Embarking on an apprenticeship is an excellent way for a young person to make the move into the working world.

However, the apprenticeship wage leaves a lot to be desired, with the national minimum wage for apprentices, as of April 2017, being just £3.50 per hour.

The UK government aims to create a further three million apprenticeships by 2020, but apprenticeship take up rates are down for the moment.

This isn’t deterring apprenticeship agencies from encouraging youngsters to take on these roles, though. But, with wages low, how do individuals survive on a low pay apprenticeship?

Why are apprenticeship wages so low?

Businesses are taking a risk by employing individuals, usually fresh out of school, with little or no experience in their sector.

References can’t be obtained or skills cross-referenced, either. Instead, these companies provide the opportunity to learn on the job, to gain valuable knowledge and skills which can see people further their career in that company or make the leap into a organization following successful completion of their apprenticeship.

From a business perspective, many are paying out considerable training costs, which include fees for paying professional trainers and allowing existing members of staff time off from their day to day roles to support those just starting out.

Rental costs

Many apprentices are lucky enough to still live at home with their parents or guardians, but it’s likely they’ll be being charged rent.

Parents may assume that because their child has got a job they’re being paid the standard national wage, which for those aged 18-20, is £5.60 per hour.

Apprentices should ensure they sit their parents down and discuss their rate of pay and how much they can feasibly afford to pay in rent.

Most parents will happily come to a reasonable compromise with their child when they fully understand their circumstances.

Those living alone, with friends or a partner may find they struggle more than those living at home. This is where relying on a support work can be of particular benefit.

It may even be advantageous to temporarily return to the family home in order to save on living costs.

However, if this isn’t possible, it’s advisable to carefully budget funds and every outgoing and make cutbacks where possible.

Food and drink

There’s the opportunity to make big savings by cutting back on shop bought sandwiches and coffees. According to Vouchercloud, purchasing a ready-made lunch every day costs, on average, £1,288 a year, which is a considerable chunk of any apprentice’s annual salary. Therefore, ditching the morning coffee shop stop and the supermarket lunch and taking a packed lunch and a flask to work is an absolute must for any low-paid apprentice. When grocery shopping, vouchers and coupons can be utilised to gain discounts on goods. It’s also worth apprentices shopping in budget supermarkets and shops, meal planning for the week and selecting low cost brands.

Additional work

Apprentices struggling to make ends meet could consider taking on an additional job at the weekend to bring in some extra income. However, they should be sure not to burn themselves out to the extent that it will affect their productivity in their apprenticeship role. There’s the option to gain some cash from the comfort of home, too, by participating in surveys, using cashback websites when making online purchases and seeking out work on online freelance marketplace sites.

Consider the future

The main aim of an apprenticeship is to develop lifelong workplace skills which can be utilised long in to the future. Individuals should ensure that their apprenticeship is right for them and will benefit their long term career plans.

If they can’t see the benefit, then it may be worth considering alternative further education options which will better facilitate their future goals.

Finding ways to overcome money stress is important for a happy and healthy life and, if apprentices are pointlessly struggling on a low wage when their skills could be put to better use elsewhere and provide them with a higher income, this option should be considered.

Apprenticeships offer many benefits and an excellent way of introducing individuals to the working environment, whilst providing them with a source of income.

However, wages are typically low and apprentices should make the effort to cut their costs and increase their funds, where possible.

Chrissy Hatfield, Freelance Writer and Editor

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