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2019 National Delegate Conference
13 February 2019

Conference recognises that apprenticeships can be a useful tool that provides individuals with a real chance of gaining meaningful employment and addressing the skills gap in the workplace. The UK’s skill shortage is costly, damaging to growth, and could worsen because the skills that we need are changing and this could be compounded as Brexit may also radically change the skills we have access to in the UK. Further, Conference is mindful that this year, 2019, is the year of Young People and youth unemployment in the UK is at an all time high.

In light of this, and the Brexit uncertainty, there is a growing concern of potential skill shortages in many areas in the UK economy being filled by apprenticeships as a form of cheap labour to replace more experienced staff or take up the jobs of more experienced staff who have left employment.

UNISON takes a positive view of apprenticeships but in the current economic climate, many employers are coming under pressure to find ways of cutting costs, and unscrupulous employers may be looking to exploit apprentices and to use them to replace establishment post on the cheap.

Conference we need monitor schemes within our workplaces, organise apprentices in our branches and continue to push to get employers to sign up to the UNISON Apprenticeship Charter’s standards.

With the launch of the Apprenticeship Charter it is recognised that UNISON has been working to ensure that all apprenticeships are well funded, high quality apprenticeships which lead to a meaningful job. This however, is not enough we need to work to get employers to sign up to our Charter. If we do this then we can contribute towards ensuring that apprentices have the protection they need.

Currently there is gender imbalance in apprenticeships that mirrors the gender disproportion seen in the workplace generally and Black people continue to be under-represented in key sectors of the economy.

Conference therefore calls on the National Executive Council to:

1)Continue to develop a strategic approach on apprenticeships to ensure that they deliver positive outcomes for all;

2)Continue the campaign to get employers providing Public Services to sign up to the UNISON Apprenticeship Charter;

3)Campaign to ensure that candidates for apprenticeships are recruited from a wider range of under-represented or disadvantaged groups, such as those from Black and minority backgrounds and older workers;

4)Examine the barriers facing Black people looking to take up apprenticeships and work with employers on their recruitment strategies for apprenticeships.