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Apprenticeships still overlooked by young people

MISCONCEPTIONS around apprenticeships are still influencing the decisions of young people in their career paths, according to new research from accountancy and business advisory firm, BDO. The survey of more than 1,000 people across England found that more 51% of people aged between:- 18 to 24 still believe that a University Degree makes you more likely to earn a high salary than doing an apprenticeship. The research also found that 49% believe that apprenticeships are better suited to those who don't get high enough grades to go to University.

Looking at career progression, the survey found that some say an apprenticeship could have a negative impact. 34% believe you are less likely to reach the most senior positions within a business if you do an apprenticeship rather than a University Degree. The survey also looked into attitudes of education providers and parents and guardians. 62% of respondents in the North West said their School or College encouraged them to go to University rather than apply for an apprenticeship. This figure was higher for young people based in Greater London (70%) and lowest for those based in the North East (55%).

55% of respondents said their parents or guardians would prefer or have preferred them to go to University over an apprenticeship. The percentage of parents encouraging the University route increased for those from a Black or Asian heritage. 71% of those from a Black heritage and 63% of those from an Asian heritage said their parents or guardians would prefer or have preferred them to go to University. Whilst many believe that an apprenticeship may not lead to as highly paid job as a University Degree, 64% of those surveyed do believe that an apprenticeship is more likely to result in a permanent job once completed compared to a University Degree.

Sarah Hillary, a partner at BDO, commented on the findings:- "Despite School leaver apprenticeships being a well-established route into many well-paid professions, including accountancy and law, our research demonstrates that there are still misconceptions about this career path. It is also concerning that more than a third believe doing an apprenticeship rather than a degree could be a barrier to reaching the most senior positions within a business. Whilst a University education is still a highly regarded achievement, it can also bring a significant amount of debt and additional costs. As the cost-of-living crisis continues to take hold, University may not always be the most attractive or accessible route for young people, particularly those from a lower socio economic background. With this in mind, it is important to not just increase the number of quality apprenticeship positions but also raise awareness of how this type of training can create meaningful, sustainable careers whilst giving the opportunity to 'earn while you learn.' This would be a step in the right direction to improving social mobility in the UK."

A separate survey by BDO recently revealed that apprenticeships could be starting to be seen as a more appealing recruitment strategy with 29% of the UK's medium sized businesses planning to hire more apprentices in a bid to attract more talent. Sarah added:- "It is promising to see more businesses offering apprenticeship positions to attract more talent. We must now continue to ensure that young people from all backgrounds, as well as those influencing their career decisions, are aware of the wealth of opportunities and career progression that quality apprenticeship programmes can provide."

BDO will open applications for its 2023 School leaver apprenticeship programme in September. Positions are available throughout the country, visit:- Careers.BDO.Co.UK/Early-Careers for more information.

Lenient sentencing leading to low fly tipping fines; Councils warn

FLY tippers prosecuted in Court for the worst waste dumping offences were handed an average fine of just £335, in 2020/21, the Local Government Association says. Analysis of latest figures by the LGA shows that average fines issued by Courts following criminal proceedings averaged at £65 less than the £400 fixed penalty notice Councils can issue as a civil action.

The LGA, which represents more than 350 Councils across England and Wales, says tougher sentences are needed to deter fly tipping, which costs Councils more than £50 million a year to clear up. For the 2020/21 year, Local Authorities in England dealt with 1.13 million fly tipping incidents, an increase of 16% from the 980,000 reported in 2019/20.

Councils take fly tipping extremely seriously and are taking increasing enforcement action against the criminals responsible. However, prosecuting fly tippers often requires time consuming and laborious investigations, with a high threshold of proof. In addition to the low fines, Councils are often left out of pocket from Court action as their costs are not fully repaid.

In Weymouth this month a man was fined issued an fixed penalty notice of £400 for fly tipping on the side of a road. After no payment was received, Dorset Council's Waste Enforcement and Legal Team officers were left with little option but to prosecute the man, using up their limited time and resource to do so. The Court ended up fining the man just £150. Earlier this year in Sissinghurt a woman was ordered to pay a fine of just £200 after failing to pay her £400 fixed penalty notice.

The LGA is calling on the Government to work with Councils on reviewing guidance to the Courts to ensure the worst offenders face tougher fines, and to ensure Councils have the funding needed to investigate and prosecute fly tippers. Councils want Courts to look at fly tipping as an offence 1st, rather than at the individual and their ability to pay, as well as more use of suspended sentences, or custodial sentences for anyone convicted of a 2nd fly tipping offence.

Cllr David Renard, environment spokesperson at the LGA, said:- "Fly tipping is criminal activity and is a blight on our public spaces. The individuals responsible for it must be held accountable and prosecuted. We support the Government's investment in CCTV in fly tipping hotspots, but without higher fines for the worst kind of offences, criminals will remain undeterred. Magistrates need new sentencing guidelines for fly tipping, to make Court action more worthwhile for Councils and in turn, reduce fly tipping in our communities."

