From education to employment

Apprenticeships during COVID-19, is what has been happening really acceptable?

Lottie James

Not only have apprentices lost their positions, had their ‘guaranteed’ jobs taken away and lost their 20% off-the-job training: they have also been furloughed on an embarrassingly low £3.31 an hour.

So let’s compare current part-time workers with the current apprentice wage. Currently, part-time workers between the ages of 18 and 20, are being furloughed on £5.16 an hour which is an incredible amount in comparison to the £3.31 an hour that all first year apprentices (regardless of age) are receiving. I probably need to mention that the national minimum wage for everyone but apprentices goes up depending on your age, and from 25+, you’re paid the National Living Wage, while apprentices in their first year, are still stuck on £4.15 an hour. In 2018/19, 46% of apprentices aged over 24, starting their first year, only earned £3.70 an hour. 

An apprenticeship contains full-time hours, and while it does depend on the workplace, it can be around 30 – 45 hours a week. Where part-time workers, on furlough, will gain around £77.40 for their weekly wage, based on average 15 hours of work, apprentices will get, at an average 30 hours a week, £99.60 under furlough. With part-time 18 year olds bringing in £154.80 for the same amount of hours, why are we treating our apprentices so poorly? 

I think it’s insulting that the apprenticeship is promoted to be this hands-on approach, gaining real-life industry experience, without the student loans and debts, yet apprentices can’t even afford the bus to work. They can’t afford the tools they need, the software they use, or the PPE they’re required to have. More and more apprentices turn to pay-day loans, bank loans, credit cards and more, just so they have enough to not only get to work, but to eat, pay their bills and live.

I am completely aware that an apprenticeship is used to upskill but yet, with all the requirements on the job description (usually the exact same as a full-time, permanent employee), you’d think they’d be paid closer to the wage they deserve (the same as everyone else), and though they’re likely to be completing the same tasks, work the same hours, they’re still seen to be a less valued employee. 

You could argue the 20% off the job training makes this massive difference, but most employers don’t even allow their apprentices to complete it (although, you do know it’s a legal requirement, right?), and considering you’re moulding this individual to effectively be highly-skilled for your workplace, the one day a week they get to be a student and learn about the industry, they shouldn’t be punished for. Constantly learning should be valued in all industries, an introduction of continuing professional development should support ensuring all staff stay up-to-date with the relevant goings on within their industry.

The National Society of Apprentices most recent report covers this unacceptable treatment of apprentices and much more. If you hire apprentices, are an apprentice, or know or apprentices, I’d recommend you give it a read. 


Charlie James, Learning Technologist, Basingstoke College of Technology, a Google Reference College in the South East of England

A strong believer in student-centered learning, Charlie has an affinity for technologies and approaches which empower and accommodate all learners. Charlie also has a keen interest in AI and machine learning, social media and the uses of data within education, and is proud to work with the National Society of Apprentices as part of the Leadership Team.


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