The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) has been warned about “exploiting” young people, after it advertised an unpaid traineeship vacancy which could last up to six months.

The agency posted the advert on the National Apprenticeship Vacancy Matching website.

It was for a business admin trainee, as part of the government’s new traineeships scheme, where learners complete work experience alongside English, maths and employability training.

Tom Wilson, director of Unionlearn, the teaching arm of the TUC, acknowledged the potential benefits of traineeships, but warned they could be exploitative.

He said: “Looking at the advertisement for the unpaid traineeship at the SFA, it appears trainees will have to do a wide range of tasks which will be of value to the employer, without receiving any pay.

“Traineeships can be a useful route towards an apprenticeship or job, but they must be high quality.

“Trainees should gain a realistic experience of work, including proper pay for work carried out.

“The TUC is concerned unpaid traineeships risk exploiting trainees, without improving their job prospects, and displacing existing staff.”

The advert stated the trainee would be expected to work at least 21 hours a week for up to six months.

It gave the hours as Monday to Thursday, from 9.30am to 4.30pm, with Wednesdays spent doing off-the-job training with Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce.

The notice also made it clear the role was unpaid, but the trainee may be able to receive a bursary to help with travel expenses.

Applications closed on September 20 with interviews to take place the following week.

A possible start date given as last week.

The advert added the traineeship would last up to six months, the maximum allowed under the traineeship rules.

The trainee would be expected to perform duties such as data entry, sending emails, scanning, filing, shredding and postal duties.

A spokesperson for the agency said: “There is no expectation for employers to pay young people taking part in traineeships.

“Students undertaking a work placement, as part of a traineeship, are exempt from any national minimum wage entitlement.”

The spokesperson added the agency could not guarantee the trainee would be offered an apprenticeship, or a job when the traineeship ended.

But along with the provider, it would “see what progression opportunities could be identified and facilitated”.

The learner would gain “improved skills and an enhanced CV with purposeful learning activities within a real workplace setting, giving the learner a “greater chance of competing successfully” when applying for jobs elsewhere.

The training branch of Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce declined to comment.

An Access Training advert on the National Apprenticeship Vacancy Matching Service website — which advertised an unpaid warehousing traineeship with Newcastle Council — was pulled following complaints from unions.

A Newcastle Council spokesperson said the advert had been put up in error by Access Training and it had not intended to be the employers in the arrangement.

The spokesperson added: “”Clearly we would like to explore every opportunity to provide entry to work experience for as many people as possible.

“But our concern would include fair remuneration for any work undertaken during extended work experience.”

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