BOSSES are using bogus apprenticeship schemes as an excuse to rinse training subsidy funds and pay young people lower wages, a new report revealed today.
Firms including fast-food chains, coffee shops and retailers were found by think tank Reform to have been “re-labelling” some jobs as apprenticeships to obtain the government grants, while paying “apprentice” wages as low as £3.70 an hour.
The report from the right-leaning research group found that 40 per cent of subsidised apprenticeships over the past six years did not meet traditional definitions of such schemes.
The subsidies come from a levy on large employers — defined as having an annual pay roll of more than £3 million — which requires them to pay 0.5 per cent of their wage bill into a government bank account.
The levy, which was launched a year ago, was supposed to provide for an increase in the number of apprenticeships available nationwide.
Should the exploitation of the scheme continue, the government is in line to spend £600m on courses wrongly labelled as apprenticeships in 2019/2020, the report predicted.
The think tank has recommended that the Tories abandon their target for 3 million apprenticeships by 2020, saying this will shift the focus to quality rather than quantity, and for the government to provide an “internationally benchmarked definition” of an apprenticeship.
Responding to the The Great Training Robbery report, union Unite condemned “unscrupulous employers” that exploit subsidised apprentice training schemes.
The union said only high-quality genuine apprenticeships would help meet skills gaps in industries such as construction.
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said the union “has consistently supported high quality apprenticeships of which there are many good ones across a myriad of industries, such as engineering, construction and aerospace.
“There are also some unscrupulous employers which are exploiting the levy system and these practices need to be stamped on hard.
“History tells us that not enough employers are stepping up to the plate to offer the high quality apprenticeships that the UK so desperately needs to tackle the UK skills gap and shortages.
“It is paramount that there is a new generation of young skilled workers to underpin future growth in the economy.”
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