3 in 4 employers say apprentice minimum wage is too low to live on

75 per cent of employers think the apprentice minimum wage of just £3.90 an hour is not enough to live on, according to a new survey from Young Women’s Trust. The survey of 802 HR decision makers carried out by YouGov between 4th and 23rd February, comes on the first day of National Apprenticeship Week (4th-8th March 2019).

The financial barriers of apprenticeships were cited as the biggest challenge in a separate survey of apprentices carried out by ComRes for Young Women’s Trust last year. Low pay and high travel costs were the factors most likely to put off potential apprentices with half of apprentices saying they considered not taking up an offer of an apprenticeship or dropping out early because they struggled financially.

For lots of apprentices, outgoings are more than income. 60 per cent say they are paid less than non-apprentice colleagues, despite doing the same tasks.  When asked how they make ends meet, one in three young women apprentices and one in five young men have been forced to borrow money from family or friends. One in five have skipped meals, one in six have gone into their overdraft and one in 10 have gone into rent arrears.

The latest survey does bring more positive news. The charity asked 802 HR decision makers about their views on apprenticeships in a survey carried out by YouGov. In a sign that the value of apprentices is being appreciated, three in five (60%) said that apprentices were as employable as graduates, and 57% said apprenticeships were a good way for them to meet the skills needs of their organisation. However, this positive view is not always reflected in apprentices’ pay packets.

Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton OBE said:

“It is shocking that, despite widespread acceptance that the apprenticeship minimum wage is too low to live on, we still see many employers offering it. 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.

If it is serious about supporting more people into apprenticeships, the Government must significantly raise the apprentice minimum wage and follow through on its manifesto commitment to provide support for the travel costs of apprentices.

“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.”

Notes to editors

  1. Young Women’s Trust supports and represents women aged 16-30 trapped by low or no pay and facing a life of poverty. The charity provides services and runs campaigns to make sure that the talents of young women don’t go to waste.
  2. Apprentices are legally entitled to £3.90 an hour, which is £4.31 an hour less than the National Living Wage. However, apprentices in this report have described being given the same responsibilities and work load as non-apprentices for lower pay.
  3. The Conservative manifesto ahead of the General Election of 2017 included the commitment to “introduce significantly discounted bus and train travel for apprentices to ensure that no young person is deterred from doing an apprenticeship due to travel costs”
  4. Young Women’s Trust commissioned YouGov to carry out a poll of those making employment decisions in 2019. The total sample size was 802 senior HR professionals / people managers. Fieldwork was undertaken between 4th February-23rd February 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of the UK business population by size and sector.
  5. Young Women’s Trust commissioned ComRes to interview 508 current or recent apprentices in Great Britain online between 7 and 14 September 2018. Data were weighted by age, gender and apprenticeship level. The survey found that:
    1. almost half (47 per cent) say they are in debt all the time;
    2. 10 per cent of those who completed their apprenticeship in the last two years are out of work and claiming benefits, nine per cent are out of work and not claiming benefits and 18 per cent are working in a sector not related to their apprenticeship;
    3. 60 per cent say it is a real struggle to make their cash last until the end of the month;
    4. 38% say that covering the costs of travel to work presented a financial challenge while doing their apprenticeship;
    5. one in three women (30 per cent) and one in five men (21 per cent) have been forced to borrow money from friends or family to make their cash last to the end of the month (25 per cent total);
    6. one in five apprentices have skipped meals, one in six have gone into their overdraft and one in 10 have gone into arrears on their rent;
    7. three in five (60 per cent) say they have been paid less than non-apprenticeship colleagues despite doing the same tasks; and
    8. 50 per cent say they have considered dropping out of their apprenticeship early because they struggled financially.