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Information about work-based learning and apprenticeships during the coronavirus pandemic.

First published:
24 March 2020
Last updated:

Contents

What provisions are being put in place if apprentices have to self-isolate, their workplace is closed or vocational learning providers are closed?

We are encouraging learning providers and employers to support apprentices to continue their learning, even in self-isolation, where it is possible to do so.

Employers should consider whether learners can work from home if they are required to self-isolate or their workplace closes.

Learning providers have been asked to use available technologies (e.g. platforms like Skype and Microsoft Teams) to work with learners on a virtual basis, where it is possible to do so. Your provider will be able to let you know what specific plans are in place for this.

GCSEs and A Level exams have been cancelled. Will learner completion of vocational qualifications also be affected, including BTECs?

We are still working on arrangements for vocational qualifications. This is more complicated than for A levels and GCSEs, because most vocational qualifications are offered across the UK and there are many different awarding bodies involved.  Some learners also need to do practical assessments to complete their qualifications, which isn’t possible while colleges are closed for face-to-face learning.

Qualifications Wales is working with other UK qualifications regulators and will be confirming arrangements soon. You can see their latest updates and FAQs.

ATT: The Association of Taxation Technicians wrote to all learners on 20 March informing them that, following the cancellation of the May 2020 examinations, they would be automatically registered for examinations in November 2020.   

More information, and further FAQs can be found directly on the ATT website 

What will happen if my qualification includes a licence to practise?

Qualifications Wales is working with Ofqual to determine an appropriate way forward for those learners whose final qualification depends upon evidence of practical competence and needs to be industry or Health & Safety Certified (e.g. Gas Fitters etc). We will update these FAQs as soon as we learn more.

Can I access workshop support?

Currently all face to face learner workshops have been suspended. Learning providers are exploring ways to support apprentices/learners virtually, where possible to do so.

My training provider has closed, how can I seek support and advice?

Training providers are being asked to provide training, advice and support to learners virtually where possible. Learners should contact their learning providers for more information.

The business I work for has had to close. Can I get my apprenticeship placement with another company?

If your workplace has had to close and working from home isn’t an option you should contact your learning provider to see if an alternative placement can be found.

Is an apprentice entitled to be paid if they are ill? Will they receive statutory sick pay?

As with all employees, apprentices are expected to heed the Government’s advice and stay away from work if they think that they, or someone else in their household, has symptoms of COVID-19. 

Where this occurs, and an employer does not have its own scheme, it is expected that the employee will be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or, if not eligible for SSP, Universal Credit (UC). 

Young apprentices (i.e. those under 18) are not eligible for SSP and do not meet the criteria for UC.  In these cases, the Welsh Government will make a weekly payment of £50 to each young apprentice who is ineligible for SSP and UC whilst on sick leave or self-isolating as a result of COVID-19.  More information on this process will be communicated shortly. 

For apprentices following a degree apprenticeship, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) will be issuing its own advice. 

Is an apprentice still entitled to be paid if they are well enough to work, but can’t work from home?

We are aware that apprentices may well need additional support through this time.  

Learning providers have been asked to use available technologies (e.g. platforms like Skype and Microsoft Teams) to work with learners on a virtual basis; where it is possible to do so. If you are an apprentice, your provider will be able to let you know what specific plans are in place for this.  

In terms of pay, apprentices are employees and employers are expected to fulfil their employment contract. Employers are urged to explore the UK Government’s support package for employers to prevent redundancies due to COVID-19. 

My business was due to be paid an Employer Incentive as a result of taking on an apprentice, but due to workplace closure or restrictions the apprentice can’t start yet. Will I still be eligible for the payment?

Welsh Government will allow the Employer Incentive scheme to be deferred for any eligible employers whose apprenticeship recruitment has been delayed until after 30 April 2020, as a result of COVID-19.  In these cases, providers will be required to maintain evidence of the employer’s intent to recruit a young apprentice prior to 1 May 2020.

Employers who furlough their apprentice during this period will still be entitled to the EIS, once the apprentice has been employed for eight months, as we recognise that this will be an extremely difficult period for SMEs.

How do I know if I am a key worker, if my role is essential, and if I should remain in work?

Welsh Government guidance on businesses which have been required to close is available. This page includes guidance for tradespeople and others carrying out work in people’s homes.

Welsh Government have also provided guidance to employers on eligibility for sick pay and what to do if employees require time off to care a dependant.

To find out if you are a key worker we have compiled a list to help.

What are the requirements for providers to carry out reviews with apprentices if employers are closed, or while the apprentice or assessor are social distancing?

Normally, assessor reviews of apprentices are required every 61 days. If this is not possible due to COVID-19, the learning provider should make every effort to carry out reviews using virtual methods. Learning providers should keep records of virtual contact and retain relevant evidence (e.g. emails) from learners and employers.

If it is not possible for the learner to continue, or for virtual support to be provided, the apprentice can be placed on an authorised absence by their learning provider for as long as required.  Providers are being asked to keep a log of all learners on authorised absence because of COVID-19 illness or self-isolation.

What evidence should learning providers keep to show that remote learning and reviews have taken place?

Where any process can be completed digitally, online and/or authenticated digitally (signed off) this should be used, as per usual if the provider already has these processes built in or instead of a usual wet signature/authentications or paper trail.   

Any changes in process should be fully documented so that auditors can see the rationale as to how and why the decision was taken.  This could, for example, use CHOC forms, emails or file notes, as long as there is a full audit trail.

Providers should document reasons why information, including leaver paperwork, cannot be collected in line with their usual schedule, and should obtain this information at  a later date where appropriate.  This will be acceptable in future Welsh Government audits.

Can Traineeship learners still be paid the Training Allowance if they are learning remotely, or are self-isolating or sick?

Yes, absences resulting from COVID-19 should be treated as authorised and providers should continue to pay the training allowance throughout the period of absence.

Learning providers expect to see an impact on apprenticeship recruitment and redundancy as a result of COVID-19, how will this be managed?

Providers should continue to log the issues they encounter and we will monitor their data to inform future decisions. At this stage it is still too early to say what the medium- and longer-term impacts of COVID-19 will be on learner recruitment and demand.

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