Apprenticeship wages, and the missing million

I usually refrain from this kind of thing, so if you want to pass it by, feel free. [tl:dr injustice is unjust]

Countryfile is a wonderful programme if you want to find out how relatively well off people think the countryside works or should work. It’s a heady mix of agricultural business, cute fluffy things, a Children in Need calendar and tonight’s hot potato the rural bus. These are (we are told) becoming more endangered (partly) as a result of cuts to local government funding and the apparent lack of private sector infill. Cue an interview with a typical young person, who is an apprentice wedding planner.

She’s a keen young person with an apprenticeship under way, but is occasionally let down by public transport and was happy to talk to camera about the inconvenience. Halfway through the piece her employer suggested young people might not want to work for 130 odd quid a week if their travel is costing a large proportion of that.

I’m sorry, £130 is a wage? Assuming a 52 week year, that’s an annual take home of £6760. Annual gross of not much more. They won’t pay tax, obviously, but other considerations apply. It’s still above the national minimum for apprentices, which is nearer the £3 per hour mark or about £6k before deductions.

I think it’s disingenuous that anybody should be worth the same as an untrained new starter as they are when they have the hang of it and even a year into their training. Many firms offer progressive salary structures or simply pay well over the basic. Some grant schemes ask employers to ensure the apprentice earns a decent amount. Bottom line, nobody wants to spend two hours a day earning the money for a meal deal at lunch.

A while ago, I worked for an Apprenticeships provider. We heard time and again of the million qualifying young people who had no job and no place in further education. No wonder they’re difficult to find. The offer is hardly compelling unless you happen to find a great employer who is prepared to pay above the minimum and make that difference. Apprentices contribute to the bottom line from early on, and often become indispensable to the business they train with.

Still, it’s apparently the excessive cost of rural public transport which is driving a retention problem with young people, not the low wages.


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