EMPLOYERS in the South West are being encouraged to pay apprentices what they can afford, and not just the minimum required by law.
Mark Boulting, managing director of training provider Skills Group, said employers who pay apprentices above the minimum wage recognised the value they bring to their business. He was speaking as the government prepares to increase the national minimum apprenticeship wage by 20 per cent, from the current £2.73 to £3.30 an hour this October.
Mr Boulting said the increase was ‘great news’ and should make apprenticeships a viable option for more youngsters, but urged employers to treat it as a minimum starting point and not an absolute value.
He said: “Good employers know that you get what you pay for, and if you want good staff you don’t offer the minimum you think you can get away with.
“The labour market is a competitive place and if you want to attract and retain quality staff you need to offer a competitive package, both in terms of wages and benefits.”
Skills Group currently has 181 apprenticeship vacancies in a range of sectors, of which 52 employers are offering above the national minimum apprenticeship wage.
Mr Boulting added: “We encourage employers to pay what they think the position is worth, and to benchmark this against the average wages for their sector in their area. We already have a number of employers who pay £140 – £150 per week or even pay the national minimum age-related wage.
“These employers recognise the value an apprentice brings to their business and are prepared to reward the apprentice for the work they do.”
Yelverton-based TH March insurance brokers employ five Skills Group apprentices and are looking to recruit two more. They pay £40.80 above the minimum apprenticeship wage.
Andrew Alcock, Chief Operating Officer, said: “We have always paid more than the minimum wage. That is because we want to get the best apprentices and to recruit people for the long term. We’re not just interested in providing a training contract, we want to grow our own, so we’ve got to offer a good package.
“The benefit that brings is you get commitment from a member of staff.”
Plymouth Community Homes employs 13 Skills Group apprentices ranging from fenestration to customer service and business administration and pay the age-related national minimum wage as opposed to the apprenticeship minimum.
Gill Martin, Director for Corporate and Manufacturing Services for PCH, said: “We strongly believe that investing and recognising staff proportionately for the work they do is incredibly important, and creates a culture of pride and loyalty amongst our workforce, which helps staff retention and performance and ultimately benefits our customers.
“Apprentices are an important part of our workforce – they are blank canvasses to train and mould to our specific standards, they come with open minds and enthusiasm and they bring with them fresh ideas. All vital ingredients in helping to stay in tune with what our customers want and in touch with an ever changing society. So we believe it’s only fair that they are paid in line with the contribution we feel they make to our business.”
Mr Boulting added: “I would call upon employers to treat the national minimum apprenticeship wage as the ‘minimum’ to start from and not an absolute that dictates the wage you offer. Pay what you would think is appropriate for the role, and don’t forget the whole package – so include other benefits, the ongoing training and progression opportunities which, our apprentices tell me, are just as important.”
“Apprentices are important to a business and if you value something you will pay more for it. If employees feel valued, regardless of whether they are apprentices or not, they are happier, more satisfied and more productive. It’s basic business logic.”
To find out more about taking on an apprentice, or starting out on a career path as one, contact Skills Group on 01752 332442.