Apprenticeship Numbers Have Dropped by 59%

The statistics for apprenticeships in the UK are seriously concerning. According to Department for Education figures, May and July of this year (the academic year-end), only 48,000 people began an apprenticeship.

This is less than half of the 117,000 who applied for schemes during the same period in 2016.

The culprit? The government’s new levy introduced earlier this year to encourage the number of people training at work. Ironic doesn’t quite cover it.

The Apprenticeship Levy

Introduced in order to raise £2.5 billion a year for training, the levy designed for organisations with a wage bill over £3 million, ~2% of businesses in the UK.

With the aim to fund up to “three million new apprenticeships”, the government’s plan to increase productivity in the UK through training has certainly fallen short. The main reason being that most businesses are simply not big enough to be liable for the levy.

And for those that don’t qualify for the levy, and employ between 50 to 200 staff, there are a even new responsibilities to shoulder. These firms have to release their apprentices one day a week for training, and contribute to these training costs.

The Department for Education has stated that it expected an initial drop-off of applications whilst companies reconfigured their schemes, although employers that do qualify for the levy have been given 24 months to spend funds they have ‘earmarked’ for apprenticeships.

So whilst the government is confident in its apprenticeship levy, industry leaders are not so. The chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), Mark Dawe stated that, “The policy intent was great, [but] the implementation has been diabolical.

“There needs to be appropriate flexibility of off-the-job training. In addition, employers without levy funding should not be charged for training 16-24 year old apprentices.

“Without these actions, we do not believe the government will reach their manifesto commitment.”

Thousands of apprentices are being paid less than minimum wage

This revelation comes on the back of some other frankly shocking news from the TUC.

Having conducted a new study on apprenticeships in the UK, the union found that many employers are ‘cheating’ apprentices out of minimum wage, with 135,000 under the age of 19 being paid less than the statutory rate of £3.50 an hour. A truly shocking find.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Thousands of apprentices are getting shafted on pay day.

“Their minimum wage is only £3.50, yet some Scrooge-like bosses are failing to pay even that measly amount.

“Good apprenticeships can really kickstart a career. That’s why we need to make sure every apprentice has a worthwhile experience on decent pay.

“These figures show why government needs to step up enforcement of the minimum wage, especially for apprentices.”

The Autumn Budget stated that the rate would increase to £3.70 an hour from April 2018, which is still absurdly low, but if something isn’t done about underpaying then it doesn’t matter what the government raises statutory pay to.

It seems they have a lot of thinking to do regarding apprenticeships over the Christmas period…

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