Lockdown and furlough present a massive opportunity for anyone undertaking an apprenticeship programme to accelerate their off-the-job learning, according to a leading skills director.
Melanie Nicholson, Seetec’s Executive Director for Excellence, Apprenticeships and Skills, has over 25 years’ experience in the skills arena and urges businesses to support their employees who are undertaking apprenticeship programmes during the coronavirus lockdown.
“This is a great opportunity for employees who are furloughed to engage in learning whilst they are at home, They can effectively develop their theoretical understanding of their job role, sector and business, so that when they do go back to work they will be returning with the new skills and knowledge that they have acquired and can then concentrate on putting these to use by helping to drive the business forward,” Melanie said.
“In addition, working towards their qualification and continuing to learn will help employees to remain engaged and motivated. It also helps to look after people’s mental health during self-isolation, by continuing in learning this enables the training provider to keep in touch with individual employees, providing additional support alongside the support they are receiving from their employer.”
Melanie urges employers and learners to continue their apprenticeship programmes and to avoid disruptive breaks in learning and programme extensions where possible.
She remains optimistic that there will be a positive side to the Covid-19 upheaval. While she recognises the financial pressures facing many businesses and individuals, along with the personal pressures of lockdown and isolation, she believes most sectors and industries will come through this with different, better and more productive ways of thinking, working and learning.
Melanie said: “Before the pandemic, Seetec had started to implement different ways of delivering learning by utilising online and blended learning models for all of our programmes.
“The situation we all found ourselves in a few weeks ago expedited that thinking and planning and we were able to quickly and effectively support our learners remotely using online platforms for remote and virtual learning, along with online learning materials.”
Melanie explained, “Once employers realised their employees wouldn’t be undertaking their learning on their own and still had the same access to their tutors, classes and learning materials, most employers have been very supportive and can see the benefits of their employees remaining in learning whilst furloughed.”
Melanie is passionate about the sector’s role in supporting learners and employers during the lockdown. “Apprentices are our future skilled workers and leaders and we can do more,” she says, “at Seetec, we have the capacity and we’re happy to talk to any learners and employers who want advice or support about how to continue their qualification or programme.”
Background information about Furlough and apprenticeship learning
Furlough is a temporary scheme in place for four months starting from 1 March 2020, which may be extended if necessary and employers can use this scheme anytime during this period. It is designed to help employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) to retain their employees and protect the UK economy.
Apprentices can be furloughed in the same way as other employees and they can continue to train whist furloughed. However, you must pay your apprentices at least the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage/National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage as appropriate for all the time they spend training. This means you must cover any shortfall between the amount you can claim for their wages through this scheme and their appropriate minimum wage.
Government guidance is available for changes in apprenticeship learning arrangements because of COVID-19.
Photos: Melanie Nicholson. Seetec Outsource logo
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