National Society of Apprentices - UK

It's an exciting time to be an apprentice, and for apprenticeships in general. We are seeing a real debate about what apprenticeships should look like, where you can do one, in which subjects and to which level. Apprenticeships are finally beginning to be taken seriously.

Following our research into careers advice and apprenticeships over the last year we've been talking with apprentices across the country from all sorts of different frameworks. Apprentices have been telling us they are concerned about:

- Careers Advice

- Pay and travel costs

- Respect as an apprentice

- The quality of teaching and learning

So these are the things that the national society will be focussing on this year.

When apprentices have been talking to us about the quality of their experience we've seen something quite disturbing. The experience of men and women in apprenticeships is different. When we followed up these stories and looked at the research we found that training, conditions and pay are better in apprenticeships that tend to be done by men. We believe everyone has the right to access an excellent apprenticeship.

The pioneering society has been set up to support apprentices, to champion their rights, to represent apprentices' views on a national level, and celebrate the part that they play in their communities.

NUS has partnered with the National Apprentice Service (NAS) that supports, funds and co-ordinates the delivery of apprenticeships throughout England and is responsible for increasing the number of Apprenticeship opportunities.

Apprentices are fantastic for businesses, personal careers and creating opportunities for both employers and apprentices, but they can also face many barriers which can adversely affect their work and lives.

Apprentices are some of the most underrepresented learners in the UK. Our own research has showed that the apprenticeship minimum wage, a measly £3.70 per hour, could be a major deterrent for those who would otherwise consider apprenticeships. The Government's own evidence last year showed a fifth of apprentices were paid below even that wage.

Research from the equality and human rights commission indicates that pay and the quality of apprenticeships are inextricably linked. Traditionally male apprenticeships such as engineering and construction have better wages, more classroom time, and more on the job training than traditionally female apprenticeships, such as hairdressing and childcare positions.

NUS wants to ensure that everyone understands the issues that apprentices face and empower them to have a national voice that will give them the protection and power they deserve.

In addition to creating a voice for all apprentices regardless of what or where they learn, the agreement with NAS will to raise the profile of the NUS Apprentice extra discount card, which was launched in 2012 to support work based learners, with a vision that it will one day help fund a national society to act as a voice for apprentices nationally. The card offers apprentices many of the same discounts and benefits as other students as well as a few apprentice exclusives.

Raechel Mattey, NUS vice president (union development), said:  "NUS understands the importance of strong representation and having a voice to shape your environment. I'm delighted that we are setting up the society in time for National Apprenticeship week. It's the perfect way to celebrate Apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy.

"Never before has anyone listened to the views of apprentices at a national level, until now. For the first time ever, apprentices will have a voice and it's high time we started to champion our apprentices by tackling exploitative practices within the industry and rooting out abuse where it exists."

National Society of Apprentices Wales

Speaking at NUS Wales Conference 2013 on Thursday 14 March 2013, Raechel Mattey announced the launch of the National Society of Apprentices Wales:

"Our mission as the National Union of Students' is to promote,
defend and extended the rights of students. As a collective movement, we
understand the importance of strong representation, having a voice to shape
your learning environment and a space to creative positive change. But this
shouldn't be restricted to those only in further or higher education. Where
ever you study, however you choose to study, NUS should be supporting you.

I'm really proud to have led our pioneering work with apprentices in
Wales this year. And tonight, we are launching the National Society of
Apprentices Wales. Never before has anyone tried to listen to the views of
those apprentices at a national level, until now..."

You can view the full video of the announcement here

NUS Apprentice extra - the discount card for Apprentices

NUS extra, the UK's market leading student discount and lifestyle card, has introduced an Apprentice extra card. Developed specifically for worked based learners, the card gives apprentices access to the same discounts and offers as NUS extra card holders.

In time for National Apprentice Week Apprentice extra has launched Twitter and Facebook pages to provide an online community space for apprentices. Through social media card holders can connect with other apprentices and keep up to date with all the latest discount news and exclusive competitions.

The National Union of Students (NUS) has made a commitment to providing support services to the growing numbers of post-16 work based learners who, to date have been under represented in education.

Ed Marsh, Vice President for Union Development at NUS explained why NUS is leading this initiative. "Despite 81% of apprentices falling into the 16-24 age group, with many earning only the minimum apprentice wage of £2.65 per hour, apprentices do not generally have access to typical student benefits such as bank accounts and other discounts offered to other young people in higher education. NUS Apprentice extra will give them the same access to the discounts and, in due course, other benefits such as financial products especially selected for the value they offer to vocational learners."

Apprentice extra card holders will be able to enjoy discounts on a variety of essentials including on travel, sport, books and DVD, technology, mobile and broadband, as well as fashion, beauty and going out, from more than 120 high street and online retail partners. Partners include ASOS, Amazon, Odeon, Rileys and Pizza Hut. Used wisely discounts can save card holders around £525 per year.

Apprentice extra offers card holders' real, tangible savings that can make a big difference.

"I use it on my regular shopping and it was especially beneficial at Christmas when I saved up to 20% on some of my purchases.  It also helps with my bus travel."   Karen Wickens, worked based learner with Smart Training & Recruitment Ltd.

As well as individual card holders there are currently 140 companies registered with Apprentice extra including Barnardos, De Vere Academy of Hospitality and the Association of Accounting Technicians, as well as training providers. The money generated from sales will go towards funding a National Society for Apprentices.

Gill Rogers, Business Development Director Smart Training and Recruitment Ltd, said; "As a training provider for 2,500 apprentices it is encouraging to see apprentices getting recognition for their status as work place learners. The Apprentice extra card gives them added support to enable them to make their money go further whilst they are in training, especially for those on the foundation programme who may not be in any employment yet. It all helps support them in their training, which is fantastic."

Apprenticeships are on the increase, and research has shown that being an apprentice is perceived as a positive career choice. Research also highlighted a high demand for more support for apprentices. Respondents felt that a national society would give apprentices a stronger identity, a better image and more respect, as well as a voice to represent the interest of apprentices nationally, including political representation.

Ed Marsh added; "NUS has made a commitment to support apprentices, and the Apprentice extra card is the first step in that process. Our key objective is the formation of a National Society for Apprentices, so that apprentices will have a profile, a voice and similar benefits to those enjoyed by other groups of learners."

The launch of this initiative was given parliamentary backing by MP Robert Halfon, who has engaged with stakeholders in vocational education keen to see this happen. Mr Halfon said, "For many months, I have worked with the NUS and employers to develop a National Society of Apprentices: starting with the Apprentice card."

"The card will finally put apprentices on a level playing-field with students, with the same financial benefits. But this is not just about economic efficiency it is about social justice as well. That's why I was also among the first MPs to employ an apprentice in my Westminster office".

John Hayes MP, the Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, said, "The Government is supporting the greatest number of apprenticeships our country has ever seen because we want more young people to develop the advanced practical skills that fuel growth and build fulfilling and productive careers."

"To elevate vocational learning and competence, it is right that the hard work, skill and dedication of apprentices is recognised and rewarded alongside the achievements of other learners".

"By reaching out to apprentices NUS is celebrating the worth of practical accomplishment, and helping to build a more cohesive and fairer society."

Apprentice extra costs just £11 per year and gives access to over 120 high street and online retailers.

Follow Apprentice extra on twitter or visits the facebook page