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2014 Local Government Service Group Conference
1 January 2014


Conference believes that there is a staffing crisis in local government, with around half a million jobs lost since the General Election in 2010 (mainly as a result of UK Government cuts in local authority funding). The cuts mean diminishing prospects for young people of finding work in local government, and also on their prospects for proper training and career development.

Conference believes it is essential that local authorities strive to reclaim their position as model employers, part of that work being to seek to recruit and develop young workers.

Conference notes that some local authorities have developed apprenticeship schemes, and that more than 70% of all apprentices in UNISON membership are in the local government service group. Conference welcomes the work undertaken by the service group executive to develop a recruitment and organising plan for apprentices in local government. Conference remains concerned that many apprentices are still low-paid and believes this must be addressed.

Conference recognises that:

1) The economic and social value that high quality apprenticeships and work experience schemes can have and the role they can play in addressing the skills deficit and lack of work preparedness facing the UK.

2) Young people should be encouraged to take up apprenticeships where these have been properly-negotiated to secure high-quality training, which is effectively monitored, and where the basis for payment is ‘the rate for the job’.

3) Apprentices under the age of 19, and those over 19 but in the first year of their apprenticeship are on a current minimum wage rate of £2.68 per hour. Apprentices aged 19 or over who have completed their first year must be paid at least the minimum wage rate for their age and this is significantly under the Living Wage.

4) There has been an increase in the use of unregulated apprenticeship schemes and providers. This has led to the exploitation of young people providing little in the way of transferrable skills or experience.

5) In further education there has been an increase in the use of unqualified and unaccredited employment and brokers to facilitate apprenticeship schemes between colleges and small, medium businesses and industry.

Conference believes that:

a) Socio-economic inequalities are perpetuated by unregulated, unaccredited and low quality apprenticeships and work experience.

b) Quality apprenticeships should be brokered by independent, impartial and fully qualified careers professionals.

c) Apprentices should be paid a wage that reflects the work that they do within an organisation and the value that they add.

d) The quality of apprenticeship education and training should be consistently high and adequate to provide skills commensurate with continued employability.

e) It is essential that steps are taken to address issues of gender stereotyping in the provision of apprenticeships and work experience placements.”

Conference calls on the Local Government Service Group Executive to:

i) Campaign on the above.

ii) Survey all young members in local government as to the key service conditions issues they face, including identifying issues of low pay, such survey to make it possible to disaggregate apprentices and to disaggregate by sector to determine any specific issues related to those groups of members.

iii) Consider the results of the survey to determine drawing up a charter for young workers in local government, such charter to be the basis for a recruitment and organising campaign.

iv) Issue the results to sector committees for consideration in their workplans.

v) Continue to work to ensure that the National Minimum Wage is the minimum paid to all apprentices and that Living Wage employers apply it to apprentices; while seeking to negotiate pay that is based on the ‘rate for the job’.

vi) Gather intelligence on apprenticeship brokerage and the number and financial size of contracts with employers held by colleges.

vii) Call on branches to negotiate with employers to:

A) Provide tighter controls on the quality and consistency in the training and advice that is provided for apprentices and students engaging in work experience.

B) That these are provided by organisations that can provide fully accredited careers professionals.

viii) Call on branches to work with their local colleges and college members to ensure provision of quality education and training for apprentices.