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Exclusive: ‘Apprenticeships – earn while you learn’

David Way, National Director for Apprenticeships at LSC writes his monthly column for FE News. This month he discusses fair pay for apprentices.

The World-class Apprenticeship review was published at the end of January. Since then, I have met with a wide range of employers, learners, training providers and stakeholders. We have listened to their views on Apprenticeships and how we can boost the number offered by employers and the take up by young people. All these views have been instrumental in helping us shape the future National Apprenticeship Service which will be fully operational by April 2009.
Apprenticeship pay has been highlighted in the Government’s review and by responding the LSC contract requires that every apprentice is paid a minimum of £80 per week. Mark Haysom, LSC Chief Executive, wrote to all providers earlier in the year to remind them of this requirement. Any apprentice who is paid less than that should contact their local Learning and Skills Council.
This figure is very much a minimum though. Many apprentices are paid much more. We run a bi-annual survey to learn about real levels of pay and this provides a great insight. Our most recent survey in 2007 showed the average net pay per week for an apprentice was £170.
We know part of the appeal of becoming an apprentice is the ability to earn while you learn. Net pay per week had increased since 2005 across all industry sectors but there is a variance between different industry sectors. The average paid to an apprentice in hairdressing was £109, compared to £210 to those in the highest paying sector, Electrotechnical. Those on a Level Three Advanced Apprenticeship earn on average £20 a week more than those on Level 2 and apprentices aged over 21 earn on average of £199 per week compared with £140 for those aged 18 and under.
When I spoke with members of the National Learners Panel a few weeks ago, they made it clear that they supported the planned expansion in Apprenticeship places offered by employers. While wanting to see higher payments to apprentices forcing this on some employers could be counter productive. Apprentices need to feel valued and that they are making a contribution to a business which is recognised appropriately. We also know that an apprentice will take time to become fully productive for their employer and that their salary training wage often reflects this too. All of this will be considered by the Low Pay Unit who are looking at the training wage for apprentices and are due to report later in the year.
Another important area for apprentices is back-up and support. An apprentice may often be the youngest member of a team, or even an organisation and we need to ensure they are not isolated and discouraged which would adversely affect their confidence and progress. We are looking at building more support networks for these apprentices and are currently considering the best practice of support that groups such as the Humber Learning Panel have achieved.
A further area we can highlight is that of good practice in rewarding apprentices as they travel along their career path. Something the pay survey highlighted was examples of employers giving incremental pay rises and bonus increases as a result of passing certain Four in ten apprentices who had completed theelements of the Apprenticeship. NVQ component of the Apprenticeship framework said their pay increased as a result. On average they received a pay rise of £36 per week. One in ten apprentices also said they had received a bonus as a result of completing their NVQ.
An Apprenticeship is a great way to earn while you learn. Over a career, an apprentice can expect to earn £100,000 more than someone without a qualification. This shows the value that businesses place on the skills they help develop in young people and the importance of integrating apprentices successfully into long-term business plans.
David Way, National Director of Apprenticeships, LSC

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