On 6th April, Department for Education and the Education and Skills Funding Agency released updated guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers, end-point assessment organisations (EPAO) and external quality assurance providers (EQAP) as part of cross-government efforts to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The guidance sets out temporary flexibilities to support a range of apprenticeship users from apprentice through to EQAP, this dynamic document is updated as further clarification received. The full document can be viewed here coronavirus-covid-19-apprenticeship-programme-response however we wanted to draw your attention to some key changes and how Wiltshire Council and its partners can support local apprentices, employers and providers at this time.

Business Support

 

Apprentices, their employers, and training and assessment organisations as businesses, can access the government’s package of measures to support businesses to endure the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. HM Government’s Business Support is an easy to navigate site that helps businesses identify sources of funding; how to access this support, eligibility criteria and application process.

Furlough

If you and your employer both agree, your employer might be able to keep you on the payroll if they’re unable to operate or have no work for you to do because of coronavirus (COVID-19). This is known as being ‘on furlough’. Apprentices and employees alike, could get paid 80% of their wages paid, up to a monthly cap of £2,500.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme allows employers to claim 80% of furloughed employees salaries. Furloughed employees can take part in volunteering and training – as long as it does not generate revenue or provide services for the employer – for apprentices this training can include their mandated 20% off the job training – why not use this time to get ahead on your studies, undertake some additional learning, you might find your work priorities change once the pandemic is over! Providers are encouraged to support learners through remote and digital ways of delivering training – let us know how you have adapted?

Break in Learning

Less than 4 weeks – no action required – covered in normal guidance

More than 4 weeks – employers and providers have been given temporary access to report and initiate a break in learning, a process usually undertaken by the apprentice.

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.

The ESFA have produced a useful video to show employers how to complete this process using the apprenticeship service COVID-19: New Break in Learning Flexibility – How to Use Pause and Stop in the Apprenticeship Service

Provider Funding

Providers will continue to be paid retrospectively for training delivered and evidenced. Providers will not receive payment for learners who are on a break in learning therefore it is important for employers to consider if this is the most appropriate course of action.

Where COVID-19 results in a loss of income for providers they are to consider the range of business support on offer from HM Treasury previously mentioned.

Levy Payers

Apprenticeship Levy employers should submit their monthly returns to HMRC in the normal way.

At this time, there is no change to the expiration of funds (24-months) however this has been challenged at local government and by organisations representing employers.

End-point assessment and quality assurance

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education  has set up an information hub to provide clear guidance and a source of contact for employers and assessment organisations during this time. Together with Ofqual, they are introducing flexibilities to enable apprentices to complete their apprenticeship in the event of disruption to assessment either separately to, or as well as, disruption to training and employment.

EPAOs should engage with EQAPs throughout and agree arrangements in advance where remote assessment replaces face-to-face assessment, or where a simulated environment is to be used.

Apprentices who are deemed ready for assessment and cannot be assessed due to COVID-19 related issues, will be able to have their EPA rescheduled. Apprentices whose gateway is being delayed are allowed a break in learning, with an extension to the assessment timeframe. The training provider is required to record this in the ILR.

Redundancy

Existing apprenticeship funding rules already make provision for redundancy to ensure minimum disruption to the apprenticeship programme and aid progression to end-point assessment. Training providers should wherever possible support apprentices to source alternative employment.

If, because of COVID-19, an employer faces losing many apprentices to redundancy the ESFA will step in and provide practical support with the aim of securing alternative employment within a 12-week period. It is hoped, through the provision of HM Government’s Business Support packages that this scenario will be avoided in many cases

Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership – Growth Hub

The Growth Hub has increased its capacity to support businesses during this challenging time. Business navigators are supporting businesses across Swindon and Wiltshire to find the right support, advice and information to aid decision making during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Use the following link to access the Growth Hub- Business Support-Covid-19

Say Hello!

Are you an apprentice, apprenticeship employer or provider? We would like to know how you are doing during these unprecedented times? Have there been any positive outcomes because of the restrictions introduced to all our lives. Are your apprentices supporting the nation to deliver goods and services? We’d love to hear from you at Work Wiltshire

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