Apprenticeships for all?

Friday, 20 January 2012

I was watching the One Show on BBC1 earlier this evening and reporter John Sargeant was talking about the topic of apprenticeships.  He had two examples; one was a young woman who was doing your typical apprenticeship that's for 16-24 year olds who's work involved putting together fighter aircraft.  The other example was an older lady in her 60s + who is currently doing an apprenticeship at a supermarket chain.

On first impression it seems perfectly acceptable, after all, no matter what your age people will always want to learn, and everyone should have the option.  Not all older people want to be assigned to the grave and left to potter around the house until their time is up, and young people equally have a drive to learn and want diversity in options of aspiring for and attaining a career.

What I picked up on in the article wasn't what anybody else brought up.  The issue of pay.  The older lady said she was being paid the minimum wage that the sales assistants were earning whilst she was training in her apprentice role.  The younger woman didn't say anything about pay, but typically the modern apprenticeship that's targeted at 16-24 years do not receive the same minimum wage.  Instead, younger apprentices on this scheme are lucky to earn a few pounds per hour - £2.60; a stark difference between that and the older lady's minimum wage which currently stands at £6.08 per hour.  I'm all for equality in the learning capacity, but is this equal and fair to the younger learner?

If apprenticeships are going to be available then they should be the same across the board.  A learner regardless of their age should receive the same fair wage.  Why is it fair that somebody even at 24 comes away with a pittance of a wage when a lady in her 60s - who will also receive senior citizen rates everywhere they go and probably already claiming their pension, is paid such a higher rate, not in accordance to any apprenticeship rate?  In this case, I think seniors of that age group shouldn't be entitled to an apprenticeship.  They're already in their retirement years and have no career to work toward.  They won't have a family to support (when many younger people will), they've paid off their mortgages if they bought their house and they already receive many benefits because of their age group that younger people don't get.

I'm 30 next month so I fall in the middle.  I'm supposed to already be in a career I've spent my twenties progressing through.  Many people my age have long been settled down with kids.  Lots of people my age won't even consider an apprenticeship because they're already established in their lives and don't need or desire to start from the bottom again.  I on the other hand would be interested in such a thing but I don't get the option.
I'm not considered a young person anymore.  Therefore I do not qualify for many things younger people naturally do, like going to college for free.  I'm also not 'over the hill' yet.  I have twice my age to live before I'm close to collecting my pension (if I will have one).  So I don't qualify for senior discounts wherever I go.  I'm a middle of the road person.

I would love to be able to learn new skills.  I recently enquired into my local college and was told I would have no financial assistance if I were to enroll on a course.  At the same time the very government who tell me I don't need any help when I suffer with health conditions including fibromyalgia are not assisting me find what I can do without harming myself and suffering.  So if the government really want to make a difference, why don't they listen for a change because maybe something like an apprenticeship would be beneficial to me and society if they made options such as apprenticeships more accessible and available to all people, including those of us who are the middle-of-the-road-joes.  Learning should be equal and fair without discrimination of age and that includes pay packet.

Becky x


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