Organising apprentices

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2008 Local Government Service Group Conference
22 February 2008

This Conference notes the Prime Minister’s announcement on 28 January 2008 that he wants to see one in five young people on apprenticeships within 10 years, in a push to win the global “skills race”. He also announced that as a first step the number of places on offer for 16 to 18-year-olds would be increased by 90,000 by 2013.

This Conference also notes the publication on the same date of “The Apprenticeship Review” which detailed how the new commitment is to be delivered and that this publication includes a commitment to “a new drive to increase apprenticeships in the public sector, setting targets in key areas”. This Conference believes this expansion represents a major challenge to local government in implementing it successfully, and a major challenge to UNISON local government branches in negotiating and monitoring the schemes.

This Conference welcomes in principle the expansion of apprenticeship schemes, as an important opportunity for young people to gain access to training and employment. Good quality apprenticeships can also benefit the public sector, including local government, by helping bring new workers into the public sector ethos and providing skilled staff for the future.

However, this Conference believes that such schemes must only be introduced in as high-quality schemes and only on the basis of having been properly-negotiated. Conference will not tolerate such schemes in local government if they merely serve to provide cheap labour, undercutting other workers pay and with little or no training.

Branches should support the development of apprenticeship schemes where they can negotiate agreement for the following:

1)Decent rates of pay for apprentices;

2)That once an apprentice reaches the standard required for the job they should be transferred to the normal pay and conditions;

3)That those paid at an apprentice rate must be in addition to regular staff, rather than a replacement;

4)That apprentices get appropriate access to training and development, with necessary paid time for training.

Branches should also seek access to induction sessions/literature to ensure that these new workers understand the importance of joining UNISON, highlighting that modern apprentices can take advantage of UNISON’s student membership rate currently £10.

Conference mandates the Local Government Service Group Executive to:

a)work with the bargaining support unit and other service groups where possible to produce a guide for branches on negotiating apprenticeship schemes;

b)call for the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills to monitor the success of schemes in local government, especially with regard to quality, drop-out rate, and pay levels, and to publish such information broken down by employer on an annual basis.