RAISING the minimum wage for apprentices will make ‘earn while you learn’ training schemes more attractive to youngsters, it has been claimed.
Mark Boulting, managing director of Plymouth-based training provider Skills Group, was speaking as the national minimum apprenticeship wage increases from £2.73 to £3.30 per hour from tomorrow (October 1, 2015).
The new legislation means that youngsters looking for an alternative to A levels and university can now train for a new career and receive a minimum of £132 for a 40-hour week.
Mr Boulting welcomed the increase although also encouraged employers not to just stick to the minimum, but pay what they felt their apprentices were worth.
Mr Boulting said: “Raising the national minimum wage for apprentices will go some way to making them more attractive to young people, especially now that university tuition fees are so high and the maintenance grant has gone.
“I was pleasantly surprised when the government announced the apprenticeship wage increase to £3.30, particularly as they went with a higher hourly wage than the Low Pay Commission had recommended of a rise of 7p to £2.80 per hour.”
But he warned that more needed to be done to ensure youngsters were aware of the options available to them, and that the raising of the participation age to 18 does not mean that they have to stay in school.
Mr Boulting added: “Apprenticeships still don’t appear to be seen by young people, their parents or teachers as a realistic alternative to doing A levels or going to university. A recent survey by CITB (the Construction Industry Training Board) found that while nine in 10 parents thought apprenticeships were a good option, only a third thought so for their own children!
“As a country we are still reliant on people who, in the main, use their own past experiences and beliefs to provide careers advice and guidance. We also have an education system that is funded by numbers and not necessarily outcomes or destinations, so we have a long way to go before apprenticeships will be promoted as the norm.
“At Skills Group, we encourage our employers to pay what they genuinely believe their apprentices are worth and the value the apprentice brings to the business – not what they think they can get away with. The apprenticeship wage recognises that the individual is still in training, but as an employer you get a loyal and hardworking member of staff, who you can train to meet the specific needs of your business.
“The labour market is a competitive place, and if you want to attract high calibre candidates you have to offer a good package that includes wages and other benefits such as on-going training and progression opportunities. If employees feel valued, regardless of their position, they are happier, more satisfied and more productive – all of which are good for business!” he added.
Skills Group alone has more than 180 vacancies across Devon and Cornwall, with 40 employers offering above the new apprenticeship national minimum wage.
Employers looking to take on an apprentice could also qualify for a £1,500 AGE Incentive Grant. The cash is available to employers with less than 50 employees who take on an apprentice aged 16 to 24 if they haven’t had an apprentice in the last twelve months. Qualifying employers can also claim up to a maximum of five grants.