Drive to promote apprenticeships as a credible alternative to university

The minimum wage for apprentices is set to rise shortly, as part of a drive to increase the number of apprenticeships available in England and Wales. The Low Pay Commission, which is tasked with recommending what minimum wage rate increases should be each year, recommended in February that the Apprentice rate should rise from £2.73 an hour to £2.80 an hour, an increase of 2.6%.

However, the Government has announced that it plans to reject this recommendation and will instead increase the rate by 21% to £3.30 an hour (as of October 2015). It has now published a report setting out why it is making such a large increase.

According to the report, the increase is part of wider reforms being made to apprenticeships (including giving employers more control over their design and introducing tough testing at the end to ensure apprentices’ competence).

The aim of this is to increase both the availability and take-up of apprenticeships (which, it is hoped, will become as attractive an option to young people as university or jobs without training). According to the Government, apprenticeships are beneficial to the economy and will also provide substantial productivity benefits to employers.

The apprentice rate applies to apprentices who are under 19, or those who are over 19 but in the first year of their apprenticeship. Otherwise, either the Development rate (which is for 18-20 year olds; currently £5.13 per hour) or the National Minimum Wage (which applies to 21-and-overs and is currently £6.50) will apply.