The Association of Employment and Learning Providers has demanded an urgent meeting with the apprenticeships and skills minister after what it calls an "omission" of any government support for apprenticeships and other skills training.
Guidance published by the government tonight set out a range of flexibilities introduced into the apprenticeships system, but did not include any financial support for providers.
AELP chief executive Mark Dawe said the organisation hoped that MPs on the Commons Education Select Committee would be raising the issue with skills minister Gillian Keegan when she appears before them on Wednesday.
Background: Apprenticeship provider demands over coronavirus
Need to know: Provider support measures published
Coronavirus response: Government 'not serious about apprenticeships'
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. The majority of provider staff will be furloughed, which means they will not be available to support the training of apprentices and other learners.”
Mr Dawe said that coming after Friday’s funding support for mainstream FE provision, the DfE statement added “insult to injury”. “For example, it says that ‘government policy does not allow payment for services in advance of delivery’ and yet this is precisely what it announced for colleges on Friday. ITPs delivering adult education, traineeships and other forms of training have similarly been offered zero assurance by today’s statement.”
He added: “Then on apprenticeships, the statement goes further and lays down terms for clawback of funding from independent training providers if the crisis means that apprenticeships can’t be completed. Given that it is not their fault that they cannot gain access to apprentices or assess them, this is beyond the pale.
“Unless the government urgently rethinks its stance that it has had two weeks to think about, we are likely to see the start of the collapse of the training and assessment sector over the next week unless action is taken on funding, and those employers who want training and assessment to continue will have no place to go when this is over."
Mr Dawe added: “Employers looking to get back on their feet after the end of the pandemic will find that the apprenticeships that they want won’t be available to them. And soon that other oven-ready solution of EU migrant labour won’t be there either to fill the gaps.
"What about this year’s school-leavers aged 16 or 18? Where are the opportunities going to be for them if lots of apprenticeship training providers are no longer around? This is why any further delay on a funding support package for apprenticeships and ITPs is totally unacceptable.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The government is taking unprecedented steps to support individuals and businesses effected by coronavirus. This includes paying people’s wages up to 80 per cent, deferring £30bn of taxes until the end of the financial year, lending unlimited sums of money interest free for 12 months and setting up a new Coronavirus job retention scheme.
“In addition, we are also supporting apprenticeship providers by offering a number of flexibilities so that apprentices can continue and complete their apprenticeships, including permitting distance learning wherever possible, providing flexibility on end point assessments and enabling breaks in learning, if this is due to coronavirus.
“We are continuing to work closely with the sector and with the Treasury to monitor how our support packages are benefitting organisations and to consider any further action which may be required.”