In this difficult time, employers, training providers and EPAOs are doing their best for their workforce. As part of the cross-government efforts to respond to the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19), the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is implementing new measures, until further notice, to make it easier for apprenticeships to continue and complete in a different way if they need to, or to break and resume an apprenticeship later when that becomes possible.
The Government aim is to ensure that, wherever possible, apprentices can continue and complete their apprenticeship, despite any break they have to take as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19). High-quality apprenticeships will be a vital contributor to the economic recovery that will follow the outbreak.
Flexibilities have been introduced to make it easier for apprentices to continue as an apprentice, by enabling them to take a break from their learning, or do their learning or assessment in a different way to that originally planned, even if they are put on furlough by their employer. As well as ensuring that employers will still have the skills they need for the future, it means that they can temporarily redeploy apprentices without ending their apprenticeship.
Apprentices returning to work
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement setting out the steps to restart the economy, some apprentices may be returning to work and able to continue or restart their training in the workplace.
It is vital to support as many apprentices to continue their apprenticeship as possible, new arrangements will be supported alongside the existing flexibilities about where apprenticeship training is delivered. Remote training can remain the predominant mode of learning for most apprentices during this time. However, where a provider is able to do so safely, apprenticeship training can be delivered in the workplace where the apprentice is a critical worker or is returning to work, where that workplace meets new ‘COVID-19 secure’ guidelines on ensuring the workplace is safe.
Apprentices returning to undertake EPA within assessment centres
To ensure that apprentices can work to complete their apprenticeship, new assessment arrangements will be supported alongside the existing flexibilities about how apprenticeship assessments are delivered. Where remote assessments can take place, meaning apprentices can stay home, these are preferable.
If there is no option to take the assessment remotely, and an assessment centre meets the safer working guidance, then apprentices can travel to them to undertake their EPA.
Apprentices returning to train in an educational setting
From the week commencing 15 June, providers should offer some face-to-face contact for 16 to19 year old apprentices where possible and practical, as part of a combined approach in which remote training remains the predominant form of training.
To help reduce the coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission risk, the FE guidance (on wider opening from 15 June) asks that the number of FE learners attending at any one time is limited to a quarter of those on the first year of a 2 year 16 to 19 study programme.
Providers can choose to allow apprentices who are over 19 to attend, but should continue to prioritise 16 to 19 apprentices. If older apprentices attend on site delivery, the maximum number of 16 to 19 year olds attending on site at any one time must be reduced to ensure the setting remains within the overall limit.
Disruption to employment
Where apprentices are furloughed (granted a leave of absence), they are permitted to continue with their training where their provider can continue to deliver this remotely.
Where apprentices are placed on unpaid leave (not furloughed), or where the nature of their employment changes and no longer supports their apprenticeship, the apprentice, employer and training provider should consider whether a break in learning would be appropriate.
Where apprentices are made redundant, it is important that they are supported to find alternative employment and continue their apprenticeship as quickly as possible and within 12 weeks.
Further information and FAQs
Further information regarding the Government response for apprentices, apprenticeship training and assessment can be found here, and includes guidance and some temporary flexibilities that have been introduced during the outbreak, and also provides answers to questions related to these changes and other common questions.