28 August 2015

The UK Apprentice scheme

It’s good.

It gets young people training in a field that they want to work in. Or at least some money and experience to get that start in life.

It also allows an employer, who may not have much money available, the chance to give back to their community by taking on a young adult and train them up in their trade. Think the local baker, engineer, tradesman etc.

And that’s why the Government sets the Apprentice minimum wage at £2.73 for the first 12 months. This rises to £3.30 in October 2015

Southeastern apprenticeships

Back in May this year, when looking around the jobs at Southeastern (I wasn’t looking to work there! just interested to see what they pay, and I regularly look at how others do job sites) I noticed they had Customer Service Apprenticeships. An excellent way to get into the railway industry!

Then I noticed something that got me angry.

They were being paid £3 an hour


An hour

Yes this is a rather generous 27p above minimum wage

Is this fair?

It’s not. Working on the frontline at Southeastern is a tough job. Yes, in general they run 90% of their trains on time. However during that 10% disruption, there are angry customers. Customers that have connections to make. Customers that have jobs to get to. Customers that have families to get to. Customers that have appointments to keep.

So Southeastern get to increase the number of frontline staff that are available to talk to these customers.

At £3 an hour.

Casting my mind back to 1993 (I was 17), my first job was at Savacentre (the Sainsbury’s hypermarket - remember that?!). I was paid £4.14 an hour and 30p extra working after 6pm.

22 years ago, getting paid 38% more than Southeastern pay its young apprentices in 2015

It’s a similar role, working on checkouts or the shop floor, talking to customers, helping them out. Though typically the tills worked (once builders smashed through our main power cable and they didn’t), congestion was at a minimum since we deployed more staff at busy periods, and the queues to leave the store weren’t that much.

Actually, it wasn’t similar at all, I didn’t have to deal with angry customers who were late, because of the actions of my employer

Is anyone applying?

I don’t think so. Either that or Southeastern are looking for more young adults to exploit.

Why do I think this?

I tweeted about this in May and since then the job has re-appeared on the Southeastern careers site after the dealine had passed.

And this week the local Kent press are covering the story, as if this is a benefit to young people wanting to get into the railway industry. So I guess they must have put out a presser to get their message out to a wider audience.

I’m grateful for Rachel Blundy at the Evening Standard for covering this and asking for my thoughts on the matter - which has motivated me to finally write this post.

We need more people questioning this kind of activity from companies that make good annual profits, and also receive subsidies/funding from the Government.


It’s good to see Sainsbury’s announce a 4% rise to £7.36/hour yesterday. It’s a step in the right direction, but still some way off the Living Wage Foundation’s recommendation of £7.85/hour outside of London. I hope more employers move in this direction over the coming years.


Related posts:

26 February 2015 | The Year So Far ...

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Related links

Southeastern Railway Action Group
Dartford Rail Travellers' Association
Dartford Rail Travellers Association (Facebook)
Dartford Rail Travellers Association (Twitter)