From education to employment

“You’d be forgiven for thinking it was an April Fools joke”: The apprentice minimum wage has today increased by 20%, but apprentices say it’s still not enough.

As of today (1st April 2024), £6.40 per hour is the new minimum wage for apprentices in their first year of training – a huge increase from the previous rate of £5.28.

However, the rate still leaves apprentices the poorest paid workers in the UK, with1 in 3 apprentices aged 18-22 paid under the national minimum wage.

The rate applies to apprentices of all ages, leaving apprentices with rents, mortgages and children on the same minimum wage as16-17 year olds.A new report from the Low Pay Commission estimates that 31 thousand apprentices are on the apprentice minimum wage, 15.5% of all apprentices.

Apprentices say that this puts a huge strain on their finances, unable to support themselves without going into debt, let alone their children and dependants.

Tony Scannell, an apprentice mechanic from Northern Ireland, says that on this wage, it would take him almost 300 hours to be able to afford the costs of his essential tools alone, not accounting for his cost of living.

NUS UK and the National Society of Apprentices are campaigning for the government to raise the apprentice minimum wage to the Real Living Wage, and introduce grants so apprentices do not have to go into debt to buy the tools they need to do their apprenticeships.

Commenting, NUS UK Vice President Further Education, Bernie Savage, said:

“Apprenticeships are amazing opportunities for people to train, retrain and upskill without taking on debt.

“They are also vital for a green transition and tackling the climate crisis, allowing oil and gas workers to put their skills to use in more environmentally friendly professions.

“However, people cannot afford to take advantage of these opportunities if they require sacrificing a liveable wage for one that is barely half of the national minimum wage.

“We urge the government to urgently increase the apprentice minimum wage to the Real Living Wage of £12 an hour, as set out by the Living Wage Foundation.”

Susan Loughlin and Simon Hawthorn from the National Society of Apprentices commented:

“£6.40 is still barely half what the Government’s Social Mobility Commission say is needed to even survive. 

“Apprentices are workers as well as learners. We are building your houses, running your childcare centres and designing the planes you go on holiday in.

“Creating an educated, highly skilled workforce is crucial to improving our country, to filling the skills gaps and providing a space for all of us to become our best selves.

“The idea that apprentices should have enough money to be able to get to work, have enough to eat, pay their rent and even have some fun should not be controversial.

 “It’s time for a living wage for all, apprentices included.”

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