· News

Apprenticeship pay too low say MPs

At the start of National Apprenticeship Week research highlights that young people are being shut out by low pay

Just one in five (22%) MPs think the apprentice minimum wage is enough to live on, a survey by the Young Women’s Trust has revealed.

Less than half (45%) of those polled said they would encourage someone to undertake a job that paid £3.50 an hour – the current apprentice minimum wage.

This is despite MPs firmly believing that more young people should take on apprenticeships, with 83% saying they are concerned that some young people are encouraged to go to university when an apprenticeship may be more appropriate.

The Young Women’s Trust’s research found that apprentices are some of the hardest hit financially; with two in five (42%) spending more on the role than they earn. The charity found that half (49%) struggle to cover basic living costs and transport to work.

Three quarters (75%) of young people polled told the Trust that they were put off doing an apprenticeship altogether because it wasn’t financially viable.

The legal apprentice minimum wage of £3.50 compares to the government’s £7.50 National Living Wage, leaving apprentices £7,280 a year worse off than workers aged 25 and over. Research by the ONS found that, in some cases, apprentices on the minimum wage are being exploited by being given the same work and responsibilities as non-trainee workers.

A separate survey of more than 4,000 young people by the Young Women’s Trust found that raising the apprentice minimum wage was supported by 83% of respondents, making this more popular than abolishing university tuition fees, which 59% agreed with.

Previous research by the Young Women's Trust has also showed that there is a gender pay gap with apprenticeships, with women typically entering apprenticeships in low paid sectors, such as care and beauty.

Carole Easton, Young Women’s Trust chief executive, said: “Young people – and especially young women – are being shut out of apprenticeships by low pay. Their wage barely covers the bus to work, let alone bills and rent. Even MPs agree that the £3.50 apprentice minimum wage is not enough to live on.

“If it is serious about supporting more people into apprenticeships the government must significantly raise the apprentice minimum wage.

“Creating a system that makes apprenticeships attractive and accessible to a wider range of people will bring huge benefits to employers and the economy as a whole. It’s time the government made apprenticeships work for young people.”

The Young Women’s Trust commissioned ComRes to conduct a survey of 157 MPs and 500 current or recent apprentices.