Apprentices used as ‘cheap, subsidised labour’, survey suggests

15th September 2017 at 00:02
Survey by National Society of Apprentices and Tes lifts lid on apprentices' pay and working conditions, with many not paid for off-the-job training

One in six apprentices is not paid for their off-the-job training, a survey of apprentices has revealed.

The exclusive survey, carried out by the National Society of Apprentices (NSoA) – the representative body run by the NUS student’ union – in partnership with Tes, also showed many work fewer than their contracted hours, and one in six are not paid for off-the-job training.

A fifth of apprentices in the survey did not feel that they received any training on the job, and an NSoA spokesperson said the results suggested that many employers were using apprenticeships as “cheap, subsidised labour without any obligation to train or develop the apprentices”.

Only 71 per cent of respondents said they were paid for the time they spent training. Some 17 per cent claimed they were not paid at all for time spent in off-the-job training, with a further 12 per cent saying they were unsure.

Simon Ashworth, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers' (AELP) chief policy officer, said apprentices could be receiving on-the-job training without being aware of it. “The definition is extremely broad,” he said. “They might not know that they are learning because they don’t know they’re being taught.”

He added that all apprentices should be paid for the time they spend training, “even if you are away from your usual place of work”.

In his first interview as chair of the Institute for Apprenticeships, Antony Jenkins told Tes last week that he hoped the system would be “flexible enough” to respond to employers’ concerns, but said that diminishing the amount of training was “not acceptable”.

The new NSoA and Tes survey also revealed that a third of apprentices on average work fewer hours than they are contracted to.

‘Bitterly disappointing’

An NSoA spokesperson said that apprenticeships must consist of both work and “substantial training”.

“It is bitterly disappointing to see that, despite years of reform and tinkering, apprenticeships are still seen by so many employers as an opportunity for cheap, subsidised labour without any obligation to train or develop the apprentices,” the spokesperson added.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said the government’s requirement for 20 per cent of any apprenticeship to consist of off-the-job training was a “core principal” of the programme. He added: “Latest figures show that 89 per cent of apprentices are satisfied with their apprenticeship, with 97 per cent of apprentices saying their ability to do the job had improved.”

This is an edited version of an article in the 15 September edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full article here. To subscribe, click here. This week's Tes magazine is available at all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here.

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