Hexham MP Guy Opperman says apprenticeships should pay more

Conservative says North East teens should be offered £3.79 an hour, like other 16-17-year-olds, to make career path attractive

MP Guy Opperman, with apprentice Jade Scott, at the Fuse Media Centre at Prudhoe High School
MP Guy Opperman, with apprentice Jade Scott, at the Fuse Media Centre at Prudhoe High School

Apprentices taking their first step on the career ladder should be offered a pay rise, according to a North East MP.

Guy Opperman, Conservative MP for Hexham, believes the apprentice rate should be raised from £2.73 to £3.79.

The Tory believes the hike - which brings the rate in line with the national minimum for 16-to-17-year-olds - would make apprenticeships more attractive to teenagers and ensure they get a fair deal.

His call comes after a dramatic increase in the number of apprenticeships in the North East; there are around 36,000 of the training contracts in operation here today compared with just 19,000 in 2009/10.

The MP has written to the Low Pay Commission, the body advising the government on what wages are fair, with his recommendations.

He said: “The huge increase in the number of apprenticeships since 2010 is something everyone should welcome.

“In Northumberland alone we have seen the number of apprenticeship starts more than double from 2,100 in 2009/10 to 4,410 last year.”

Mr Opperman is also supportive of the living wage and was the first MP to employ an apprentice in his office.

Teenager Jade Scott, from Prudhoe, completed her Business and Administration Apprenticeship in 2012 and now has a full time position with the MP in his Hexham office.

The MP said: “We have seen a enormous explosion in apprenticeships and a realisation that they are now a excellent route for young people into work. I have seen it first hand myself with my own apprentice.

“An apprenticeship can make all the difference in ensuring our young people have the right skills and an opportunity to get themselves into a successful career.

“The time has now come to increase the basic rate of pay for apprenticeships so they are even more desirable for young people in the North East.”

Beth Farhat, Northern TUC Regional Secretary, backed the MP’s call and said more money should go into enforcing the current wage restraints too.

She said: “Apprentices aren’t just learning a trade or a profession when they are taken on by employers, at some point they will also become part of the UK workforce and the skills they acquire now will be vital for our economy’s performance in future years.

“But there are some unscrupulous employers who cheat their young apprentices out of a legal wage and more money must go into enforcement to make sure that the law-breaking of these bad bosses doesn’t go unpunished.

“Apprentices on the minimum wage currently earn just £2.73 an hour but it’s likely that there are many employers who could afford to pay their trainees more an hour.

“The TUC would like to see apprentices across the North East getting a much-needed pay rise and will be putting evidence to the Low Pay Commission soon saying that this could happen without any impact on the number of apprenticeships across the region.”

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