Training providers have warned the government that apprentices whose training has been interrupted by the lockdown face being left dangling in the air because of the non-completion of their programmes. Ministers are being urged to intervene quickly.
In a new submission to the Department for Education, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) reports that due to Covid-19, widespread disruption to planned training and delays in assessments at the end of programmes mean that many apprentices’ programmes have gone or will go beyond their planned end-dates and so the government funding for them has either stopped or will run out.
As a solution, AELP has called for additional ‘catch-up funding’ from the government to support an extension of an affected apprentice’s programme by up to 3 months to reflect the loss of training and additional extra support they will require to mitigate the impact of the lockdown, particularly felt during April, May and June.
The AELP proposals will be debated today with government officials at the online AELP Business Recovery Conference, sponsored by Learning Curve Group and Cognassist. Keynote speakers include skills minister Gillian Keegan, shadow skills minister Toby Perkins, West Midlands mayor Andy Street and deputy London mayor Jules Pipe.
Reducing the number of potentially redundant apprentices
AELP’s Covid recovery package for skills points out that there have been no specific measures put in place to protect apprentices from the threat of redundancy when the furlough scheme ends. To reduce the number of apprentices becoming unemployed, the government should introduce a new wage subsidy for young apprentices aged 16 to 24 targeted specifically at those who have been on furlough and are returning to their programmes.
Adult workers also under threat from losing access to their learning
Employed adult learners at risk of redundancy or working their notice cannot continue to study in the workplace and be government funded under current rules. So even if their employer is willing and wants to support their departing employee to prepare for a new role after redundancy, they cannot be funded.
AELP therefore recommends in the current environment that the Education and Skills Funding Agency should flex the funding rules to allow employed learners at risk of redundancy on Adult Education Budget programmes to be able to continue to study in the workplace and continue to be funded for it.
These proposals are among 7 key recommendations in AELP’s ‘Targeted Autumn Covid-19 Recovery Package for Skills’ which are short-term actions that the government should take before the Budget and the Comprehensive Spending Review outcome expected in late November.
Other recommendations include:
- retaining Covid-related rule flexibilities until the end of the academic year 2020-21 on how apprentices are assessed
- ensuring that the funding of apprentices already half-way through longer term apprenticeships of 3 to 4 years (often in technical sectors) will be safeguarded.
Association of Employment and Learning Providers managing director Jane Hickie said:
“We hear stories of training providers doing everything they can to support apprentices even when the government funding has been switched off, but the government must step in now with more support to ensure no apprentice is unfairly disadvantaged.
“The end of the furlough scheme and the likely impact on young apprentices losing their jobs are very worrying. So why not use the example of Kickstart and start subsidising the wages of those affected?”