Warning on apprenticeships for butchery industry

Leaders in the butchery industry have warned against using apprenticeships as a replacement for offering staff a competitive wage.

A Meat Trades Journal online survey found that 70% would consider taking on more apprentices in response to rising minimum wages. Announced in the Budget earlier this year, the National Living Wage will increase to £7.20 as of 1 April 2016. This will increase further in 2020 to £9, for those aged 25 and over. This comes as government approval to launch a brand new ‘Trailblazer’ apprenticeship scheme for butchery was given earlier this month.

Apprenticeship advocate Lucianne Allen of Aubrey Allen said it was vital to pay a fair wage to those in the industry and that apprentices should be seen as an opportunity to teach a craft rather than cut costs. Aubrey Allen currently has seven apprenticeships in its business and is looking to take on more in the near future.

Apprentices and the National Minimum Wage (NMW)

Apprentices under 19 years or 19 years and over and in the first year of their apprenticeship are entitled to £2.73 per hour (this will increase to £3.30 from October 2015). However, the employer may choose to pay the apprentice at a higher rate.

Once the apprentice reaches 19 years and has completed the first year of the apprenticeship the employer must pay the full NMW rate.

All other apprentices are eligible for the full National Minimum Wage for their age.

“Butchery is a fantastic craft but a hardworking one and there’s no point in having apprentices if they don’t feel that they have a future in an industry that will invest in them long-term. We have to make ourselves competitive as employers and that includes offering a competitive wage.”

She said that apprenticeships should still be considered by those looking to attract new people to the industry. “Apprenticeships are a fantastic opportunity to be paid while you train, when previously a person would have had to pay to learn, but they are certainly not a substitute for experienced staff.”

Noel Collett, chief executive officer of the Crawshaw Group agreed businesses should not use apprentices as a cheap option. The group is currently on a recruitment drive and hopes to create 2,500 jobs over the next five years. “The National Living Wage will clearly put many businesses under financial pressure. However, when looking to recruit quality staff with a specific skill set, businesses like ours will need to plan accordingly and pay the correct level,” he said.

“On the topic of apprenticeships, we view the scheme as a great mechanism for introducing new people into the butchery industry to develop a new career, irrespective of their qualification or experience, and would not use the scheme as a cost-cutting exercise. They are two very different challenges and businesses should invest in the people resource by paying them a fair wage.”

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