The government has announced support measures for independent training providers in response to the coronavirus pandemic – but it has not offered the wide-ranging financial support providers had hoped for.
Guidance published this evening sets out how the government aims to support apprenticeship providers so they can retain their apprentices during the coronavirus pandemic.
The measures, it says, will help employers and apprenticeship training and assessment providers “plan with more certainty through this difficult period of disruption”. However, providers have said the lack of funding puts their future at risk.
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The document sets out “some temporary flexibilities, that we are introducing to the programme during the pandemic”.
It says it “provides answers to questions related to these changes, and other common questions".
Providers, it says, can receive funding for delivered training, and should report breaks in learning, for which they will not receive payments.
It adds: “Where the Covid-19 outbreak results in loss of income due to ceased or reduced delivery of training, training providers should consider their eligibility and apply for the wide range of financial support that HM Treasury has already announced for businesses.”
The government says it is encouraging training providers to deliver training to apprentices remotely and via e-learning as far as is practicable, but will also allow the modification of end-point assessment arrangements, “including remote assessments wherever practicable and possible”.
The document also sets out that those apprentices ready for assessment, but who cannot be assessed due to Covid-19-related issues, can have their end-point assessment rescheduled. Extensions to the assessment timeframe are also possible, it adds.
The government also confirms that “where apprentices are made redundant, it is our ambition to find them alternative employment and continue their apprenticeship as quickly as possible and within 12 weeks”.
The guidance and measures start immediately and apply until further notice, says the document.
In a letter published tonight, apprenticeships and skills minister Gillian Keegan said the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) would continue to make scheduled 16 to 19 and adult education budget monthly payments for the remainder of the year.
Meanwhile, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) has also published new guidance on the delivery of assessment.
The move follows calls by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) for the government to support providers urgently to avoid them hitting financial difficulty.
AELP chief executive Mark Dawe had warned last week that "catastrophe" would hit the sector unless the government gave apprenticeship providers "a proper response".
Responding to the guidance document, he said: “The omission of any DfE funding support for apprenticeships and other skills training goes completely against the assurance offered by the education secretary to the House of Commons last week.
"We are left to conclude that the government is not serious about apprenticeship training or any other forms of skills training continuing while the pandemic goes on or that it is very happy to preside over many independent training providers (ITPs) going out of business over the next three months.
"How are providers expected to implement the proposed flexibilities in today’s statement if they have vastly reduced income coming in? It is now a battle for survival."