At least 55 apprentices who enrolled in the weeks before fees-free tertiary study took effect last year have been forced to pay fees - even though they didn't start studying until after the fees-free policy came in.

Te Awamutu electrical apprentice Ryan Scott, 19, says the policy is unfair to apprentices even though they stand to get much less out of the fees-free policy than university students.

He pays $42 a week in apprenticeship fees out of his wages, which started at $530 and are still only $670 a week after tax.

In contrast, his best friend studying