Trade Unions have called for a change in the current apprentice system which would ensure that apprentices would be paid the national minimum wage. Currently, apprentices may be paid as little as £1.50 an hour – markedly lower than the full minimum wage (£5.52 an hour) or the minimum wage for 16-21 year olds which ranges from £3.40 to £4.60 an hour. Unions say this change would boost the completion rates of apprenticeships, which would benefit both apprentices and employers. However, business leaders have argued that such a change would put an additional strain on employers in an already difficult climate. Employers say that the minimum wage is not justified because apprentices are often learning by watching professionals, and receive higher salaries when their training is completed. The debate comes after government proposals to increase the number of apprenticeships.

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