By Nathan Pearson-Smith – YEUK Youth Ambassador
This was my first time attending the APPG and my first time attending an event on behalf of YEUK. I had no preconceptions of what the event would be like or the make-up of the people in the room but I wanted to come in with an open mind and I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.
Although I arrived slightly late (Jubilee Line you’re always so reliable!), I was pleased to see such a great turnout of young people, key influencers in the youth employment industry, as well as local MPs. The Conservative MP for Stratford-upon-Avon, Nadhim Zahawi, had the floor upon me entering and the whole room seemed very much engaged in what he had to say.
I think most people in the room would agree there was a lot of substance to what Mr. Zahawi said and I felt there was a genuine sense of care in his words and desire to improve youth employment. Mr. Zahawi discussed the many strides the Apprenticeship program has made in the last few years, but also highlighted that Apprenticeships have yet to make significant headway, in the eyes of many academics, in creating ‘degree’ level apprenticeships of a higher quality. Apprenticeships which young people can realistically hold up against a degree obtained through the traditional university route and still feel like their Apprenticeship qualification is held in the same esteem.
Paul Warner from the Association of Education and Learning Providers (AELP) was also in attendance. He spoke in depth about the conversations he has face-to-face with employers about the skills they expect and want to see in the workplace. The AELP campaigns for that first-hand information to be given in schools, colleges and all learning providers at the earliest possible stage. Those same institutions can then, in turn, educate young people early on about what they will need to be prepared for the world of work.
Throughout the afternoon all the group members were invited to answer questions and one young person in particular asked Paul Warner about what is being done to better compensate young people on an apprenticeship and whether the apprenticeship minimum wage (AMW) of £3.30 is justified? An idea proposed by one of the audience members, Iain Salisbury, Chief Operating Officer for Learndirect, was the idea of apprentices being on the AMW for a short probation period of potentially 3 months and then being progressed to the National Minimum Wage of £6.50. This is a very progressive idea and potentially, if enough noise is made amongst young people and employers, MPs would stand up and listen.
Overall the day sparked a much needed discussion on Apprenticeships, the issues young people in Apprenticeships currently have and what steps we, all together, can take to see young people – the direct beneficiaries of Apprenticeships – have a better experience and feel like the qualification they are getting is no less of an achievement than their academic counterparts.
Nathan is a Youth Ambassador with YEUK and this opens up many opportunities to attend events like the APPG, as well as writing articles to speak out on behalf of YEUK. Follow the link if you’d like to find out more about our Ambassador Programme.
To find out more about the APPG for Youth Employment and when the next one is taking place, please visit the link.