Arguing that there is no good reason why apprentices should be left worse off than other students, the TUC is urging the Government to fulfil a promise to help apprentices to meet their travel costs.

In its manifesto for the 2017 election the Conservative Party said: “We will introduce significantly discounted bus and train travel for apprentices to ensure that no young person is deterred from an apprenticeship due to travel costs.”

This was subsequently adopted as a policy objective by the Government but, after more than two years, the pledge still has not been delivered.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Apprenticeships should be affordable for all. But many apprentices face the double whammy of low pay and high travel costs. The Government must deliver on its promise to help every apprentice with their travel costs”.

Not only would this help more apprentices to complete their studies, she suggested, but it would ensure that Britain has the skills employers need for the future.

A new TUC report highlights that apprentices get less financial help with travel than those who remain at school. Get a move on! Developing a national travel discount entitlement for all apprentices is available at https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/2019-08/TravelDiscountForApprentices.pdf.

It urges the Government to implement a national travel discount for all apprentices and sets out ideas for how this should work.

The report cites the example of England metro mayoralties that have already delivered travel passes for apprentices. In the Liverpool City Region, for example, the travel discount scheme saves apprentices up to £420 a year on bus fares and up to £680 on train fares.

In Manchester and London young apprentices are eligible for completely free bus travel.

As well as help with travel costs, the TUC also wants the minimum wage for apprentices to be boosted to youth minimum wage rates, highlighting that they can currently earn as little as £3.90 an hour, if aged under 19 or in the first year of their apprenticeship.

It is calling for a range of flexibilities to the apprenticeship levy, including allowing employers to use some of their levy contributions to fund innovative pre-apprenticeship programmes to support transition to a full apprenticeship, especially for disadvantaged groups.

Comment by Andy Willis, Head of Legal at Croner

Given the falling interest in apprenticeship opportunities, employers are likely to welcome the notion of discounted public transport for apprentices.

After all, apprentices often earn considerably less than fully-fledged employees of the same age, so reducing the cost of bus and train fares could help entice individuals into apprenticeships by alleviating any financial burden.

In addition, the current apprenticeship set-up has long been criticised by employers, especially when it comes to the apprenticeship levy. Therefore, the TUC’s call to increase the level of flexibility around the way funds are distributed may also prove particularly beneficial, allowing employers to make the most of their contributions and maximise their ability to develop top class apprenticeship programmes.

Last reviewed 11 September 2019