Apprentices voice concerns about off-the-job training

Apprentice Voice publishes its first survey findings and raises four major areas of concern for apprentices in England

Kate Parker

The Apprentice Voice: Four major issues for apprentices highlighted

Almost half of apprentices (45 per cent) are not confident that they are receiving the 20 per cent off-the-job training required, a new survey reveals.

The same research, published today by the Apprenticeship Voice, also shows that a third of apprentices (32.7 per cent) spend more than a fifth of their monthly salary on travel costs

The Apprentice Voice was founded by three apprentices in April 2019 with the aim of representing apprentices’ views, and pushing positive change in the system. A total of 370 apprentices across the country responded to the survey, with the research also showing that apprentices still face stigma from colleagues, friends and family, and have few social opportunities available to them.

News:  Apprentices launch campaign group to call for change

Background: Meet the Inspiring Apprentices

More:  TUC calls for apprenticeship transport discount

Two-thirds (67.5 per cent) of the apprentices said that they faced stigma or stereotyping – 58 per cent said the stigma came from colleagues and peers, 19 per cent experienced it from teachers, 26 per cent from friends, and 10 per cent from parents. And more than a fifth said that they’d like to see more opportunities to socialise with other apprentices. 

The report says that the apprenticeship levy has had little impact on improving apprenticeship retention or increasing apprentices’ satisfaction. 

The quality of apprenticeships

It says: “Apprenticeship completion rates have plateaued at around two-thirds, meaning that it is now more important than ever to focus on quality and not quantity. Apprentices sit between students and full-time employees, which means they often miss out on the benefits of being either and struggle financially. 

“There should be clear guidelines setting out what apprentices are entitled to. This will take pressure off current apprentices who often already have huge workloads, while opening the door to a new cohort of apprentices who are unable to access the apprenticeship scheme due to financial or personal circumstances.”

Dexter Hutchings, one of the TAV founders, said the Conservatives had already promised to reduce travel costs once – in their manifesto two years ago. 

“It’s not happened – and now we’re recommending that other parties also pick up that pledge and put it into action should they come into power,” he said.

The report also sets out six recommendations for the apprenticeship programme – recommendations that Mr Hutchings says all MPs should get behind: “They set the 3 million target and apprentice experience is key to meeting that target, especially with the current dropout rate,” he said. 

Six recommendations  

Reduce public transport costs for apprentices

All public transport should be at a 50 per cent discount for apprentices, in line with the 16 to 17 saver railcard currently available, and the Apprentice Travelcard available to apprentices aged 19-24 across the Liverpool City Region.

Penalise employers and training providers that fail to adhere to the off-the-job training

Employers and training providers that fail to adhere to the 20 per cent off-the-job training requirement should face penalties – and more emphasis should be given to the fact that it is a legal requirement. Employers should be encouraged to regularly check in with their apprentices to monitor their progression and training providers need to be better alert to employers who do not comply with off-the-job training provision.  

Introduce severe consequences for schools failing to adhere to the Baker Clause

The Baker Clause stipulates that schools must allow colleges and training providers access to every student in Years 8 to 13 to discuss all 16-plus options available to them including apprenticeships, training and further education. However, there has been growing concern that compliance with the legislation has been poor and young people are not fully informed of all their options. 

Create an anonymous whistleblowing service for apprentices to report illegal practice

Apprentices should be able to confidentially report foul play by either employers or training providers via a website or hotline without jeopardising their futures.

Make apprentices subject to the same universal minimum wage

The apprentice minimum wage is too low, is often ignored and should be abolished making apprentices subject to the same universal minimum wage. Setting the wage so low reinforces the perception that apprenticeships only lead to low-paid and low-skilled jobs. 

Set up a specialist ‘Apprentice Experience’ organisation

If apprenticeships are to be more appealing to young people and to give them the support they need in order to complete, the social opportunities available to apprentices should be considered. A new or existing organisation should take on the responsibility of organising social and networking events among apprentices.  

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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