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Apprenticeships already feeling impact of reduced funding

Half of apprenticeship training programmes could downsize, mothball or shut down completely due to lack of financial support for the Department for Education

That's according to the second Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) COVID-19 impact survey which found hundreds of thousands of young people and unemployed adults will have no training available to them when the crisis is over.

DfE published guidance on 23 March guaranteeing funding for further education and grant funded colleges, yet apprenticeships and other vocational skills programmes have not been acknowledged.

The lockdown has meant that new apprenticeship programme starts with employers have in most cases stopped and apprentices are finding it much more difficult to complete existing programmes.

One in five apprentices are currently on a break in learning, have been made redundant or have left their program.

Sectors more affected are health and care, early years educators, hospitality and catering and motor trades.

Current learners are still being funded by government, yet a large amount of income which comes from ongoing starts and completions is drying up for many apprenticeship training providers who train seven out of 10 apprentices in England.

Yet the survey also demonstrated resilience within the apprenticeship sector.

Eighty-one per cent of current apprentices are still actively learning after providers switched to online learning and assessment resources.

Breaking this down, the survey found 43% of providers are managing to train apprentices and other learners between 80 to 100% of their pre-pandemic capacity, but 57% of them are training at less than 80% of capacity.

If the DfE does not financially support the providers, then a quarter of providers said their chances of survival are at less than 50%.

The ACCA apprenticeship program offers opportunities for young people to become chartered accountants.

Claire Bennison, head of ACCA UK, said: “ACCA believes in the power of apprenticeships as they help people start careers with great employers.

“But we have to be realistic because of Covid-19: the huge economic situation we face will have an impact on employers 'and training providers' ability to offer apprenticeships in the future.

“Looking ahead, we need to keep all options open for young people and one of these options is a strong apprenticeships program that's more digitally enabled.”

Just two of the providers surveyed said they had successfully been given a loan under the Treasury's business support package, with 39 still waiting to hear back from their bank and five having had their applications rejected. A further 25 had found they were not eligible.

All providers have managed to keep some staff working full-time, but 83% are also furloughing employees who are then unable to support the delivery of training.

At this stage, only small numbers of staff have been asked to accept a pay cut or face the prospect of redundancy.