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Minimum wage increase for apprentices – but what about increasing opportunities?

We were thrilled to read that the minimum wage for apprentices will be increasing from today.

Safeera Sarjoo
12th February 2016
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Currently apprentices are paid £2.73 however this will raise to £3.30 per hour. Mark Boulting, managing director of training provider Skills Group told the Western Morning News that the increase would make apprenticeships far more attractive to school leavers who didn't wish to pursue A-Levels and university.

Boulting also made the point of encouraging employers to pay their apprentices what they are worth rather than stick to the new minimum wage.  This news is a great incentive for those looking to take up an apprenticeship, however there are two concerns that we feel need to be tackled in order to get the best experience out of an apprenticeship.

  1. Apprenticeships need to be seen as a true alternative to university. Students and parents should be aware of this option and teachers should understand how this option can benefit students across a number of sectors
  2. With the number of apprenticeships increasing, there also needs to be a growing number of opportunities that bridges societal gaps, particularly where gender is concerned

Though we fully support the government in creating three million new apprenticeships, the cold, hard truth is their efforts are lost if students, parents and teachers aren't adequately educated on the opportunities that are open to those who take an apprenticeship. Yes, there is an increase in uptake, but we need to continue working to shake up the old mentality that excludes apprenticeships as a legitimate educational path.

Understanding how beneficial an apprenticeship can be is half the battle though. There is a growing issue we've noticed where females are at a disadvantage where pay and opportunities are concerned.

STEM subjects have been a hot topic of discussion with numerous reports stating that these industries (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) are not doing enough to encourage women to pursue a career within these lucrative fields. Even more shocking is a recent article from The Guardian which illustrates the lack of females in senior roles within the educational sector.

Keziah Featherstone, the head teacher from Bridge Learning Campus in Bristol explained that low numbers of females within senior positions meant that schools were missing out on talent and overlooking exceptionally committed females that are passionate about making a difference.

'I'm talking to too many leaders who are tired of being told they have to fit into a very old-fashioned model of leadership,' she told The Guardian. 'We need to find some way to ensure that women who have the capacity and will and desire to be the leaders of the future are not put off.'

This means corporations openly welcoming women and nurturing talent. This isn't an impossible feat and should be a commitment businesses make towards their employees. This glass ceiling that is often referenced is easily shattered in our opinion. Just look at our American counterparts. There have been significant advancements in integrating women within STEM subjects that should be inspiring to us in the UK. Insight into Diversity recently recognised 100 women in STEM subjects, which is hugely encouraging and proves that women can excel in male-dominated areas - they just need the opportunity to do so.


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