Two in five apprentices are paying to work, survey finds

3 Nov 2017 By Hayley Kirton

Charity warns low minimum wage is leaving learners out of pocket

Two in five (43 per cent) apprentices take home less than it costs them to work and train, new research has warned.

The survey of 500 current and former apprentices, carried out on behalf of charity the Young Women’s Trust, revealed that, after paying for things such as travel to work, work clothing and childcare, many apprentices were paying more to go to work than they took home.

The problem was more pronounced for women, partly because they tend to opt for traditionally lower-paying apprenticeships, such as hairdressing and childcare. The survey found that female apprentices took home just £6.67 an hour on average, while male apprentices received an average of £7.25 an hour. Over the course of a year, this difference amounted to more than £1,000.

“Young women can struggle to start and stay in apprenticeships because of low pay, a lack of support and gender stereotypes that shut them out of vital sectors like construction and engineering,” said Dr Carole Easton, chief executive of the Young Women’s Trust. “The 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.”

Lizzie Crowley, skills adviser at the CIPD, said: “This study highlights differences in salary outcomes between male and female young apprentices, with women more likely to be concentrated in service sector apprenticeships that often pay less and have poorer opportunities for progression. More needs to be done to end this occupational segregation; access to high-quality careers information, advice and guidance, and gender-appropriate role models have an important part to play in addressing this challenge.”

The charity warned that its findings suggested the government might struggle to reach its target of creating three million apprenticeships by 2020. Last month, the Department for Education revealed that the number of new apprenticeship starts between May and July 2017 was just 43,600, down 61 per cent from 113,000 in the same period the year before.

An earlier survey by the charity also found that 62 per cent of young people had been put off doing an apprenticeship because of the low pay.

Other findings suggest that employers are often confused by apprenticeship minimum pay rules. While apprentices aged between 16 and 18, as well as those aged 19 and over who are in the first year of their apprenticeship, should receive at least £3.50 per hour, those aged 19 and over in the later years of their apprenticeship should receive the minimum wage they are entitled to for their age band.

Statistics from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, published in July, revealed that 18 per cent of apprentices were not being paid the correct minimum wage.

In light of its findings, the Young Women’s Trust is now calling for the minimum wage for apprentices to be significantly increased, for bursaries to be provided to young people training in key sectors, and for more apprenticeships to be offered on a part-time or flexible basis.

“More flexible and part-time apprenticeships, which require a minimum of 16 hours working per week, would certainly be welcome for young parents, and training providers are working with local employers to encourage more opportunities to be made available,” added Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers. “The government could also be doing more to promote awareness among employers that offering part-time apprenticeships is a good way to meet their skills needs in a tighter labour market.”

A government spokesperson said: “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.”

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