Negotiation and representation at work
A UNISON case study

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Page 3: External factors supporting apprenticeships

Demographic change

The demographic profile of the UK workforce is changing. Large numbers of people now fit into what is described as the Baby Boom generation. This consists of people born in the years that followed the Second World War. These people are now in their fifties and sixties and retiring from the national workforce in large numbers.

The British economy needs more young skilled workers who have been adequately trained to carry out important job roles. This is particularly true in the public sector. For example, within the next ten years, over one third of existing local government employees will have retired. Employers therefore need to provide opportunities for young people to climb the qualifications and skills ladder. An apprenticeship is an ideal start for many young people.

Generating skills

UNISON supports apprenticeship schemes because they have multiple benefits. They:

  • offer opportunities to young people and bring new people into industry
  • provide a progression ladder to higher level skills and qualifications
  • create a positive learning atmosphere within an organisation.

Union support can help to ensure that apprentices are paid a fair wage and that the scheme is well structured and beneficial to them. UNISON does not have authority to approve or set up these apprenticeship schemes.

However, by developing positive working partnerships with employers, it is able to influence them in various ways. For example, UNISON:

  • identifies and promotes existing schemes which show best practice. It consults UNISON members on the effect of apprenticeship schemes and feeds the reports back to employers
  • provides a negotiation guide for use with employers looking to introduce a scheme
  • has been active in seeking to persuade the Low Pay Commission to set fair and appropriate pay levels for apprentices. Apprentices are all now covered by minimum wage laws.

Scheme benefits also include apprentices having the same entitlement to holidays or sick leave as other colleagues. In the North Yorkshire County Council scheme, young apprentices also get help with travel costs. Apprentices at a new scheme at Kings College Hospital in London are paid the going NHS pay rates and have full conditions of service.

UNISON | Negotiation and representation at work