Social care providers caught in Covid19 Catch 22

THE announcement by the Government that there has been a substantial increase in positive lateral flow tests in care homes has prompted Social care providers to call once more for urgent sick pay provisions for care workers affected by Covid19, or risk seeing care providers and carers experience real financial peril.

Regulations in England mandate twice weekly lateral flow tests for carers, with those testing positive forced to stay at home. However, the Infection Control Fund that previously met the costs of sick pay ended in the Spring meaning that care providers have been meeting the unfunded costs of sick pay directly through debt or utilising their increasingly exhausted reserves. This has created an unsustainable risk to an already overstretched sector that could see workers who are already among the lowest paid in the UK dependant on the statutory sick pay of just £99.35 per week, if they call in sick, creating a:- 'Covid19 catch 22' for those already struggling to make ends meet amid escalating living costs.

Social care is significantly underfunded, meaning that providers do not receive the income to offer competitive rates of pay. As a result, many care workers simply do not have the savings to live on Statutory Sick Pay of less than £100 a week. This financial knife edge creates a real risk that care workers who test positive for Coronavirus will not declare these positive tests to ensure that they can remain in work or will choose to leave a sector that is already in the midst of a workforce crisis.

Community Integrated Care, a charity which employs more than 5000 social care workers across the UK, has asked the Government to reinstate funding for this enforced sick leave. With both a moral imperative; the inequality that care workers, who risked their lives during the Pandemic, are now facing financial risk and foodbanks for simply following rules; and a social and economic 1 too, with the care sector already coping with 112,000 unfilled posts.

Teresa Exelby, Chief People Officer for Community Integrated Care, explains:- "Social care is tragically underfunded. This means that many providers simply cannot offer sick pay to their workforce, and those that can do so at the expense of competitive rates of pay. Every care provider is facing a perilous choice right now, with a twice weekly testing regime rightly ensuring that people who are carrying the virus do not work in care services, yet no funding to support their sick pay. Clearly, this is flawed and dangerous. Care providers are faced with a catch 22 of either picking up the tab for sick pay which means cuts to vital services and investments, raiding limited financial reserves, or seeing their workforce live on the minimal allowance of Statutory Sick Pay. This enforced absence is not a small cost to bear; in our charity alone, the average cost of Covid19 related sick pay has been around £150,000 per month since March. Whichever way you look at it, this scenario creates risks. Whether that is care providers spending money that they simply do not have, further undermining their long term viability, or care workers enduring financial hardship with Statutory Sick Pay or perhaps even ignoring positive tests and still attending work."

Community Integrated Care has seen almost 50% of its workforce; around 2500 staff; forced to take time off with Covid19 in the past 6 months. Following the cessation of funding, most of the cost of sick pay has been met from the charity's reserves at a cost of almost £1 million. This crisis points to a wider issue of the lack of workforce strategy and parity within the social care sector.

Independent research by Korn Ferry, the world's leading experts in job evaluation, with Community Integrated Care last year revealed that care workers earn on average 39% less; a gap of more than £7000 annually; compared to their equivalents in other public funded sectors, including the NHS. The NHS, which is funded by Central Government, provides guaranteed sick pay allowances to its workers and has recently offered its workers pay increases of up to 9%.

However, social care is funded by cash strapped Local Authorities, who cannot provide the necessary investment for care organisations to ensure parity of pay and conditions. This results in a workforce turnover of more than 34% annually; thats more than twice the UK industry average.

Teresa Exelby adds:- "This entire experience is representative and symptomatic of the wider workforce crisis in social care. Social care is complex, accountable and highly skilled, yet funding dictates that it is 1 of the lowest paying industries in society. As a result, we face a constant battle to recruit and retain talent. This is a false economy and an injustice. The victims of this are not only care sector employees, but also people who deserve high quality, consistent support, delivered by the very best people. Central Government needs to step up to provide fair investment in social care, to mirror the same pay bands and entitlements that are found in the NHS. There is no justification why people who deliver comparable roles in NHS and care do not receive comparable pay. This is a fundamental factor in a sector that is broken and we can see that so clearly illustrated with sick pay."

The National Care Forum (NCF), the leading association for not for profit care providers, has backed Community Integrated Care in the call for central Government to reinstate funding to support the ongoing provision of sick pay. It warns that the problems experienced within the sector reverberate throughout the health system, exacerbating bed shortages within Hospitals as a result of a lack of community capacity.

Liz Jones, Policy Director for the NCF said:- "We need a funding mechanism whereby staff isolating in line with Government guidance can receive a salary at their standard rate. In no other sector are people expected to sacrifice their salary in order to comply with Government regulations. Without this, we are facing into a repeat of previous crises that ripple across all areas of society. The very fact that we have to campaign for sick pay shows the lack of a coherent workforce and investment strategy for social care. The Government needs to invest in the sector, so that it can give people the same terms that are reasonably expected within the NHS and so many other industries."


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