MQT on 2014-03-19
Session date: 
March 19, 2014
Question By: 
Fiona Twycross
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Are you on course to meet your targets for increasing apprenticeships in London?


Answer for Apprenticeships

Answer for Apprenticeships

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Fiona, I hope so.  We are trying to do 250,000 by 2016 and, as I was saying in an earlier answer to Andrew [Boff], it has been going very well but we are now in the hard yards and there are lots of things we need to do to try to keep the programme going at the rate we want.


I want to stress, since people will be watching this and thinking whether they should hire an apprentice, it is a fantastic thing to do and 85% of them stay on and get full-time jobs.  They are brilliant employees.  They will reduce your costs.  It is the way forward for young people.


Fiona Twycross AM:  OK.  I share your aspiration for increasing apprenticeships, although I was not quite clear about the points being raised earlier by a colleague opposite, but why have apprenticeships started to decline in London in the past year?  How can you be confident or hopeful of reaching your target if the rate of growth has slowed down to the extent it has?  With levels of youth unemployment particularly among young black men in London too high, do you not think that a bit stronger action is needed?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I do.  Obviously, the answer is partly the one I gave earlier on, which is that natural economic confidence has started to ease.  Some of the people who might have got into the apprenticeship programme are getting jobs just in the normal course of things.  There is a group that really needs help, a group that is particularly hard to reach.  They are exactly the sorts of people who would benefit from apprenticeships and from the apprenticeship campaign.


We are putting money into a big publicity campaign.  We are trying to get SMEs, who are particularly capable of taking on this type of young person, to see the benefits to them, try to explain the programme, sell it better and put more money into it.  One of the things we want to do is get back to the £3,000 a year in support for SMEs to take on young people.  We will be putting some money into that as well.


Fiona Twycross AM:  One of the things I have been looking at in relation to apprenticeships is the age profile.  You have repeated and I think most people assume that apprentices are young people who are starting out in life, going out to get the skills and vocational training that will set them up for a career longer term.  However, there is something about the age profile that is out of kilter with the impression people have about the role.  The number of apprenticeships in the under‑25 age group increased by 452 from 2009 to 2010, compared to an increase of 20% for under‑19s and 63% for 19 to 24‑year‑olds.  In fact, in 2012 to 2013, almost half of the apprenticeship starts were under‑25s.


I have been looking at it.  One of the reasons for this ‑ because I have been trying to dig down into exactly why this would happen and why it would happen around a change of Government ‑ is that the Government appears to have reclassified over‑25s who are already in work but working towards a qualification as an apprenticeship.  To be honest, I am not at all sure that those classed as apprenticeships for this purpose will even necessarily be aware that they are as a result.


Will you make sure that the 250,000 apprenticeships you are committed to creating do not simply constitute a reclassification of existing roles, but are new roles to provide much‑needed work skills and experience and are helping young people first and foremost find their feet in the workplace?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes.  The brief I have is that most of the people we classify that have become apprentices in London since 2009/10 have been under the age of 25.  There is no reason why you should not have apprenticeships for older people at all.  That is not a bad thing.  I am slightly with you on the reclassification thing and we will dig into that and find out.


Fiona Twycross AM:  I will send you the figures we have on that and I agree with you that people over 25 should also be encouraged to take up apprenticeships if it is appropriate.  However, I am concerned that there is an issue around reclassification rather than creation of the roles.


The other thing I just wanted to ask briefly was whether you are concerned that some employers appear to be using the role of apprentice to pay less.  Do you agree there needs to be greater control over this area to avoid potential exploitation?  For example, I have two adverts for jobs at a major high street chain that are almost identical, one for a retail apprenticeship paid at £2.68 an hour and the other for a sales adviser paid above the minimum wage. Both,, when you look at the actual content of the advert, appear to contain the same element of training.  Do you think this is appropriate?  If I pass on the details of the retailer to you, would you contact them and ask them to think again about their approach?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  What are they doing wrong again, Fiona?


Fiona Twycross AM:  They appear to be paying people who are classed as apprentices obviously at the apprenticeship rate, but identical jobs paid over the minimum wage are being advertised with the same training element.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  That is interesting and we should look into that, yes.


Fiona Twycross AM:  Yes.  I will pass that on because there is a serious issue around low pay anyway in London.  If people are trying to avoid it, then there is a real issue.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes, absolutely.  The apprenticeships programme goes hand‑in‑hand with what we are trying to do with the Living Wage.  There we have made progress but, as you and I have said many times, there is a lot more to do.


Fiona Twycross AM:  Thank you.