The announcement from the government this week was immensely disappointing for us all. The lack of financial support in particular will be crippling for some.
However, there are some obvious, and less obvious ways that you can try to protect the future of your business.
Some of what I am suggesting below you will be doing already, but if there is just one thing that you had not thought about, then it could make a difference. So read on!
- Access all the support you can. There is government support for businesses, so use your own circumstances to maximise what you can get. The Banks are also being very sympathetic.
- However, make sure you read the rules. For example, I have discussed the fact with two providers in the last two days that they cannot use the Furloughed Worker scheme for employees who continue to work. You may know this, but clearly not everyone does. You can only claim if they are not working, and you have not made them redundant.
- In terms of delivery, you now really have no choice but to ‘go online’. Your delivery centres should by now be closed.
- When going Online, make sure that you create a ‘virtual classroom’ type environment , where tutors and apprentices can still see each other, and importantly, interact with each other.
- This means then that you should deliver the session live wherever you can – keeping the interactivity going
Not necessarily obvious…….
- Do everything that you can to avoid a ‘Break in Learning’ (see below). The new guidance issued yesterday talks a lot about it, as though it is a useful tool. It is absolutely not, and in this context really is last resort.
- Communicate as often as you can with your employers. It can be so easy to have your head down trying to keep the business afloat, that you forget to do this. Tell them what is changing, what you are doing differently, how you are going to support them and their apprentices, and what you expect from them.
- Record all of your on-line input, whether it is live or otherwise. Make it available for those apprentices who are unable to attend. It will help to keep them onboard and motivated. It will also serve as a useful future learning resource.
- Keep your employers informed about learner attendance and progress. I have picked up already that some employers are worried about their learners undertaking their learning at home and potentially ‘skiving’.
Don’t be frightened to try these…….
- Do not be afraid to stretch the funding and other rules. I am definitely not encouraging you to break or ignore the rules, but things that you might do under normal circumstances can be put to one side in times like these. Some examples:
- 20% OTJ hours. Remember that the requirement is for you to achieve 20% by the end of the programme. You do not need to consistently do it at every stage throughout. There may well be opportunities to do more hours now, especially if apprentices are being put on shorter hours. Why not talk to the employer about putting in additional learning now. I suspect that when we eventually see the end to many of the current restrictions, life might get a bit manic, so bank as many hours as you can now. A great opportunity to ‘stretch and challenge’
- Conversely, if it is difficult now to deliver the 20%, because for example you apprentice is a key worker, or in a busy sector, then don’t worry. Think about how you will make up the hours later. You will need to reconcile before gateway that you have done 20% over the whole apprenticeship
- I would not worry about when the apprentice undertakes their learning. The 20% OTJ rule that says learning must take place in contracted hours is completely unenforceable in the complete jumble of work patterns that we are seeing. Evenings, weekends, at home, it will be very difficult for an ESFA auditor to pull you up for being flexible and responding to the needs of the employer and learner during the coronavirus outbreak!
- As I have already said, talk to your employers and try to persuade them to avoid a break in learning. Providing that the learner is still employed (even on Furloughed Worker basis), their learning can still take place.
- Evidence all that you do. Ignore what has been unhelpfully threatened about claiming back funding, record what you have done in supporting apprentices and employers in these completely unique times.
Tony Allen, written for Promote-Ed