Buried deep in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement yesterday was the news that, from April 2017, apprentices will receive a minimum of £3.50 an hour. The increase was bracketed with an increase in the National Living Wage
The news was warmly received across the training industry. Tony Wilson of the Learning and Work Partnership released a statement saying “We welcome the announcement of a further rise in the national living wage, to £7.50, and a rise in the apprentices rate to £3.50. This will give a much-needed pay rise to over one million low paid workers.
“However it is essential that we also tackle the drivers of low pay and low productivity in our economy. So we regret the fact that the new £23 billion National Productivity Investment Fund does not recognise the importance of skills and training as a key part of solving the UK’s productivity problem and raising living standards. So we would like to see the fund extended, to allow for targeted investment that could improve our skills infrastructure – including in-work support, basic and technical skills.
‘A modest increase that doesn’t go far enough’
Meanwhile David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “The increase in the apprentice minimum wage is a very modest one and will not address some of the access issues which we would like to see addressed. Many people will not be able to access an apprenticeship at that wage due to prohibitive travel costs, for instance; others such as care leavers will struggle to live independently on those wages.
“When the apprenticeship levy is introduced next year, we would like to see more investment to ensure in access and quality to ensure that every apprentice has the best possible start to their career. The government is keen to improve the reputation of the apprenticeship programme and further education colleges can help to achieve this through the education and training they provide for apprentices and employers.”