The agreement means that for the first time NSoA will formally represent the views of apprentices at NUS’ National Conference, where key policies and campaigning priorities are democratically agreed. This will mean the voice of apprentices will not just be heard, but also formally recognised through specific voting rights assigned to NSoA, just like other NUS members.
NSoA was formed in 2014 to represent and promote the voice of more than 150,000 apprentices in all sectors and industries across the UK. As the majority of apprentices don’t study through college with a students’ union, their voices haven’t been recognised in the same way as students in further and higher education. Voting for a series of reforms to NUS at National Conference 2019 put in motion the formal process to change this.
This is a significant shift in NUS’ history, recognising the diversity of post-16 learners and moving on from the outdated notion of what the ‘typical student’ looks like. It is one of several democratic changes that will be implemented and experienced at this year’s conference.
One of the apprentices who will be voting at NUS National Conference for the first time, is Charlie James, a creative and digital media apprentice from Basingstoke. Charlie said: ‘I have attended NUS National Conference as an observer for the last two years. It’s a really inspiring event that brings students and learners from across the UK together. But until today it never really felt like my event.
Until today we weren’t really in the club, we were friends with the people in the club, but we had to rely on the help of others to get a platform. At the NSoA we talk a lot about how the voices of apprentices are really important and I for one can’t wait to bring that voice to this year’s conference. Direct from the mouths of apprentices.’
Welcoming the move, NUS national president Zamzam Ibrahim, said: ‘It has been a longstanding ambition of NUS UK to give more voice to apprentices. They have been promised this, time and time again and in the past that promise has not been met. I’m so happy to announce that the promise now lays fulfilled – the National Society of Apprenticeships is now a fully-fledged member of the NUS and this makes it the biggest single increase in NUS’s membership in it’s history.
This means we can respond more effectively to the challenges faced by apprentices such as the collapse of apprenticeship providers like in the case of Carillion, or low pay which has been highlighted time and time again and the gender pay gap which sees women on level 2 and 3 programmes occupying the lower rungs of the mean weekly pay for apprenticeships.’
Erica Ramos, NUS vice president Union Development, added: ‘It is so exciting to finally be able to open up our democracy and give proper focus to the important issues that apprentices face and campaign on these effectively. The voice of apprentices within NUS’s structures is something that the Union Development zone has worked on for a long time. I am delighted that we are able to realise the ambition of my predecessors to give apprentices the representation they so deserve. I look forward to continuing to work with the NSoA to ensure that apprentices are heard and supported by NUS.’
Amy Dowling, NSoA spokesperson said: ‘We are delighted to have been accepted as a full member of NUS. We understand that being part of NUS amplifies our voice, power and ability to create the change we want to see in our apprenticeships. We look forward to working with students and learners from across the UK in our collective goal of making excellent education accessible for everyone, regardless of how they learn.
Over the last year both organisations have been talking about making sure apprentices get the education they deserve, and just this month we learnt that half of apprentices receive inadequate amounts of formal training. This an example of the issues that we can campaign on together and win.’
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