New student support fund ignores apprentices

The IMI has criticised the government for providing financial support to students but ignoring apprentices.

The government has announced it will provide an additional £15m in hardship funding this year to support university students in most need. This builds on the £261m that was given to the Office for Students for the 2022/23 academic year.

However, Hayley Pells, policy manager at the IMI, has questioned the logic of this funding.

“It’s great to see government recognising the financial hardships being faced by students, but we fear there is a serious misplaced understanding of the financial position of apprentices,” Pells said.

“Ignoring this group sends another message that they are the poor relations to full-time students and could deter young people from taking this route in the future. With the skills shortage already critical, this is the last thing any sector needs.

“Of course, apprentices are earning while learning. But the reality is that most apprentices are on either the minimum or living wage – and some may even face redundancy or reduced working hours when economic conditions put pressure on employers. Now more than ever we need to make workplace learning attractive and there is much the government could do to support employers of apprentices, especially the small and medium sized enterprises which make up such a large proportion of the automotive retail sector.

“For example, a skills tax credit could be introduced for SMEs, as proposed by the Learning and Work Institute. SMEs could also benefit from a well-publicised service and central portal of information to help them understand how to take on an apprentice.

“The Super Deduction which is planned to end 31 March 2023 could also be continued to prompt much-needed investment in capital equipment required to support the transition to the technologies of a greener transport future,” Pells concluded.