More than one in six apprenticeship training providers are facing going out of business as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) has warned.
In a survey of the association's 279 members, more than half (55 per cent) said that they would have to downsize, almost 30 per cent said they will mothball operations, and 18 per cent said they might close altogether. AELP said that only a few were confident about their survival.
AELP said training providers’ responses were a “direct result of the Department for Education’s refusal to comply with Cabinet Office Covid-19 guidelines which require all government departments and public bodies to pay their contracted suppliers during the crisis".
Background: Apprenticeship provider demands over coronavirus
Need to know: Minister's letter to training providers
AELP chief executive Mark Dawe said that action on funding apprenticeships and other skills programmes is “needed right now if the government seriously wants this year’s school-leavers and unemployed adults who need retraining after the crisis to have apprenticeships available to them.”
Coronavirus: 'Don't throw training providers on the scrapheap'
He added: “The normal protocols on making representations to ministers have had to be suspended and I have asked the current DfE ministers if they want to be the ones remembered for throwing hundreds of training providers, rated 'good' or 'outstanding' by Ofsted, on to the scrapheap. All they have to do is follow the Cabinet Office guidelines and use the money already sitting in the DfE.
“My message to the DfE is simple: guarantee April’s funding for apprenticeships and other work-based programmes to allow time for us all to sort through the details of how a sustainable funding model might work.”
FE and skills minister Gillian Keegan sent a letter to training providers last week in which she confirmed changes in light of the coronavirus pandemic, including allowing modification and rescheduling of end-point assessment arrangements, and ensuring that where apprentices are made redundant, alternative employment is found as quickly as possible and within 12 weeks.
However, AELP said that the DfE had guaranteed continued funding for further education and grant-funded colleges while ignoring the guidelines in respect of apprenticeships and other vocational skills programmes, leaving training providers on the brink of collapse.