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2017 Local Government Service Group Conference
23 February 2017
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that:

1) The apprenticeship levy comes in from April 2017 and all employers, with a pay bill over £3 million each year, will need to pay 0.5% of their pay-bill to invest in apprenticeships – almost all further education (FE) colleges will be paying the levy. The growth in apprenticeships over the coming years provides an opportunity for FE colleges to deliver more vocational and professional skills training to more learners.

2) UNISON welcomes the opportunity for employers within UNISON’s local government service group to provide genuine new jobs and high quality, accredited skills training for apprentices. UNISON is concerned that apprentices should not be used as cheap labour and should not be used to replace existing members of the workforce. UNISON is also concerned that colleges should continue to fund staff training and development and that cuts in these areas are not made to fund the apprenticeship levy.

3) FE colleges, and employers within the local government service group, need to ensure that the standards and quality of the educational and pastoral support for apprentices are based on best practice with regard to safeguarding, health and safety, equal opportunities, appropriate recruitment, SEND assessments and support, etc.

Conference further notes that:

a) FE colleges have a dual role as both trainers and assessors of apprentices working for other organisations and as employers of apprentices themselves.

b) In 2016, members working in FE told UNISON that nearly 60% of colleges employ apprentices and that in those workplaces 33% of members found that apprentices are being used to replace existing support staff posts.

c) In England there are 297,000 people on apprenticeship programmes in FE colleges and the average college trains 1,200 apprentices; in Scotland there are 25,000 modern apprentices; in Wales the government has committed to creating 100,000 apprenticeships over the next five years; in Northern Ireland between 2013/14 and 2016/17 there were 19,282 people who started apprenticeships – mainly supported by FE college training.

Conference calls on the local government service group executive to work with the FE sector committee to seek to ensure that in colleges:

i) Apprentices are employed on proper contracts of employment;

ii) Apprentices receive the correct rate for the job they are doing rather than the apprentice minimum wage;

iii) The assessors and mentors who support apprentices are organised and recruited into UNISON;

iv) Apprentices receive proper, high quality training and support throughout their apprenticeship so that they can successfully complete their apprenticeship programme;

v) Apprentices have a job at the end of their apprenticeship training;

vi) Existing jobs are not put at risk due to employers’ taking on apprentices.

Additionally Conference calls on the SGE to seek to ensure that:

A) Sector committees and service groups share experiences and spread best practice with regard to apprenticeships;

B) Materials on recruiting and organising apprentices in UNISON are reviewed and updated;

C) That the UNISON negotiating guide on apprentices is updated;

D) Consideration is given as to how best UNISON can support apprentices;

E) There is a branch survey of apprentices in employers within the local government service group (including those covered by sector committees.