Apprenticeship schemes halved by coronavirus pandemic
- Credit: City College
Apprentices facing uncertain futures under lockdown learning restrictions and the economic impact of coronavirus have been forced into new ways of learning skills.
Whilst the impact of the pandemic on learning in schools, colleges and universities has been the focus of much attention, colleges and employers have been forced to change their operations to support apprentices.
The stark reality facing young trainees has become clear with figures revealing that apprenticeships have been halved by the coronavirus pandemic.
There were 91,100 apprenticeship starts recorded from August to October 2020, compared to 125,800 reported for the same period pre-Covid-19 – a 28 per cent fall, according to Department for Education figures.
Despite the government's promise to guarantee an apprenticeship for every young person, many have found their training interrupted after being placed on furlough by employers.
The UK Government’s incentive scheme, running until March 31, means employers who hire new apprentices will receive up to £3,000 for apprentices aged 16 to 24, and £1,500 for those aged 25 and over.
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It is also applicable for an apprentice who has been the victim of redundancy.
Skills minister Gillian Keegan said: “We cannot ignore the huge impact the coronavirus has had on the jobs market and we know that some apprentices have lost their job, or are facing redundancy.”
City College Norwich and Easton College, which currently has over 1,500 learners on apprenticeship programmes making it one of the largest providers in the region, said it had had to be creative to enable apprentices to continue learning.
In place of regular on-site workplace learning assessments, many apprentices are currently working from home.
Hairdressing apprentices, for example, have been provided with model blockheads that they can practice their skills on during live group training sessions on Zoom.
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Ed Rose, director of higher education and apprenticeships, said: “Over the last year, despite the many challenges affecting all sectors, the support employers have given to their apprentices has been exceptional.
“There is a clear recognition that apprenticeships are about taking a long-term view of skills.”
Despite the pandemic the college has seen around 200 apprentices successfully complete their programmes. During the same period, there have been more than 500 new apprenticeships started.
Making the most of time on furlough
When Jamie Currie, who is working towards an apprenticeship in business administration with Attleborough-based Anglian Demolition and Asbestos Ltd, was placed on furlough he decided to make the most of the 15 weeks
Having learnt how to correctly fit facemasks – vital in a business involved in the handling of asbestos – Jamie was keen to use these skills to help with the fitting of masks for NHS staff on the Covid frontline.
He joined up with a group of volunteers who gave their services to NHS staff in different hospitals in Norfolk and Suffolk, something he describes as having been “a really humbling experience.”
While also juggling helping out with his family’s business, The Wagon & Horses in Griston, including providing free meals to the elderly and vulnerable, his apprenticeship wasn't forgotten.
“I had some outstanding coursework to get on with and the time on furlough was the perfect opportunity to crack on with it,” he added.