From education to employment

New report says better wages would improve retention rates.

The Government should enhance the minimum pay rate for apprentices to save them from the clutches of unscrupulous employers and improve the quality of training, thereby preventing apprenticeship dropout rates, a new report, “Decent Pay for Apprentices” by the Trades Union Congress has revealed.

TUC, the national trade union centre in the UK, represents the vast majority of organized workers from across the country. Its report on the meagre pay scale of British apprentices revealed another bleak reality- the gender wage gap for women- with female apprentices on average paid 26% less than their male counterparts, especially in areas such as hairdressing, early years education and social care.

Although apprenticeships are gateways to jobs for young adults, the quality of courses offered varies to a great extent. In most cases, inadequate training and payments as little as £1.54 an hour result in poor completion rates, the report pointed out.

Most apprentices are exempt from the minimum wage, but in 2005 the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) established a minimum payment of £80 a week for apprentices. Although it was partly effective in protecting apprentices from sheer exploitation, the TUC demands a further increment of their wages to at least £110, a week, a rough approximation of the minimum wage rate of youths (£3.40). TUC also stresses on the fact that increasing the minimum rate to £110 would be relatively inexpensive, only representing a tiny fraction of employers payroll expenditure.

Less than one in ten are paid between the LSC minimum rate of £80 and the TUC proposed rate of £110, the latest statistics on apprentice pay reveal. According to the promises of the prime minister, the issue of minimum wage exemptions for apprentices would be soon scrutinised by the Low Pay Commission. But changes of any sort are still a far cry from reality and are not expected before 2009, the TUC report claimed.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: Apprenticeship completion rates have improved significantly over the last couple of years, but there is still a long way to go. Increasing apprenticeship pay will raise their standing among young people and stop bad employers from undercutting good employers and undermining the apprenticeship programme by offering poor quality training on the cheap.

Rinku Chatterjee

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