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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Apprenticeships

When my son left college, he expressed an interest to take up an apprenticeship as opposed to go to university, I was delighted that he now had a focus and direction as to the route he wanted his career to follow. He applied for a number of schemes and eventually was successful in securing a position with an Insurance Broker in Canary Wharf through an Apprenticeship provider in the City of London.

 

His initial few months was a great experience, he enjoyed the learning and felt that this was a place that he would thrive as a part of a team. Despite the challenges associated with low wages (<£5 per hr) and the cost of public transport from Kent to Canary Wharf he was keen to make that sacrifice to succeed as he felt that getting experience as well as completing his apprenticeship portfolio will help him develop, not just professionally but personally too. This was where the problem started, very quickly he realised that his employer didn’t see him as an “apprentice”, they saw him as an “experienced” employee, not someone who needed nurturing, guidance and training but someone who is managed by performance and KPIs. At first this wasn’t a problem as he earnt a little commission during his first quarter, although the employing companying withheld some of the incentive for no other reason that they can.

 

The time he needed to complete his portfolio was non-existent, the employer explained to him he they couldn’t afford the time for him to complete his apprentice work in work time. The alarm bells were now ringing, he asked, when would he have time to meet and discuss his progress with his Apprenticeship provider as he worked 9am – 6pm Monday to Friday? The employer wasn’t interested.

  

He is now 9 months into a 12 months apprenticeship with no portfolio, the employing organisation, just yesterday, called him to the office with HR and the MD and explained that he is not going to meet his targets this month and what was he going to do about it? He explained that he didn’t know and was after some support, instead he was given the ultimatum to either resign or get sacked even after him generating £ks in turnover way above his cost to employ!!

 

His contract of employment states that his probation is 6 months, he has had no review during this period so he had assumed that he has passed it, they explained to him, just this afternoon, that because he hasn’t had a probation meeting they deem him to still be in probation in which case he is only entitled to 1 week notice should he resign.

 

Is this what apprenticeships have come to? I heard that organisations use them for cheap labour but though this only existed within less professional businesses.

 

I am interested to find out whether this is a common theme, or has he just had a very bad experience if an organisation taking advantage of an inexperienced, young man who just wants to be successful?


Comments

  • edited August 1
    That’s what I call taking the Piss. This is slave labour. This is not how an apprenticeship should work, IMO

    When I was working, I used to recruit our apprentices whether they worked in the office as a finance or HR assistant or whether they worked in a school as Teaching assistant or Premises assistant.

    in general terms, what should happen is your son should be spending at least one day per week undertaking a recognised course of study leading to a recognised qualification.

    Yes, there is the probationary period but your son should have written key objectives and weekly supervision and they should be liaising with the training organisation. The training organisation should be ensuring that he has s reasonable chance of success.

    At the end of the probationary period, he should have had a letter saying whether he’s passed or failed and the reasons why.

    If he passes the probation, at the end of the first year the employer has the option either to pass the apprentice or fail. If they pass, they get another year with a pay rise. 

    My son has an apprenticeship through Middleton Murray as a recruiter to the medical industry. They’re paying him £10k a year plus commission but the thing that worries me is all of the training is in-house. The contract is 15 months. If he doesn’t make the grade, he’s on his bike Xmas 2020

    If I were you, I’d be calling the training provider or equivalent to Middleton Murray and questioning what is going on 


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  • Dazzler21 said:
    You're supposed to be released for a period of time per week/month to support your portfolio.

    Not allowing him that could be seen as an attempt to hire workers for below minimum wage, which is of course illegal... 


    Every apprentice is entitled to 20% of their time undertaking ‘off the job training’. This is usually with a college or training provider. 
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    I can't say I am an expert on apprenticeships but on the basis that they are Contracts of Employment and covered by the Employment Rights Act then unless and until 2 years service is complete the employee has no right to bring a claim for unfair dismissal unless it was on the grounds of a protected characteristic (sex, race, disability and so on).

    There is however a legal obligation to allocate 20% training time and if this isn't done then there are serious consequences for the employer (and potentially the agency or college associated with the apprenticeship).

    @SX_Addick advice above is sound as a first step. Perhaps also a complaint to the apprenticeship provider.


  • edited August 1
    If he is let go he might want to speak to the local press. Where he works and where he lives. I realise there won't be a union in a crap employer like this but if there were at the least he would get legal advice, support and representation where necessary.
    Unionising the workplace is the way forward to stop this sort of workplace misreprentation by employers.
  • iainment said:
    If he is let go he might want to speak to the local press. Where he works and where he lives.

