Great apprenticeships

Great apprenticeships

About the author: Kirsi Kekki

Kirsi Kekki

Kirsi Kekki is a unionlearn policy officer working in the Strategy team. She has worked in a number of trade unions in the UK and Finland with a variety of roles from tutoring to organising and project management.

Kirsi is currently looking after English and maths, adult learning and apprentice policy and support to unions.

We all have dreams. When we are young we dream of doing a job we are really good at and which is interesting and rewarding.

Going on an apprenticeship may be just the ticket to fulfil that dream. However, the dream may turn sour if the apprenticeship is not good quality or properly supported. For young and older people alike apprenticeships are a great way to learn and earn so the question is what does a great apprenticeship look like?

This question is exceptionally pertinent especially now that the Government’s big policy move, the apprenticeship levy, kicks off on the 6th of April. That’s when employers with annual pay bill over £3 million will start paying a levy of 0.5 per cent (with £15,000 allowance) which they can claim back when they take on apprentices. Smaller and medium sized businesses haven’t been forgotten either and there are funding arrangements to encourage them to join in to achieve the Government target of three million apprentices by 2020.

Therefore, it is a perfect time to take a close look at unionlearn’s Charter for Apprenticeships and think what role unions can play to bring together the ingredients of a great apprenticeship.

The Charter highlights that an apprenticeships should:

  1. Be a job with a productive purpose
  2. Be paid a fair rate
  3. Ensure high quality training and clear individual development
  4. Involve the trade union at every level of the programme
  5. Ensure Apprentices have regular access to, and support from, trade unions
  6. Be accessible to, and achievable by all
  7. Be part of, and contribute to, a Healthy and Safe environment
  8. A commitment from the employer to complement the workforce, not supplement it

If you are wondering where to start, how about taking a look at unionlearn’s Apprentice Levy – 15 useful negotiating tips guide.

Unionlearn has also updated the Apprenticeships Toolkit. It has been in great demand like those famous hotcakes and rightly so: the toolkit is full of essential information for unions.

After all, the new apprentices are like any newbies in the workplace and in need of a friendly contact from their union.

And if the apprentice is a member of existing staff, it is vital that unions know what the schemes look like. It is important that apprenticeships are underpinned by good quality and ensure that the apprentice develops new skills and has an opportunity to use them in a relevant role in the future.

Hear it from the TUC’s General Secretary Frances O’Grady too:

It’s good news for workers, who will have more opportunities to gain the skills needed for better paid jobs. And it’s good news for businesses, as their productivity will improve with a higher skilled workforce.

The government must now look at ways to make sure that all apprenticeships are of high quality. And we need action to improve access to apprenticeships for groups of workers including women, disabled people and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic workers.

Unionlearn, the TUC and trade unions across the UK are looking forward to working with employers to make the expansion of apprenticeships a success."

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