Financial Accessibility to Apprenticeships

Financial Accessibility to apprenticeships

Passed at NUS-USI National Conference 2023.

What’s the issue and how does it affect students? 

  • It would be great if that question was just when can you start work but when we went to meet apprentices in the autumn apprentices were paying an average of £500 for essential tools.
  • Some apprentices can't start work until they've got those tools. The rest of us have to make do saving up our apprentices wages. Which can be as little as £4.81 an hour.
  • Trades apprentices in particular face this barrier, having to pay for their tools whereas other apprentices get support.

On top of the rent and travel and food and bills. There are more barriers for self-supporting apprentices and those with childcare costs. Just another way life’s made more difficult for Apprentices.

What changes would we like to see in society to change this? 

We know that JOB MBO (NSoA in the Netherlands) campaigned and won free tools and works equipment from the Dutch government. So apprentices and vocational students can start their courses equipped and ready. Dutch apprentices know they’re valued and know their own value.

We would like to see

  • A tools bursary, and if these are Northern Irish made we can represent to the DfE the boost to the economy. Another option is tools being lent out by employers – some employers already do this and it is successful. Grants and collective purchasing for our tools (we can do it for beer so we can do it for hair clippers) would make free education more than just a cute slogan.
  • A living wage for apprentices
  • Free transport and fuel allowance
  • Blended learning should be an option to suit the learning style of the individual
  • More apprentice awareness and a reduction in stigma
  • A stronger network to spread awareness and reduce isolation of apprentices

What action could NUS, students and SUs take to work on this?

  • Work with NUS charity and college student services to develop a purchasing consortium for tools and work equipment.
  • Lobby for a tools bursary.
  • NSoA and FE unions can learn more about the costs of an apprenticeship
  • NUS can work with trade unions to increase membership, campaign for a living wage for all

Impact Assessment 

How does it impact FE students / Apprentices?   

We'd be able to afford to study work and get maybe even have time to get involved in our unions!

How does it impact on International Students, Postgraduate Students, Part-Time and Mature Students?

10% of apprentices are EU migrants, half of apprentices are over 25 and despite the fact doing an apprenticeship is a pretty fulltime experience NUS counts us all as part time.

How does it impact on black, disabled, LGBT+, trans and women students? 

The Gender, Race and Disability pay gap starts early. Right at the beginning of our career. This would help. It isn’t the posh boys on degree apprenticeships who are paid £4.81.

Does this apply across the UK or specifically in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland? 

Our engagement was specifically with apprentices in Northern Ireland but we know from previous years that apprentices in England and Scotland pay for tools and have been stopped from starting apprenticeships.

Amendment 1 to ADD to the proposal

Day/Block Release for all apprentices.

It is clear that apprentices are not receiving the education that is being funded. Report after report tells us that half of apprentices don’t receive the off the job training they are entitled to and that providers are paid for. Part of this is down to employers not releasing their apprentices and part of this is because the assessor visitor model of apprenticeships is designed to reduce costs and make apprenticeships simpler for employers to access.

This experiment has, on the whole, failed. Half of apprentices drop out of their apprenticeship. Half of apprentices don’t receive the education they deserve. A number of industries have never accepted the assessor visitor model and have consistently sent their apprentices to a college or provider. A dedicated space for apprentices to learn from experts, both in their industry and in teaching.   

Day release also enables apprentices to access the support services a college, university of provider can offer in person. From careers advice to counselling, finance support and learner representation.