Covid-19 Hits Apprenticeship Numbers

The coronavirus pandemic has had a massive impact on all aspects of life across the UK, and it is especially true in every level of the education system. It’s no different for apprenticeships either and unsurprisingly the impact has garnered attention from the very top.

In July, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak announced measures to support young people into jobs, including apprenticeships, that would help drive the post-Covid-19 economic recovery. He said that the Government for the next six months would pay employers £2,000 for every new apprenticeship created as well as a bonus of £1,500 for those who hire apprentices aged over 25-years-old.

He also said: “To support 18- to 19-year-olds leaving school or college to find work in high-demand sectors like engineering, construction and social care, we’ll provide £100 million to create more places on level 2 and 3 courses.”

This intervention is clearly needed. In an article for The Tes in August this year, Antony Jenkins, chair of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, said that the number of people starting an apprenticeship halved during the national lockdown. He reported that his organisation had surveyed employers to find out how they have been affected by the pandemic and their intentions for training and recruitment.

The responses provided some grim reading with almost three-quarters of those which took on apprentices in 2019 saying they were expecting to cut back or drop apprenticeships altogether leading up to September. Large businesses appear to have more certainty about the future, but SMEs were less hopeful of recruiting an apprentice before May 2021. And it appears among the most hard-hit sectors is engineering with a third of those respondents saying many of their apprentices had been furloughed.

As one might expect the organisation is working hard to support employers during these uncertain and difficult times with Antony Jenkins himself also urging businesses everywhere to think seriously about taking an apprentice on.

Meanwhile new research has published recently by the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) – the skills, standards and qualifications body for the development of the engineering construction workforce of Great Britain.

On the back of it the ECTIB is calling for Government, employers and the media to change how we deliver and report on apprenticeships.

The report is based on surveys and interviews with 58 employers in the Engineering Construction Industry which designs and delivers critical national infrastructure. A wide-ranging survey focusing on the Apprenticeship Levy, it does also look at how apprenticeship recruitment might change following the Covid-19 crisis, even though the field work was carried out before March 2020.

The ECITB is maintaining its commitment to supporting apprenticeships and has announced various initiatives to stem the decline in starts in 2020 and support learners currently on programme. However, our research shows that industry’s take on the apprenticeship system prior to the crisis was a mixed scorecard.

The organisation has also recently announced a package of measures to help including a new £5m scholarship scheme aimed at plugging the shortfall in craft and technical apprenticeships. In addition, the ECITB has committed to paying grants for current apprenticeships, even where training cannot take place to keep apprentices on programme.

With apprenticeship starts falling and not expected to recover for some time, every effort must be made to address employer concerns to avoid lasting damage to apprenticeship recruitment, according to the ECITB. Chris Claydon, its chief executive said: “Although it may seem a long way off, when the recovery comes, employers will need fresh talent and apprenticeships remain one of the most valued routes into our industry.”

There is of course much guidance on the gov.uk website which can be found here.

Published in response to the impact of Covid-19, it details the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s efforts to make it easier for apprenticeships to continue either now or at a later date.

Measures that have been taken aim to allow employers to keep hold of their apprentices and to support their training as well as assessment providers to be able to deliver their services. As the document says: “…our guidance still aims to help all parties through this period of transition.”

The guidance also addresses temporary flexibilities to the apprenticeship funding rules that have been introduced during the pandemic and helps with the most common questions. The document also provides guidance on how apprentices can safely return to the workplace and educational settings, and the actions that training providers should take for apprentices’ return from last month.

For further information on how TTE can support you – employer or apprentice – during this uncertain time, contact us today.

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