Officials in the United Kingdom have launched a new program that aims to educate more young people and better facilitate their transition into the workforce through paid apprenticeships. But the program is already being exploited by multinational corporations like Subway, which was recently exposed for offering pittance wages to young people willing to make sandwiches and clean restaurants.
The U.K.’s Independent says advertisements on a government website, which have since been removed, offered to pay young people the U.S. equivalent of about $4 per hour to assume positions at Subway restaurants as “Apprentice Sandwich Artists.” It’s a classy-sounding title, but the description basically describes an average Subway employee throwing meat on a hoagie, scrubbing the bread ovens, and calling the whole thing “healthy.”
A screenshot of the now-removed Subway advertisement for the apprenticeship positions can be viewed online.
Successful candidates, the advertisement went on, would be paid a whopping $150 per week to work nine-hour shifts from 8a.m. to 5p.m., five days per week. Using traditional math, this adds up to 40 hours per week, minus a one-hour lunch break per day. But on the advertisement, Subway attempted to use some kind of crazy common core math, enticing potential applicants with promises of only having to work 35 hours per week.
The entire charade caught the attention of the media because it showed that Subway is hardly interested in training the next generation and offering young people a leg-up into the emerging workforce. Instead, Subway had attempted to take advantage of a program meant for good by turning it into a cheap labor pool, from which it might draw unwitting individuals into the sandwich-making scheme. (RELATED: More groundbreaking news on industry and government corruption is available at Corruption.News.)
National officer Rhys McCarthy from the U.K. labor union Unite wasn’t too keen on Subway’s abuse of the program, having told The Independent that the Subway advertisement “stretches the definition of apprenticeship to a breaking point.”
“The multi-national sandwich maker is looking more like a rip off artist,” he added.
Multinational corporations will stop at nothing to exploit humans for profit
The purpose of an apprenticeship is to teach young people the ropes of a new industry so that by the time they graduate from school, they are ready to enter the workforce with usable skills. Being sucked into Subway’s sandwich assembly line for mere pennies per day hardly qualifies as a honest apprenticeship, and this is precisely the type of thing that U.K. officials and labor unions like Unite want to stamp out.
“We certainly don’t expect rich multi-nationals like Subway to be exploiting young people in this way,” McCarthy emphasized.
Part of the problem is the way the U.K. government set up the apprenticeship program, which outlines merely the number of new apprenticeships that it hopes to see created. There is no distinction made between quality of apprenticeships versus quantity of apprenticeships; or, in other words, which beckons predatory industries like fast food to weasel their way into the program.
The U.K.’s National Audit Office isn’t happy with the program either, at least in its current form. If nearly $2 billion worth of public money is going to be funneled into this type of program, then it needs to have proper accountability built into it to ensure that young people are actually learning new skills and being given a real education into their respective industries. Apart from these important metrics, there is no way to assess whether or not the program is a success, nor to evaluate the draw such a flawed system will have for multinational corporations to take advantage of for profit.
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