There were other benefits – most popular was a bike scheme provided by employers, but more important, 13.3 per cent said their apprentices were entitled to a pension and 9 per cent said that their apprentices received the same benefits as fully-qualified staff.
The IDS survey of 7,000 employers also confirmed work the TUC has already carried on comparing pay rates between men and women apprentices. Previous research shows a pay gap of 21 per cent and the survey showed a clear concentration of female apprenticeships in the lower-paying sectors, such as hairdressing and social care. For example, in Extractive and Mineral Processing Occupations where the average salary was £17,609, no female apprentices were recorded. On average, contracted apprenticeship hours were found to be 36.8 per week, actual hours worked were 34.3 hours with 7.3 hours spent in off-the-job training. Contracted working hours ranged from a maximum of 39.3 hours in Arts, Media & Publishing, down to an average of 35.3 hours per week in Retail and Commercial Enterprises.
When employers were asked why they employed apprentices, 98 per cent said that they recruited apprentices to train the workforce of the future, 85 per cent said apprentice schemes provided value for money and 32.9 per cent said they employed apprentices because they received funding to do so. Employers (88.7%) agreed that it is the best way to learn and almost 80 per cent said it was a way to bring in younger workers to an aging workforce. When employers were asked why they did not employ apprentices, four out of ten said they prefer to recruit fully-trained staff, a third said that a lack of funding was the reason they did not employ apprentices and more than a quarter (27.3%) said they did not employ apprentices because they did not know how to do so.
This is all useful information, but it is only a start. It is imperative that the government carries out an annual survey on this subject. What the IDS survey shows, and this was borne at the Apprenticeship Awards, is that the most successful apprenticeships are those in the companies which are unionised and provide high quality schemes with good pay and conditions. However, too many employers are not doing enough to provide and fund apprenticeship places.
And on the subject of apprenticeships: look out in Tuesday's Education Guardian for an interesting unionlearn Roundtable on the subject. Skills minister John Hayes joined Frances O'Grady, TUC deputy general secretary, Gordon Marsden, shadow skills minister, and representatives from BAE Systems, SERCO and Caterpillar among others for a thoughtful and thought-provoking debate.
Tom Wilson, is director of unionlearn, the TUC's learning and skills organisation
Read other FE News articles by Tom Wilson:
Why workplace learning can be the best learning