Tax, tools & travel: Why the UK’s apprenticeships are down by 31 per cent

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According to the UK Trade Skills Index 2023, the construction and trades industry needs 937,000 new recruits over the next decade, underscoring the need to recruit and retain talent. Following a sharp decline of over 30% across all UK apprenticeships, the current climate for apprentices is close to untenable with the average salary standing at just £50 per day, according to Checkatrade. With a steady exodus of talent from the industry and one in five workers being over the age of 50, Fix Radio – the UK’s only national radio station dedicated to the trade – has unveiled its manifesto for creating an incentivised environment for apprentices, in conjunction with National Apprenticeship Week.
Despite the critical role apprenticeships play in equipping young people with practical skills, there's a lack of adequate funding and rewards for apprentices. Many apprentices find themselves grappling with low wages - currently, the national minimum wage for apprentices is £4.81 per hour for those aged 16-18 or those aged 19 or over who are in their first year of training. Additionally, the average daily rate for an apprentice in the construction sector stands at £50,which is staggeringly low when you factor in daily costs such as travel, feeding, and general wellbeing. In a direct bid to encourage apprenticeships within the construction sector, Fix Radio has launched its manifesto, covering 3 of the critical areas that affect apprentices daily.
Free Travel:
The combination of increased costs of public transport, petrol and vehicle insurance has led to an overwhelming rise in the cost of travel. As rail fares are set to increase by 4.9% in March, Fix Radio is advocating for free travel as a pivotal way to incentivise more apprentices in the construction industry. Relieving the burden of having to purchase travel tickets whilst already managing a low income, showcases the value of apprentices in construction, and can go a long way in improving productivity.
Tax Breaks:
Despite a reduction in National Insurance contributions as of January 2024, paying tax still represents a significant impact on the income of apprentices. Implementing Tax Relief schemes for apprentices can benefit apprentices as it increases their disposable income, which ultimately works as an incentive to join the trades sector as an apprentice.
Grants for Tools:
The rising costs of tools is making it more and more difficult for apprentices in construction. Construction equipment increased in costs by 9.3% in the year leading to July 2023, and with tool theft representing a £2.8 billion crime that affects 78% of tradespeople, the cost of tools presents a significant hurdle to getting started in the trade. Coupled with an already low income, the ability to purchase quality tools as an apprentice becomes near impossible. Offering significant discounts on tools goes a long way in empowering these apprentices and enables them to do their jobs to the best of their availability, ultimately resulting in a higher level of productivity.
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