    I would advise against that at this stage.
  • When I was taken on as an apprentice the company invited both my parents to the company. My father signed with the employer and myself the apprenticeship papers. I was paid to go to college full time for a year and a further three years part time day release and one evening. All college and exam fees paid in advance. Once a month the man from the training board would come to my company, sit down with the personnel manager and supervisor and review my work, which I had to write up weekly and have signed off.On completing my apprenticeship, after four years, my company agreed to pay for another year of college two nights a week.

    I started my apprenticeship in 1980. I didn’t think much of it at the time but looking back I had a really good apprenticeship with proper training. I doubt many of the countries youth get the opportunity I did, which is not just a shame it should be something the country should worry about.

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  • iainment said:
    If he is let go he might want to speak to the local press. Where he works and where he lives. I realise there won't be a union in a crap employer like this but if there were at the least he would get legal advice, support and representation where necessary.
    Unionising the workplace is the way forward to stop this sort of workplace misreprentation by employers.
    I’d say he’s better off not doing that. This sort of thing could be looked up by future prospective employers and wrightly or wrongly affect his chances. 
    So the bosses at that place get let off and more young people will be exploited in the future.
    I understand what you say but, as with Duchatelet, only some sort of direct action will get them to change. 
  • iainment said:
    iainment said:
    If he is let go he might want to speak to the local press. Where he works and where he lives. I realise there won't be a union in a crap employer like this but if there were at the least he would get legal advice, support and representation where necessary.
    Unionising the workplace is the way forward to stop this sort of workplace misreprentation by employers.
    I’d say he’s better off not doing that. This sort of thing could be looked up by future prospective employers and wrightly or wrongly affect his chances. 
    So the bosses at that place get let off and more young people will be exploited in the future.
    I understand what you say but, as with Duchatelet, only some sort of direct action will get them to change. 
    No - the ESFA will get them to change and likely prevent them from accessing money from the levy.


  • Sounds like he's been fecked by middle management trying to feather their own nest.

    Move on and learn never to be like them.
  • iainment said:
    iainment said:
    If he is let go he might want to speak to the local press. Where he works and where he lives. I realise there won't be a union in a crap employer like this but if there were at the least he would get legal advice, support and representation where necessary.
    Unionising the workplace is the way forward to stop this sort of workplace misreprentation by employers.
    I’d say he’s better off not doing that. This sort of thing could be looked up by future prospective employers and wrightly or wrongly affect his chances. 
    So the bosses at that place get let off and more young people will be exploited in the future.
    I understand what you say but, as with Duchatelet, only some sort of direct action will get them to change. 
    He's a young lad at the start of his career, not Erin Brockovich. 

    In an ideal world prospective employers/ their recruiter wouldn't do "negative news" google searches and immediately dismiss or overlook potential candidates with any history of public rift with an employer, particularly their first one, but unfortunately they do.  And it's unlikely in a competitive employer favourable environment that they'll take the time to delve into the context and merits of such media action.  More likely they'll think, nope next candidate in the hundreds that are applying.


    This is not to say that wrong un employers should not be held to account.  they very much should.  But through the correct channels designed to facilitate them.  Knee jerk battles via the media (whilst perhaps justified) might make you feel better but won't necessarily benefit you long term (the media have their own agenda and not your interests at heart necessarilly) and could in fact be detrimental.

    Go through the correct channels that are discreet and professional and set up for that reason, certainly before considering any battles via the media or even social media.  Unfortunately stuff like that nowdays can follow you round for years.



  • bobmunro said:
    iainment said:
    iainment said:
    If he is let go he might want to speak to the local press. Where he works and where he lives. I realise there won't be a union in a crap employer like this but if there were at the least he would get legal advice, support and representation where necessary.
    Unionising the workplace is the way forward to stop this sort of workplace misreprentation by employers.
    I’d say he’s better off not doing that. This sort of thing could be looked up by future prospective employers and wrightly or wrongly affect his chances. 
    So the bosses at that place get let off and more young people will be exploited in the future.
    I understand what you say but, as with Duchatelet, only some sort of direct action will get them to change. 
    No - the ESFA will get them to change and likely prevent them from accessing money from the levy.


