Ireland is driving apprentices away

Leah Doherty

The country is crying out for apprentices every year. They drive our economy upwards, but the rate they are on is well below minimum wage.

Working a minimum of 39 hours a week and starting off on as little as €6.84 an hour doesn’t sound too appealing for anyone looking to go into this line of work.

According to the Oxford dictionary, the definition of an apprentice is “a young person who works for an employer for a fixed period of time in order to learn the particular skills needed in their job”. Apprentices can range from hairdressers to plumbers to engineers.

So, how come an apprentice is not entitled to at least minimum wage?

In some trades, the rate has increased to €8.45 an hour to keep up with the cost-of-living crisis.

It has only been increased to keep up with the cost of living and not actually for the apprentices’ benefits. It sounds like it is just trying to play catch-up each year.

“When I started out, I had to get work clothes and new tools. If you were doing it right and trying to give yourself the best start you could be looking at €50 a week on tools” a second-year apprentice explains.

He continues, “I used to and still work every Saturday I can and sometimes Sundays to ease the pressure with money.”

Not only do apprentices have to consider the tools and work clothes they’ll need to purchase but if you’re starting out at 17 or 18 years of age you will need to consider money for things like car insurance, phone bills, food, and social activities. Unless you want to block out your social life for good.

But, what if you’re not young and don’t live rent-free under your parents’ roof? You would have to consider things like rent, bills, and bear in mind that you possibly have a family to care for too.

Although you are learning the trade as you go, you are still doing the hard, long hours of work just like anyone else in the trade.

“There are apprentices doing work that qualified electricians aren’t doing and they’re getting double or triple your wages every week” the apprentice added.

A solution to this problem is offering apprentices a minimum wage of €11.30 an hour which sounds more realistic considering the times we live in and more encouraging. It attracts people to become an apprentice.

We rely on people in the apprenticeship trade to improve our economy and the housing crisis. If apprentices are a step closer to doing this, why drive them away with insufficient wages? Why not pay them fairly?

It is unacceptable to pay workers way below minimum wage just because they are titled ‘an apprentice’. It is something that must be prioritised.

Leah Doherty

Image credit: Getty Images