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

First published:
24 March 2020
Last updated:

Contents

I’m due to start an apprenticeship this autumn, will it go ahead?

Yes, you should be able to start, but check with your employer and training provider.  Your training provider will need to do a health and safety review to make sure that it’s safe for your assessor to visit you in your workplace.

I’m due to do a work placement as part of my Traineeship programme, can it go ahead?

You may be able to do your work placement, once your training provider has completed a health and safety review of your employer. If so, you will need to stay two metres apart from other people at the employer and at your training centre. Your training provider will be able to give you further information.

Will I be able to go into college to study for qualifications as part of my apprenticeship?

To help keep learners and staff safe, we are requiring colleges and other training providers to follow social distancing requirements if a group of apprentices is coming into college. If this isn’t possible, it may mean that you need to do some of your training remotely or online. Your training provider will be able to give you more information.

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 

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 employer can be found to enable you to continue your apprenticeship. From 1 August Welsh Government will be offering an incentive to employers who take on a redundant apprentice.

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. 

What are colleges and training providers doing to make sure it’s safe to return?

Every college and training provider must complete detailed risk assessments and thorough planning before inviting learners and staff to return.  This includes looking at their buildings to make sure that they can follow social distancing requirements; putting guidance in place for staff and learners; planning timetables so that they can manage the numbers of people involved; and stepping up their cleaning and disinfecting arrangements. 

If you have specific questions, contact your college or training provider who will be able to give you details of their arrangements.

I’m an apprentice and have been in touch with my training assessor over the last few months online and by phone, can they come into my workplace to do reviews and assessments?

Yes. Apprenticeship assessors can visit workplaces. This depends on health and safety reviews on your workplace, and in some cases assessors may need to continue working from home because they or a family member are shielding against Covid-19. Your training provider will be able to give you more information on their plans and timetable.

I’m an apprentice and have been told to return to work. What should I do if I have any concerns about safety in my workplace?

You can report any issues relating to protecting people from Covid-19 in the workplace to the Health & Safety Executive:

What can I do to keep myself safe when travelling to and from my training centre or employer, and when I return home?

There are a number of things you can do to keep yourself and other safe:

  • Be careful to stay 2 metres away from other people wherever possible
  • Think about how you travel to your workplace or training centre and try to avoid public transport if possible. However, if you do use public transport you will now be required to wear a three layer face covering
  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly throughout the day and when you get home
  • If you feel unwell, tell your employer or training provider immediately, go home, and stay there for 7 days. The main symptoms of Covid-19 are:
    • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature).
    • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual).
    • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.

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?

For all recruitment prior to 1 August 2020, Welsh Government will allow the Employer Incentive scheme to be deferred for any eligible employers whose apprenticeship recruitment has been delayed 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.

For all recruitment on or after 1 August, the Welsh Government is introducing a new incentive scheme to encourage the recruitment of young apprentices and support those apprentices who have been made redundant.

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 (i.e. suspended) 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.

However, as from the 1 August the Welsh Government will be introducing incentives to encourage employers to recruit young apprentices and those apprentices made redundant as a result of Covid-19.

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