Legal Protection for Apprenticeships!
Apprenticeships are a way of coaching people in a trade or profession with on-the-job training, combined with work in the classroom. But where apprenticeships differ from other courses, aside from the training, is they enable the apprentice to build their career as they learn, and gain a licence to practice in their chosen profession.
These types of courses are also generally an alternative to university. And yet, those who complete their apprenticeship often aren’t thought of having a qualification at the same level as someone with a degree from university.
One of the problems was that there wasn’t any legal protection for apprenticeships. The term could be abused – whether intentionally or not – and used to promote courses that didn’t actually fall into the “apprenticeship” category. There wasn’t always training involved and some employers saw fit to use the term to pay younger staff a lower wage.
Bear in mind that up until 2010, there was no minimum wage for apprentices. Even now, if an apprentice is between the ages of 16 and 19, the minimum wage is almost half that for someone the same age receiving the regular minimum wage.
But now, in the same way it is illegal to use the term “degree” for anything other than an actual degree, apprenticeships are going to be legally protected, too.
What this essentially means is the course will have to fulfil a number of requirements before it can legally be described as an apprenticeship. For example, the course will have to provide at least a year’s training.
So, someone searching for the course for their perfect career cannot accidentally enrol themselves in one that doesn’t provide them with the know-how, training, and qualifications an apprenticeship would.
The requirements will be outlined in the government’s upcoming Enterprise Bill, which was announced in the Queen’s birthday speech. The idea is that the bill will help increase employment in the UK while also improving business rates and leading to more jobs being created.
And, to top it all off, apprenticeships will finally have the same status as degrees. One qualification won’t be seen as better than the other; whichever route you have chosen, you have obtained a qualification equal to that of the other.
According to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), under the new law, the government would be able to take action if the requirements are not met. This counts for anyone who misuses the term “apprenticeship” to promote low-quality courses that don’t match the criteria.
Nick Boles, BIS Minister, asked that if graduates from university are praised and respected for acquiring their degree, why not afford the same to apprentices? He pointed out that businesses know the value of apprentices, so it is about time that they are recognised as equal to graduates by both the law and the people.
He also believes more employers should get involved with apprenticeships. “This means making sure we practise what we preach in government, so we’re going to require all sector bodies… to employ apprentices,” he said.
To back this up, the government has pledged to create a further three million apprenticeships over the next five years. Police forces, prisons, hospitals, and schools will all be expected to hire apprentices to encourage other employers and boost the numbers so the target can be reached.
The FMB – Federation of Master Builders – is the largest trade association in the building industry, an industry that relies on apprentices. Chief Executive Brian Berry agrees that apprentices haven’t been given the status they deserve.
However, Mr Berry believes that giving legal protection to apprenticeships should help prevent some organisations in some sectors from misusing the term.
“High-quality apprenticeships should be viewed by society just as favourably as university degrees,” he said, “and protecting the term from misuse will help ensure this is the case.”