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Our future talent and the COVID-19 effect on apprenticeships

Dale Edwards, Strategic Consultant Nuclear Energy & Infrastructure who also is a Governor of Strode College in Somerset shares his thoughts on what impact COVID-19 will have on the current cohort of the country’s future talent going down the apprenticeship route.

In England during 2018/19 there were 742,400 people participating in apprenticeships in England, with 75% of apprentices under the age of 25. Over 80% of apprentices are engaged into four primary work areas: Business, Administration and Law; Health, Public Services and Care; Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies; and Retail & Commercial Enterprise. When looking at the main area’s apprentices work, the impact of COVID-19 could be significant.

A fundamental principal of an apprenticeship is that it is a job with a structured training programme with the employer and a training provider. Throughout the apprenticeship the employer needs to ensure that the apprentice is supported and has a duty of care to the individual.

Many businesses due to Government advice have set up employees to work from home or have made the difficult decision to furlough their staff including apprentices. If this is the case, the Government is increasing its flexibility to allow furloughed apprentices to continue their training on the provision that they are not generating income for the employer and encouraging training delivery to be done remotely albeit slightly different to the contracted agreement.

Government has acknowledged it will be a difficult time for apprentices, employers, and providers of apprenticeship training with assessment, and external assurance. Whilst the Government is committed to supporting apprentices with employers building the skills capabilities the country needs now and, in the future, there are many questions which are being raised at this crucial and challenging time.

Early years training in the workplace is the bedrock for individuals and the country’s future success. When we come through the other side of COVID-19, we will need these hundreds of thousands of valued apprentices to become the innovators, workers and leaders of the future and would encourage employers to retain their young and future talent.

It is vital that our future talent does not become the forgotten and damaged generation, like it did in the 2008 financial crisis. Young people experienced particularly high levels of job losses and unemployment with many taking years to recover and recently the Association of Colleges has commented that half of the new labour market entrants will struggle to find meaningful employment as the economic shocks of COVID-19 continue to be felt.

For this year’s school and college leavers there are likely to be fewer job and apprenticeship opportunities and there will be challenges in re-starting education and training after months of lockdown. With this week’s announcement that a rise of 850,000 people have claimed unemployment benefit in April will potentially have a significant impact on our future talent, who will be competing with experienced staff who have lost their jobs and recent graduates.


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