“You are on mute!” That’s the most common thing that we all have been hearing for almost two years now. It has often caught us off-guard during any work meetings that moved online due to the pandemic situation.
When it comes to apprenticeship programs, the story is no different. Apprenticeship training and evaluations are often conducted in educational settings, assessment centers (including community settings), and workplaces.
Due to this COVID-19 pandemic, we had to limit where training and assessment could occur.
However, restrictions are easing, and workplaces are reopening. So, what does this mean for apprentices, and how can employers ensure that they continue to provide relevant and effective training?
What Does It Mean To The Apprentices?
For some apprentices, this implies a halt in their training, or, in the worst-case scenario, redundancy. Many people will be asked to work from home and will be able to complete their education remotely.
Apprenticeship training and evaluation can be given in the workplace if necessary, as long as the workplace complies with the COVID-19 secure guidelines. However, there are few things they need to keep in mind:
- Because of illness, caring duties, and operational disruption, apprentices may be unable to attend training, or training providers may not give training. Then the Apprenticeship funding guidelines specify that if there is a disruption in learning states:
- Less than and up to 4 weeks: There is no requirement for the employer or the training provider to disclose the interruption; the apprenticeship’s end date remains unchanged, and the funding payment remains unchanged.
- More than 4 weeks: A formal cease in learning must be reported by employers and/or training providers. The payment of funding to the training provider will be suspended for the break if a pause in learning is detected.
- Employers and providers should collaborate with apprentices to reschedule training if a gap in learning is required and the apprenticeship’s scheduled finish date has moved. This may include revisiting apprenticeship agreements and commitment statements.
- Apprentices do not have to complete the required 20% off-the-job training during gaps in their education. When training resumes, the apprentice must complete a minimum of 20% off-the-job training for the remainder of the apprenticeship.
However, furloughed apprentices can participate in volunteer work or apprenticeship training if it does not provide services to or produce income for their employer. Apprenticeships and off-the-job training are included in this context. As a result, a furloughed apprentice can complete their apprenticeship while receiving training remotely from a training provider.
How Will The Change Affect The Employer?
Employers can collect 80 percent of furloughed employees’ regular monthly salary costs, up to £2,500 per month, with associated employer National Insurance obligations and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). Apprentices are included in this.
The CJRS Program was extended through September 30, 2021. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Guidance contains valuable information.
In most situations, a furlough payment of 80% of a worker’s wage, up to a maximum of £2,500, will be sufficient to cover these training hours. This is because time spent training is recognized as working time for the purposes of calculating the minimum wage and thus must be paid at the appropriate rate, especially with the increase in minimum wage rates beginning April 1, 2020.
Employers should evaluate the hours that an employee is expected to train during the furlough time when deciding whether to top up an apprentice’s compensation (which must be a three-week minimum).
Employers must make sure that the left money is sufficient to cover these training hours.
Also, if any apprentice has been made redundant, then:
- Employers who want to fill a vacancy or provide new apprenticeship opportunities should create an apprenticeship service account or log in if they already have one.
- They will have to post an apprenticeship opportunity on Find an apprenticeship after they have created one.
However, when it comes to funding:
- Apprentices are only allowed a 30-day hiatus between employers under funding restrictions. However, due to the epidemic, some apprentices will be unable to begin working for and training with their new company.
- Suppose an apprentice had expected to begin working for their new employer within 30 days of leaving their previous one but had to take a gap of more than 30 days owing to COVID-19. They will still be eligible for support when they return.
Employers and every training provider must work together to support apprentices whose progress has been hampered by the pandemic, and this guide provides a simple but extremely useful checklist for ensuring that apprentices finish their training and assessments effectively even during this COVID-19 situation.
There is also a strong recommendation that each apprentice’s work plan and commitment statement, which must be followed by employers, suppliers, and apprentices during their apprenticeships, be reviewed and updated.