Sharp practice in the world of apprenticeships ...

Some readers of this blog may recall an article not so long ago, about our own apprentice (our Son) in 'our apprentice'. What we did not share is the journey in getting to this fantastic gilt edged apprenticeship.

BBC Panorama lists some sharp practices in the world of apprentices, sadly nothing in this report presents any surprises and here is an excellent example of good journalisim that did not have the time to explore the entire murky world in its 29 minute slot.

For our Son, his current apprenticeship was not his first, having being picked up by what seemed to be a respectable employer after he left College.

As a 'sub-contractor' at a local golf club, our son's employer promised a full apprenticeship, with one day a week with a local college. He was taken on in July and by October the apprenticeship had collapsed, where as very concerned parents, we asked him to leave (by which time he was more than willing).

It seemed as if we were being treated to a tirade of half-truths, with numerous 'bad practices' which made father, someone with past/present experience in futher education and apprenticeships very twitchy.

The first 'real issue' was when the college came in to 'sign up' the apprentice, refused. We were getting one tale from the employer that they were not happy with the college, from the college, they were very happy to share that they had concerns about the standard of hygene in the kitchen and that the environment would not support the standards of a level three apprenticeship.

Now, you may ask why you did not pull your son out at this point, well to be fair, eighteen year old lads don't always listen to Mummy and Daddy on the first telling. He had a job, it is an apprenticeship and this is the career he wanted.

So, with some careful prodding, we encouraged him (and his employer) to pursue another college, again, they were saying a similar tale. Basically they would not, could not support this apprenticeship.

Time ticked, he was already into late September, pay was erratic and then the chef that promised to train our Son (after our initial meeting in August). Threw his toys out the pram with the owner of the contract and left. In spite of numerous questions about the apprenticeship, who the training provider was (as employer did not know that we had spoken to both colleges). We were getting his best bulls**t; that frankly would never make it as manure.

By October, all colleges would now be into their teaching, we knew that it would be too late for a 'normal' teaching pattern and dad was very aware that any remaining colleges would be less likely to take on our Son.

At this stage, our resident testosterone laden eighteen year old point of view was entirely compatible with his parents. Knowing when pay day was, Son checked bank account, then phoned in his resignation which was immediately supported by an email and a registered post letter.

Now, here is when it gets interesting, our Son, put in a wage claim to the local tribunial.

As he was never signed up as an apprentice, he was therefore an 'employee' and not paid minimum wage. Meaning that the apprentice wages paid to our Son were illegal.

We do commend anyone reading this to consider tribunal proceedings, as they are employee friendly. We are not legal experts, we chatted to a couple of knowledgeable friends, but followed the directgov guidance at each stage of the process.

The process found its due course, our son instigated proceedings in October, and appointed his dDad as legal representative. The deal was simple, Mum is very good at the detective work and putting the papers and evidence together (again, the legal documents are average person friendly). Dad, used to academic argument, was happier presenting a case in front of the judge.

Our Son had his day the following April, the evidence was collected, presented and agreed. The employer, managed to include some damming evidence in their portfolio, which we were able to latch onto.

The morning itself, is worth a blog entry on its own.

To summarise, the judge found in favour of our Son, agreeing that he 'was not' an apprentice, he was 'an employee' and that the employer owed him the deficit of wages for his time employed.

If you are an apprentice or the parent of a young person who is an apprentice and has a bad employer, do take the fight to them. The tribunal system is designed to support an individual who wishes to present a case without legal counsel.

As a passing note, in the BBC Panorama report, mention is often made of training providers, where little is said of further education colleges. The two in our region that were canvassed by this employer wisely did not entertain the apprenticeship, something of their professionalism smelt the rat and kept away from them. Maintaining some integrity in what they do with apprentices in general, there are many good programmes out there, with our Son now in the New Forest, getting his gilt edged apprenticeship. Full on the job, in situ at a Michelin starred kitchen. What could be better for any young apprentice chef.


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