On 3 August, the Government launched the flexi-job offer apprenticeship scheme. The scheme is designed to provide flexible apprenticeship contracts to employers who cannot recruit apprentices for the full duration of the traditional 12-month contract. Whilst this scheme should foster high-levels of growth for employers in creative and construction industries, it also has the potential to exacerbate concerns many have surrounding apprenticeship exploitation.
Whilst apprentices provide many benefits and opportunities to employers, some employers are missing out from reaping these benefits due to structural barriers in the market. For example, temporary employee contracts may be favoured over apprenticeship contracts due to having to hire an apprentice for a minimum of 12-months. However, the flexi-job apprenticeship scheme will enable employers to hire apprentices for less time, such as 3 months or 6 months.
Following in the footsteps of Apprenticeship Training Agencies (ATAs) and Group Training Associations (GTAs), the Government is asking sector bodies, groups of employers, and other interested organisations to register as flexi-job apprenticeship agencies by 12pm on 6 October 2021.
Organisations that are successful in becoming flexi-job apprenticeship agencies can then apply for support from a £7m fund to help with start-up costs. They can apply for funding between £100,000 and £1m.
It is important that organisations applying to become flexi-job agencies have the background and ability to provide apprentices with the support they need, and that they have extensive contacts within their industries to arrange multiple placements for the apprentice/s. If they do not meet these standards then they may not be chosen to become an agency.
The Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills – Gillian Keegan – has stated that the scheme will open new opportunities for apprentices and employers alike, by allowing apprentices to gain a vast array of knowledge and experience. Additionally, this new scheme shall allow growth in industries where employment is becoming increasingly flexible and project-based. Many are hoping that this new scheme will spur on creative industries to become catalysts in apprenticeship schemes.
There are, however, concerns that this new scheme could potentially lead to the exploitation of apprentices in the creative and construction industries. The TUC states that the Government should be doing more to promote long-term employment for apprentices in order to provide adequate supervision, training and employment prospects. Low pay and poor treatment already dissuade many young people from choosing an apprenticeship, and the flexi-job scheme has the potential to exacerbate these issues.
Flexi-job apprenticeship agencies and employers can put in place a number of steps to prevent possible negative implications of the scheme, including providing apprentices with fair and equitable pay. Agencies and employers can also engage with each other, maintain good communication channels with apprentices during the lifetime of the scheme, and build an ongoing network to reengage with the apprentice/s when required. It may be best to build a psychological contract, so the apprentice/s understand the industry they are working in and the ongoing nature of contract style working.
- The flexi-job apprenticeship scheme is designed to create benefits for employers in industries that are often prevented from hiring apprentices for the 12 month time period. Organisations can apply to register as a flexi-job agency and then apply for a share of the £7m funding available to start-up these agencies.
- Whilst the scheme should generate growth in certain industries, there is the potential for it to exacerbate existing concerns surrounding apprenticeships, including pay, training and treatment.
- To prevent possible negative implications of the scheme, employers and agencies can provide apprentices with fair pay, a psychological contract and sufficient communication channels during the lifetime of the scheme.
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We always recommend that you seek advice from a suitably qualified adviser before taking any action. The information in this article only serves as a guide and no responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of this material can be accepted by the authors or the firm.
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