    I bow to your knowledge. But still believe that an effective organised workforce would counter this.
    Not everyone has access to the wisdom of sites like this.
  • The ESFA have a tension between driving up the number and the quality of Apprenticeship. In 2015 the Government pledged 3 million apprentices by 2020. (Nobody will have their eye on that ball now!) They are very committed to improving the quality as well so I think they will take any complaint seriously.

    I would always be sceptical about any Apprenticeship lasting the minimum 12 months if it did not have a clear pathway beyond that period.
  • iainment said:
    bobmunro said:
    iainment said:
    iainment said:
    If he is let go he might want to speak to the local press. Where he works and where he lives. I realise there won't be a union in a crap employer like this but if there were at the least he would get legal advice, support and representation where necessary.
    Unionising the workplace is the way forward to stop this sort of workplace misreprentation by employers.
    I’d say he’s better off not doing that. This sort of thing could be looked up by future prospective employers and wrightly or wrongly affect his chances. 
    So the bosses at that place get let off and more young people will be exploited in the future.
    I understand what you say but, as with Duchatelet, only some sort of direct action will get them to change. 
    No - the ESFA will get them to change and likely prevent them from accessing money from the levy.


    I bow to your knowledge. But still believe that an effective organised workforce would counter this.
    Not everyone has access to the wisdom of sites like this.
    I agree - but a Union wouldn't be going to the papers!
  • bobmunro said:
    iainment said:
    bobmunro said:
    iainment said:
    iainment said:
    If he is let go he might want to speak to the local press. Where he works and where he lives. I realise there won't be a union in a crap employer like this but if there were at the least he would get legal advice, support and representation where necessary.
    Unionising the workplace is the way forward to stop this sort of workplace misreprentation by employers.
    I’d say he’s better off not doing that. This sort of thing could be looked up by future prospective employers and wrightly or wrongly affect his chances. 
    So the bosses at that place get let off and more young people will be exploited in the future.
    I understand what you say but, as with Duchatelet, only some sort of direct action will get them to change. 
    No - the ESFA will get them to change and likely prevent them from accessing money from the levy.


    I bow to your knowledge. But still believe that an effective organised workforce would counter this.
    Not everyone has access to the wisdom of sites like this.
    I agree - but a Union wouldn't be going to the papers!
    They might.
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  • edited August 1
    iainment said:
    If he is let go he might want to speak to the local press. Where he works and where he lives. I realise there won't be a union in a crap employer like this but if there were at the least he would get legal advice, support and representation where necessary.
    Unionising the workplace is the way forward to stop this sort of workplace misreprentation by employers.
    Even if your workplace isn't unionised, still join the appropriate union for your sector. While you obviously won't get the whole place downing tools to support you, having support and advice when the shit hits the fan is invaluable.
    @Justin20474 I'm not sure whether resigning may have been wise here, as I think that'll mean your son isn't entitled to claim JSA/UC for the first 13 weeks of his claim. Citizens Advice seem to think that being told to quit or be sacked counts as a dismissal though, and the company failing to manage his apprenticeship appropriately (so effectively not paying him NMW) might be sufficient mitigation so he should emphasise that when he puts his claim in.
    It might also be worth contacting your MP, depending on who they are, to highlight another example of employers taking liberties with the apprenticeship system. They can then prod the appropriate Government department about what checks are in place to ensure that placements provide adequate training without being exploitative.
  • iainment said:
    iainment said:
    If he is let go he might want to speak to the local press. Where he works and where he lives. I realise there won't be a union in a crap employer like this but if there were at the least he would get legal advice, support and representation where necessary.
    Unionising the workplace is the way forward to stop this sort of workplace misreprentation by employers.
    I’d say he’s better off not doing that. This sort of thing could be looked up by future prospective employers and wrightly or wrongly affect his chances. 
    So the bosses at that place get let off and more young people will be exploited in the future.
    I understand what you say but, as with Duchatelet, only some sort of direct action will get them to change. 
    I’m not saying it’s right (it’s not) but unfortunately a lot of employers would be put off by it.
  • My personal experience with apprenticeships has been great so far. In fact today marks one year since the start of my apprenticeship. I think my experience and situation is different from your son but you've asked for personal accounts so here's mine. 

    I'm doing my apprenticeship in cycle mechanics/maintenance. For context I dropped out of uni about 3/4 years ago and started working in the cycling industry (fancy way of saying I worked the shop floor of various cycle surgries), I love cycling anyway so wanted to make a living of doing something that was my passion. I did enjoy the job (for a while) and the pay was ok for what it was however I realised if I wanted to move forward in the industry, learn and challenge myself then I really needed to do an apprenticeship and get some qualifications. 

