We are currently living through unprecedented times as the impact of the #Coronavirus pandemic is felt not just across the UK, but right across the world.
Countries are in lockdown and we are seeing who the real key workers are – delivery drivers, carers, doctors and nurses, supermarket workers, post office staff, cleaners, IT support, the list goes on.
On a daily basis we are waking up to businesses in administration; construction sites that have closed; pubs, shops and restaurants that have disappeared from our high streets; and employers forced to lay off their staff.
Education and training establishments have shut their doors, exams have been cancelled and students of all ages are left feeling an enormous sense of deflation.
Significant International Impact Of The Coronavirus Pandemic On Apprenticeships
There are millions of apprentices employed across the world and although there are variations in apprenticeship schemes, they are all designed to support their economy and provide a modern skilled workforce. The Coronavirus pandemic will have a significant international impact on apprenticeship starts, training delivery and qualification achievement rates.
Over the last two weeks in the UK we have seen many of those involved in education and training working around the clock to put in place systems and processes that will enable them to continue to deliver teaching / training and support for their learners through online platforms – but for some, such a swift change in direction has not been possible.
I have spoken to many providers over the last 2 weeks and all have been focused on supporting learners and their employers in any way they can in this changing landscape.
New EPA Eules To Contend With
In England, apprenticeship end-point-assessments are being rescheduled and modified; there are new rules to contend with (e.g. around breaks in learning and an extension to the time limit for EPA post gateway); apprentices who are made redundant have 12 weeks to find a new employer in an increasingly difficult job market; and despite advice to the contrary employers are stopping payments of levy funds to providers.
The UK Government has introduced a substantial range of measures to support businesses and individuals as they navigate their way through the current crisis, but with no funding support available to apprenticeship training providers, it’s hard to know which providers will make it through the dark days ahead, or how severe the impact will be on the future of apprenticeships.
Responding to a recent Letter from Gillian Keegan to non-college stakeholders about new Coronavirus guidance,
Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) said:
“Employers looking to get back on their feet after the end of the pandemic will find that the apprenticeships that they want won’t be available to them.”
In his recent article "The greatest challenge of our lives", Anthony Impey, chair of the Apprenticeships and Skills Policy Unit for the FSB, said:
“The skills system … will need to be stronger than ever to reskill the workforce that will be needed post-crisis”.
Longer Term Implications
As yet it’s unclear what the long-term impact of Coronavirus will be on apprenticeships and Qualification achievement rates (QARs) as a whole, but I hope someone far cleverer than I am is trying to work this out so that we can try to do something about it.
What I do know is that there will be a significant impact on apprenticeship starts, completions and achievements.
- In 2018/19 there were 393,400 apprenticeship starts in England, slightly higher than the previous year, but still around 100,000 down on numbers before the reforms. I think it's safe to say we can expect starts in 2020 to fall dramatically below expectations.
- Training delivery has reduced and in some cases stopped all together. Where it does continue, it is often being delivered remotely.
- Supervision of apprentices for some employers is almost impossible as workers are told to stay at home impacting progress towards attainment of the knowledge, skills and behaviours and the evidence required to support these.
- End-point-assessments are being rescheduled resulting in extended durations and reduced funding income for providers.
- The number of apprentices put on a break in learning will continue to rise.
- Apprentice retention levels will fall.
A break in learning is one of the hardest things for an apprentice to come back from. As someone who spent a number of years employing apprentices and delivering award-winning support and industry busting success rates for retention and completion outcomes, I know this all too well. Being an apprentice is rewarding but it’s also hard work - for some more than others.
It’s more important, now than ever, that providers and employers put in place robust systems that support apprentices, simplify delivery and improve communication.
Kerry Linley, Chief Executive Officer, Rubitek Solutions Limited
About Rubitek: We have developed an apprentice management software solution with an interface that improves communication and collaboration between apprentices, employers and training providers.
Designed with the apprentice in mind, it is simple to use and puts the learner at the heart of learning success. It is available as a white label solution and if you need it, produces compliant ILR returns in seconds. Rubitek Core is an e-portfolio, an MIS (management information system) and LMS (learning management solution) all in one.
We would like to extend a hand out to anyone who employs or provides training to apprentices.
It's important we all work together to support and protect apprenticeships.