The purpose of an apprenticeship is to enable a person to train on the job and gain a qualification at the end of the apprenticeship.
Apprenticeships are intended to be for skilled roles which require training to reach the standards required, along with providing the apprentice with transferrable skills. The minimum rate of pay for apprentices ranges from £3.70 an hour for anyone in their first year of an apprenticeship to £7.38. The benefit to the employer is that they get people to work for them at a low cost to them and they receive government support for this. In exchange for this the employer is responsible for providing the apprentice with quality training to enable them to obtain a qualification.
The aim of recent reforms was to emphasise the high standard of quality that is required in the provision of apprenticeships. A recent study into apprenticeships in the UK has revealed that a substantial number of ‘apprenticeships’ do not reflect this aim. In effect, organisations have re-branded low-quality, low-skilled jobs to enable the organisations to reap the benefits of apprenticeships to them, without the reciprocal benefits to the apprentice.
The study identified a number of examples of this such as companies advertising for ‘apprentices’ for roles such as ‘barista’s’ and people serving in fast food chains.
This demonstrates an abuse by certain organisations of a programme which is designed to improve the workforce in the UK and allow people opportunities to enter employment and progress to more skilled roles. The use of ‘apprenticeships’ in these types of roles can have the effect of diminishing the number of jobs which are paid at national minimum wage.