    So despite being offered a pay rise I left and went looking for an apprenticeship. I was offered two and they were completely different types of role in the industry from two very different sources.

    The first unfortunately sounds like it would've been similar to what your son has expirenced. It was at a big company in the city that funds, runs and puts on a very large worldwide series of cycling events (very corporate). While on the surface this was very glisty and they were professional through the application and interview process something just seemed off. The hours for the 'apprenticeship' left no space for the learning side of it and the contract seemed to strongly emphise that I would be on that lower than a fiver per hour wage for the foreseeable future with no mention of pay increases upon completion of training or qualifications being completed. I was offered the role but they could not answer my concerns in relation to the above, I thought ultimately it would come down to me being overworked, underpaid and unhappy. I appreciate you have to work hard and make sacrifices to move forward but I just felt like I was very open to being expolited from the get go with this offer. 

    Option number two could not be more different. I now work as an apprentice mechanic in a local bike shop less than 5 minutes from my door with strong links to the local community and local cycling clubs. It is just me and the boss, we're the only two employees of the business. I was very fortunate to have a great relationship with my boss as having known him from the regional cycling scene and I had infact asked for a job from him before I worked at Cycle Surgery however he couldn't afford to take me on at the time. Despite us knowing each other we spent a month thrasing out a contract that suited us both and kept each other honest. I made sure that I would'nt be stuck on £4 an hour for over a year and had pay rises put into the contract so therefore this month I am now going up to minimum wage for my age. In return I have to be punctual, regular and keep up a good quality of work. There are further pay rises written into the contract providing I meet these terms and others that are further down the line. My boss also set out what body would be putting on the courses and providing the qualifications in order for me to gain and complete my apprenticeship, and when I would have the time in the year to go and do these courses which he is also paying for. While it took a while to get that point the whole process was transparent and honest, I was left feeling secure and that I wouldn't be taken advantage of. 

    So I can say that me accepting this apprenticeship has been one of the best decisions I've made. Yes it has its drawbacks in terms of low pay (to start with atleast) and what can be long hours but I can say the expierence I've earnt so far has been invaluable, from the mechanics side to the day to day running of the shop and dealing with suppliers. I do understand I am VERY fortunate to be lucky enough to have such a good relationship with my employer, I wouldn't even call him that, I'd call him a very good friend. 

    While I understand that my apprenticeship is very different from what your son was doing I hope that my experience can help you. I'll say from the sound of it he's quite young (maybe around my age - just turned 23) and he'll probably know this already but there's no rush, its worth taking the time and evaluating your options, I rushed into Uni and regretted it big time, find something where you are valued, happy and enjoy it. If he has found that thing then find an employer who cares about his wellbeing and future, be thorough with the apprenticeship and the progession of it, any concerns flag them up and if they can't answer them then move on. 

    Hope this helps in some way and that everything works out for him. 
  • He's a young lad at the start of his career, not Erin Brockovich.
    Even Erin Brockovich wasn't Erin Brockovich until Erin Brockovich was Erin Brockovich.
  • LoOkOuT said:
    He's a young lad at the start of his career, not Erin Brockovich.
    Even Erin Brockovich wasn't Erin Brockovich until Erin Brockovich was Erin Brockovich.
    Was she named after that famous film?
  • My personal experience with apprenticeships has been great so far. In fact today marks one year since the start of my apprenticeship. I think my experience and situation is different from your son but you've asked for personal accounts so here's mine. 

    I'm doing my apprenticeship in cycle mechanics/maintenance. For context I dropped out of uni about 3/4 years ago and started working in the cycling industry (fancy way of saying I worked the shop floor of various cycle surgries), I love cycling anyway so wanted to make a living of doing something that was my passion. I did enjoy the job (for a while) and the pay was ok for what it was however I realised if I wanted to move forward in the industry, learn and challenge myself then I really needed to do an apprenticeship and get some qualifications. 

    So despite being offered a pay rise I left and went looking for an apprenticeship. I was offered two and they were completely different types of role in the industry from two very different sources.

