A man teaching an apprentice

Apprenticeships “on the brink of collapse” after Covid-19 guidelines not implemented

Apprenticeship training providers are being forced to either close or mothball their operations, leaving thousands of apprentices across England unable to start or complete their programmes, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers has said.

Their actions, the association says, are a direct result of the Department for Education’s refusal to comply with Cabinet Office Covid-19 guidelines, which require all government departments and public bodies to pay their contracted suppliers during the crisis.

It claims that, while the DfE has guaranteed continued funding for further education and gran- funded colleges, it has ignored the guidelines in respect of apprenticeships and other vocational skills programmes, leaving training providers on the brink of collapse.

MPs are now writing to DfE ministers asking why they have singled out the government’s flagship skills programme for non-compliance.

AELP stresses that guaranteeing funding for apprenticeships does not require the DfE to request any new money from the Treasury because the programme budget for 2020-21 has already been allocated.

It says the DfE announcement on apprenticeship funding on 23 March, after such a long wait, meant that providers had to start immediately implementing their emergency contingency plans in an effort to save apprenticeship provision. AELP launched a survey of its members and providers, which said they might close altogether, will mothball, or will downsize. Of the 279 companies that responded to the survey, 49 said they were at risk of closure and 154 said they would downsize. Only 38 said they were confident of survival in their current state.

One anonymous provider said 1,500 of its apprentices would not be able to complete their training this year because of the workplace lockdown. Others said they had been forced to cut staff headcount by up to 80% to manage the cash flow problems caused by not receiving DfE funding.

52,000 young people and adults will lose their apprenticeship and other learning provision as a result of the closures and another 60,000 learners could be adversely affected by the mothballing.


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