Apprenticeships: Genuine Opportunity or Cheap Labour?Posted: 4th of December 2014 by
Looking over social media, there seems to be something of a back-lash among some about apprenticeships. There is a feeling among some that an apprenticeship is little more than cheap labour for businesses. The basis for much of this sentiment is the pay rates for apprentices, even though minimum wage levels have been set. So, the question is, with a minimum wage of £2.73 per hour, are apprentices being taken advantage of as sources of cheap labour by companies?
Firstly, it is worth explaining the current apprentice minimum wage, The £2.73 per hour is the minimum for apprentices aged 16 to 18 and those aged 19 or over in their first year of their course. Any apprentices aged 19 or over who have completed their first year will be paid at least the national minimum wage for their age.
While £2.73 is a low rate of pay, it is the minimum and not necessarily the norm, with many employers paying their apprentices more. So, if you are looking for an apprenticeship, you might want to check around before signing up to the first course you see.
That being said, an apprenticeship is not like a regular job, since you are learning your trade or craft at the same time. It could therefore be argued that what you are currently losing out on income, you are making back on education – especially when many college and university courses will cost rather than make you any money at all!
While there are differences, we’re sure that most if not all university students would love to get paid for time spent in lectures – even if it was ‘just’ £2.73 per hour.
This is not to say that you should accept less than your due as an apprentice. As well as being able to get your own NUS card, you should be getting something from your course. You should be getting some decent training to prepare you for the working world, and while you may have to put the kettle on from time to time (it helps the work-place moral!), you should be more than just an in-house teas-maid.
A good apprenticeship will set you up with the skills you need for your future, and like the university student who takes a loan out for their tuition fees, an apprentice also ‘pays’ for their study by being paid less than a fully qualified worker.
So, while some may argue that Apprenticeships are little more than cheap labour, they seem to be missing the point. An apprenticeship is a means to an end, it is about training and preparation for your fully-paid job. Your apprenticeship should set you up for your career – at which point you can naturally expect to earn more than the apprentice’s minimum wage – and probably more than your friends who went straight into full-time employment!
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