, it must take action to make apprenticeships work for young women. 

“Young women can struggle to start and stay in apprenticeships due to low pay, a lack of support and gender stereotypes that shut them out of vital sectors like construction and engineering.  

“Young Women’s Trust would like to see clear pathways made available to young people with low or no qualifications, so they can start apprenticeships and progress to the higher levels. Much greater provision of part-time and flexible apprenticeships would also help young mothers and carers in particular, who often have to balance care with work, to start and stay in apprenticeships. 

“The Government must also raise the apprentice minimum wage if it is serious about supporting more young people into apprenticeships. Lots of young people tell us they can’t afford to do an apprenticeship; the £3.50 an hour minimum wage barely covers the bus to work, let alone bills and rent. It’s time the Government made apprenticeships work for young people.” 

A government spokesperson said in response “Our number one priority is to help young people secure work while gaining experience and apprenticeships do just that, often leading to higher paid jobs in the future. That is reflected in the minimum wage rate structure, with rate rises in April 2017 giving apprentices their second pay rise in just six months. 

“The Government wants to see more girls in apprenticeships in higher-paying sectors like engineering and has launched funding schemes in schools to increase female take-up of subjects like science, technology and maths."

The apprenticeships are well-meaning. They’re also a vital alternative to further education. However, clearly, they come at a price. The question is, how much are apprentices willing to – or can – pay? And whether it’s sustainable.


Wednesday, 8 November 2017

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Earn while you learn. But is that the reality for apprentices?
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