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Redrow urges pay hike for apprentices and better teaching of English and maths

By Simon Penfold | Business | Published:

Housebuilder Redrow in the Midlands is calling for higher wages for apprentices and a complete rethink in the way they are taught English and maths.

Redrow is calling for more pay for apprentices, and better teaching of English and maths

The vice principal of Wolverhampton College is backing the call for an education overhaul, calling for a more practical approach to English and maths skills.

Kirk Hookham, vice principal for curriculum & quality at City of Wolverhampton College, said: "Rather than a trainee bricklayer calculating percentages in abstraction they should be taught how to do so in terms of mixing mortar or how much of a wall they’ve constructed or indeed how to accurately calculate their invoices."

The building firm, headed by founder and former Wolves owner Steve Morgan, is urging the Government to increase apprentice pay rates, saying that low wages are the biggest barrier to young people taking up the training scheme.

In addition, Redrow's new report Building Better Apprenticeships found that one in 10 parents across the Midlands say loss of family benefits when their child starts an apprenticeship is a problem.

The maths and English tuition as part of an apprenticeship is "not fit for purpose" says Redrow, and is too theoretical according to education experts

Karen Jones, group HR director at Redrow, said: “Theory based classroom learning isn’t the right teaching method for every apprentice, and with a third of people failing to complete their apprenticeships, it is more important than ever that we identify why this might be the case.

"Ensuring that maths and English subjects are taught in a way that is as relevant to an apprentice’s role as possible would be a good place to start.

“As well as this, money is a barrier for apprenticeship take up."

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Currently apprentice pay in the first year is just £3.50 per hour, rising to £3.70 from next month.

Karen Jones said: "At Redrow, we pay a first year starting wage of £4.75 per hour, 35 per cent more than the standard rate and therefore recommend that first year wages rise in line with the National Minimum Wage (£5.90 per hour).

"We also recommend that families keep access to benefits when their child starts their apprenticeship. If the Government wants to increase apprenticeship uptake and genuinely wishes to advance social mobility, reducing the financial burden for young people and families is vitally important.”

Kirk Hookham of Wolverhampton College, backed the report's findings. The college supports 1,000 apprentices a year into roles from the creative arts to construction.

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"While apprenticeship starts have slowed dramatically elsewhere, we see strong demand for the qualification," said Mr Hookham.

"However, there are elements of apprenticeship frameworks that aren’t quite fit for purpose and that we believe, if reformed, could lead to many more people entering and completing them.

"Central to this is the issue of maths and English skills. Advanced apprentices must achieve at least a grade C/4 at GCSE level in both subjects before they embark on their course or they must achieve both qualifications while they are studying. If they do not reach this level, then they do not pass their apprenticeship - I see this happening time and again for many learners.

"In my view, it is right and proper that everyone has a good understanding of maths and English as both are vital for success in any career path. Yet the way that these modules are designed is problematic.

"Both subjects are assessed just like they were at secondary school – in an all too often theoretical manner. This means the modules rarely impart skills that are vocationally or technically relevant to an apprentice’s chosen career path.

"From my experience, I see this is demotivating for them as many start an apprenticeship with the view that their school days are behind them.

"Therefore, we need a paradigm shift in the way that maths and English skills are imparted over the course of an apprenticeship – that would focus on practical examples of how both subjects can be applied to an apprentice’s chosen role.

"For example, rather than a trainee bricklayer calculating percentages in abstraction they should be taught how to do so in terms of mixing mortar or how much of a wall they’ve constructed or indeed how to accurately calculate their invoices. Not only will this ensure learners are more likely to engage, but they will subsequently have skills they can directly apply to their jobs.

"The best teachers understand this and use practical examples like this in their lessons, but the way assessments are carried out as part of an apprenticeship is on a theoretical basis which can disadvantage learners.

"This is why I am supporting Redrow’s call to make sure apprenticeships are reconfigured to focus on applied maths and English skills. This will ensure that more people who enter an apprenticeship develop the skills they need to complete their qualifications and get their foot on the career ladder."

Simon Penfold

By Simon Penfold
Business Editor - @SPenfold_star

Business Editor based at the Express & Star's head office in Wolverhampton, looking for stories big & small.

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