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Millions of Unspent Training Funds for Furloughed Workers

£Millions of Unspent Training Funds for Furloughed Workers

Leading Yorkshire-based training firm (@EdenTrainingUK) urges all businesses to take advantage of government training grants to protect the mental wellbeing of their furloughed staff 

Despite the fact there’s a generous pool of money available for all employees, large and small, to dip into to train and upskill all their staff, even when furloughed*, millions of pounds of this cash is going unspent whilst workers’ mental health and self-esteem suffers, says leading Yorkshire-Based professional training firm, Eden Training Solutions. 

Last year, following the 24-month deadline for training grants to be spent, the Treasury quietly took back £330m of unspent apprenticeship levy money – which, contrary to popular belief, can be used by businesses to train all members of staff, whatever their age, level and time with the company. 

At the height of the pandemic, in May 2020, well over 8m workers were furloughed, with a reported increase to 9m + people on leave of absence by mid-November. The second wave has seen the COVID job retention scheme (CJRS) extended through to at least April 2021, giving millions of employers the opportunity to retain their teams – and even retrain or upskill them through the generous, yet under-publicised, training grants available to them. 

It’s widely known that furloughed staff cannot perform tasks or activities that make money for their employer or provide a service for their employer. However, many employees and employers are unaware that whilst on a leave of absence, on the CJRS staff can undertake training to enhance their skills and knowledge, whilst maintaining their motivation and ensuring they feel valued in the process. Furthermore, for SMEs and smaller businesses, the government will pick up the majority of the tab. 

Jon Boyle, Director of Operations at Eden Training Services explains: “There is definitely a lack of awareness amongst employers that government money is available for staff training and upskilling, but it’s improving. Since March, a quarter of the learners we have trained have been on furlough, however, there is scope for many, many more. 

“This is still an area that needs to be publicised much more by the government, particularly to ‘smaller’ businesses. 97% of companies in the UK have a wage bill of less than £3m, which means that if a member of their staff completes a training course that costs £6,000, they only have to contribute £300 towards it.”

“Furthermore, larger, £3m+ wage paying businesses can play the local hero and transfer 25% of their own training budget to smaller companies in their area or industry, meaning these companies don’t wouldn’t need to contribute a penny.” 

Depending on the size of the scale of a business, employers can secure funding between £3,000 for a Level 2 qualification to £27,000 for a L7 master’s degree for each employee, which can all be secured and achieved during furlough. 

Popular training courses include management sector training, such at Team Leader Supervisor L3 and childcare sector courses, such as Early Years Educator, however, employees can complete courses on topics such as public speaking, leading by example, innovation and creative thinking, cross departmental working or effective succession planning. 

The benefits of training to business and individuals goes well beyond the basic upskilling, with proven mental health advantages that improve self-esteem, confidence, anxiety and depression. Furlough has added extra strain on employee mental health, with many citing a fear of the unknown, job insecurity and isolation. 

Cheryl Iontton, Head of Learning & Development at leading, Cheshire-based LegalTech firm, ME Group Holdings, comments on the significant benefits of staff training during furlough: “Team members who learn in a furlough situation have the benefit of a dedicated space to really focus on their studies without the added pressure of their day jobs. When achieving qualifications that link with their roles whilst on leave of absence, they can put their new qualifications into practice and experience the benefits and satisfaction of their learning when they are back in the workplace. 

“I feel the government could do more to make businesses and staff aware that they can learn during furlough. It is included in the terms and conditions, but not really highlighted – which is a shame due to the clear benefits. During this lockdown, our business is working hard to ensure our furloughed staff know that they can achieve qualifications during this time. After all, it’s a great opportunity for them to stay motivated and accelerate their learning.” 

Debbie Rogerson, who works at Sidcop Nursery in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, was furloughed between March and September 2020 and achieved her level three early years educator qualification with distinction whilst on leave of absence. Her learning was received fully through Teams sessions. Debbie comments: “Being furloughed knocked my confidence and made me question my future. However, once I discovered I was able to train whilst on leave, I threw myself into my studies, and was able to build on my existing qualifications and achieve a result I was extremely proud of. 

“It was hard work, since I also had two children who required home schooling, but the effect the learning and subsequent qualification had on my confidence and self-esteem was astounding. Sometimes the Teams sessions were a welcome distraction from the stresses and strains of everyday life, and my trainer at Eden Training Solutions offered both support and a friendly ear. I highly recommend that anyone on furlough pursues a new qualification. The process kept me focussed, motivated and my mental wellbeing on track.” 

Eden Train Solutions is based in Castleford, West Yorkshire and Manchester, but works with large and smaller employers across the UK to plan and tailor training budgets, helping them to access and maximise funds, whilst improving profits, staff morale and outputs through dynamic learning strategies. Eden also works with businesses with a £3m+ wage bill to plan and move their 25% levy to smaller businesses in their area or industry with its exclusive levy profiling tool. 

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