One in seven apprentices are paid under the minimum wage

120,000 people are being paid less than the minimum wage appropriate to their age, according to two new reports released today.

A quarter of apprentices aged 16-18 and a fifth of 19-20 year olds are currently being underpaid, say the reports. Hairdressers fare the worst, with an average hourly wage of just £3.95 and nearly half of employers failing to comply with minimum wage rules.

Worryingly, the poor remuneration statistics would appear to be pushing older apprentices out of the job market. Between August 2012 and January 2013, there was an 86% drop in the number of Level 3 apprentices aged 25 and up.

There is also some uncertainty over whether the current system actually helps young people to access the job market. According to the statistics, two-thirds of all apprentices were already working for their employer when they started their apprenticeship, although the number of new recruits has increased slightly.

David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, described the findings as “cause for concern,” saying that “for many apprentices, the quality of the Apprenticeship is clearly not what it should be.”

Hughes is calling for the introduction of an Apprentice Charter that, he says, will outline the expectations and commitments of employers to ensuring that their apprentices are given a worthwhile experience that offers a good grounding for their career.

Meanwhile we want to hear from Government about how they’re going to enforce the national minimum wage and what action they’re going to take against employers who refuse to pay their apprentices properly,” he added.

Apprenticeship data was provided by two reports: the Apprenticeship Evaluation – Learner Report and the 2014 Apprentice Pay Survey Report.