The Department for Education and the Treasury must, as a matter of urgency, guarantee programme income across all funding streams for all provider types until the coronavirus crisis is over, according to the Association of Employment and Learning Providers.
The AELP has already submitted an extension list of major actions that need to be taken to safeguard apprenticeship and skills provision during the pandemic.
AELP's chief executive, Mark Dawe, said that the wait for a proper response had gone on for too long.
“The government must take action on our three most important requests now before a catastrophe unfolds across the sector and hundreds of thousands of young apprentices and learners on other training programmes have their livelihoods and prospects ended through no fault of their own," he said.
Coronavirus: Apprenticeship providers 'need assurances'
City and Guilds Group has also called for urgent support for learners and institutions, where it says "many of our key workers are drawn from".
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Without any formal announcement on apprenticeships yet, AELP is calling on the government to at least put the following measures in place:
- Guarantee programme income across all funding streams for all provider types (grant or contracted) until the crisis is over.
- Remove all observations for the end-point assessment (EPA) of apprentices and replace EPAs with employer/provider assessment and professional discussion.
- Apply the same treatment to functional skills as is being applied to GCSEs and A levels: it should be left to the tutor as to when the learner has achieved competency.
'Imminent danger of going out of business'
Mr Dawe added that the organisation is receiving hourly reports from training providers about apprenticeships being stopped by employers, no new apprentices being taken on and existing apprentices being made redundant.
He said: "Learners on other skills programmes are also badly affected. All of this impacts on the funding which a provider receives from the government and providers are therefore having to make their own staff redundant.
"Without immediate support action from the government, many providers are in imminent danger of going out of business. The experience and expertise lost, particularly for apprenticeships, will not be easily restored to the sector once the pandemic is over, especially as the scientific experts are advising that the situation could last for many months."
Kirstie Donnelly, chief executive of City and Guilds Group, said that FE and skills deserve the same respect as the government shows to schools and higher education.
She said: "We have heard very little about our crucial skills system. The very system that every year reliably trains over a million people, including hundreds of thousands of apprentices, as well as technical and skilled workers, all of whom the economy, employers and our country rely upon. Never more so than at times like these.
“From plumbers to electricians, delivery drivers to customer service helplines, all these crucial skills – and so much more – exist because of an established quality network of skills provision, and a FE system that works hard to provide invaluable education and training.
“It’s critical that we get clear government direction and urgent assurance for continued funding and support for these other learners and institutions – whether to help apprentices complete their programmes or to protect learners on full-time FE courses and adults on funded training courses.
“FE and skills are a vital part of our total education and training sector, and we’re asking that the government shows it the same respect we show to schools and HE.”
David Hughes, the chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said that funding must continue in the short-term for colleges, employers and apprentices.
He said: “We’re in a national health emergency and that has to be the first priority. Colleges are working hard to do the best that they can for their students, apprentices and employers, but they need to be confident that the funding will continue in the short-term. IFATE needs to work with colleges and its other partners to ensure continuity for apprentices wherever possible or for transfers to suitable college courses if it is not.
"AELP’s suggestions are good ones. In the short term government needs to protect jobs and capacity in colleges to safeguard on-going education and training as well as what will be needed in the long term as a response to likely large numbers of redundancies across the economy. Re-training and support will be needed by tens of thousands of people later in the year and next to help them find work and be productive.”
The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.