Bid to boost working conditions of apprentices in Hartlepool

Councilor Rob Cook
Councilor Rob Cook

COUNCILLORS have confirmed a series of measures aimed at improving the woking conditions of apprentices.

Hartlepool Borough Council has agreed plans for its apprenticeship programme as part of an ongoing partnership with Hartlepool College of Further Education.

Under the arrangements, councillors agreed the council’s annual leave and sickness entitlements will apply to the 31 apprentices currently based at the council from April 1, this year.

As a result their holiday entitlement will go up from 20 days (plus all public and bank holidays) to 26 days holiday (plus all public and bank holidays) to bring them in line with council employees.

It was also agreed that apprentices will continue to be paid the current rates, which are the national minimum pay rates. Officers said there was scope for increasing the pay but that would increase costs and reduce the number of apprenticeship places that could be offered unless extra funding was found.

Councillors therefore agreed to keep the pay the same. The pay scale is £2.68 an hour for first year apprentices, 16 to 18-year-olds after first year £2.68, 19 to 20–year-olds after first year £5.03 an hour and 21 and over £6.31 an hour after first year.

The report was discussed by the council’s finance and policy committee, which agreed the recommendations from the council officers.

Labour councillor Rob Cook said: “The more apprentices we have the better.”

Members discussed a number of options for running the programme which included the apprenticeship training agency (ATA) being the employer. That is the current model with Hartlepool College of Further Education, which then places them within the council as a “host employer”.

Hartlepool Council reimburses the college for the direct costs i.e pay of employing the apprentices, with the college responsible for funding other costs like training.

The other options, rejected by councillors, including the council being the employer or the council setting up as an ATA.

Andrew Atkin, the council’s assistant chief executive, confirmed there are only two ATA’s operating in the northern region, one in Hartlepool and one in Gateshead.

Members agreed for the one-year procurement exemption be exercised so that the partnership arrangement with the college for the deliver of the apprenticeship programme for new apprentices continues until August 2015.

At the finance and policy meeting, committee members also noted that apprentices can access the Local Government Pension Scheme, regardless of who employs them.