    The first unfortunately sounds like it would've been similar to what your son has expirenced. It was at a big company in the city that funds, runs and puts on a very large worldwide series of cycling events (very corporate). While on the surface this was very glisty and they were professional through the application and interview process something just seemed off. The hours for the 'apprenticeship' left no space for the learning side of it and the contract seemed to strongly emphise that I would be on that lower than a fiver per hour wage for the foreseeable future with no mention of pay increases upon completion of training or qualifications being completed. I was offered the role but they could not answer my concerns in relation to the above, I thought ultimately it would come down to me being overworked, underpaid and unhappy. I appreciate you have to work hard and make sacrifices to move forward but I just felt like I was very open to being expolited from the get go with this offer. 

    Option number two could not be more different. I now work as an apprentice mechanic in a local bike shop less than 5 minutes from my door with strong links to the local community and local cycling clubs. It is just me and the boss, we're the only two employees of the business. I was very fortunate to have a great relationship with my boss as having known him from the regional cycling scene and I had infact asked for a job from him before I worked at Cycle Surgery however he couldn't afford to take me on at the time. Despite us knowing each other we spent a month thrasing out a contract that suited us both and kept each other honest. I made sure that I would'nt be stuck on £4 an hour for over a year and had pay rises put into the contract so therefore this month I am now going up to minimum wage for my age. In return I have to be punctual, regular and keep up a good quality of work. There are further pay rises written into the contract providing I meet these terms and others that are further down the line. My boss also set out what body would be putting on the courses and providing the qualifications in order for me to gain and complete my apprenticeship, and when I would have the time in the year to go and do these courses which he is also paying for. While it took a while to get that point the whole process was transparent and honest, I was left feeling secure and that I wouldn't be taken advantage of. 

    So I can say that me accepting this apprenticeship has been one of the best decisions I've made. Yes it has its drawbacks in terms of low pay (to start with atleast) and what can be long hours but I can say the expierence I've earnt so far has been invaluable, from the mechanics side to the day to day running of the shop and dealing with suppliers. I do understand I am VERY fortunate to be lucky enough to have such a good relationship with my employer, I wouldn't even call him that, I'd call him a very good friend. 

    While I understand that my apprenticeship is very different from what your son was doing I hope that my experience can help you. I'll say from the sound of it he's quite young (maybe around my age - just turned 23) and he'll probably know this already but there's no rush, its worth taking the time and evaluating your options, I rushed into Uni and regretted it big time, find something where you are valued, happy and enjoy it. If he has found that thing then find an employer who cares about his wellbeing and future, be thorough with the apprenticeship and the progession of it, any concerns flag them up and if they can't answer them then move on. 

    Hope this helps in some way and that everything works out for him. 
    Thank you for sharing your experience, sounds like you dodged one similar to my son and have been very lucky to have very good friend who has been in a position to support you in your career choice.

    Good luck in reaching your ultimate goal.
  • UPDATE - I have just spoken to the Apprenticeship provider and was shocked and very sympathetic towards my son's situation. He apologised for not being closer to him but his reports back from his training provider was that everything was ok. Apparently, the training provider had approached the employer a few times about my son being allowed time away from work to "study" be he (employer) wasn't interested.

    The provider did comment that when he initially went to meet with the employer there was a challenge whether the employer actually wanted an apprentice or a full-time employee. We now know, what he wanted is both = cheap labour!!.

    The next step is for him to just get what is owed (outstanding holiday, worked time in lieu and 4 weeks notice) to him and get the hell out of there. Somehow I think that will be a fight. We have spoken to ACAS and its a fight they will take up should it be needed. 

    He is off work today and Monday so unlikely to be ant further developments until Tuesday. 
  • Thanks for the update. I’m pleased you pursued this and hope your son gets what is due to him. Only by taking action like this will rogue employers be weeded out and the quality of apprenticeships improve. 
  • UPDATE - I have just spoken to the Apprenticeship provider and was shocked and very sympathetic towards my son's situation. He apologised for not being closer to him but his reports back from his training provider was that everything was ok. Apparently, the training provider had approached the employer a few times about my son being allowed time away from work to "study" be he (employer) wasn't interested.

    The provider did comment that when he initially went to meet with the employer there was a challenge whether the employer actually wanted an apprentice or a full-time employee. We now know, what he wanted is both = cheap labour!!.

    The next step is for him to just get what is owed (outstanding holiday, worked time in lieu and 4 weeks notice) to him and get the hell out of there. Somehow I think that will be a fight. We have spoken to ACAS and its a fight they will take up should it be needed. 

    He is off work today and Monday so unlikely to be ant further developments until Tuesday. 
    Try Middleton Murray for apprenticeships. They were very good in setting up my son with interviews
  • Charlton Life at its best once more.
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