By Giles Holmes, Senior Account Manager at Leicester College
The disruption caused by Covid-19 to our education system is unparalleled. The ramifications of the preventative restrictions will be felt for some time but in the apprenticeships sector, we’re working hard to adapt.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Leicester College has been making sure that as many apprenticeships as possible have been supported and are able to carry on their training.
From March to May this year, we carried on delivering apprenticeships (in a non-face-to-face environment) across all of our apprenticeship programmes. We have been working with students and meeting with businesses from home, through the Microsoft Teams platform in well-worked, bite-sized sessions.
It was also a good time to catch up on professional development training, particularly when linked to support the individual’s job requirements.
The April to June period was very quiet but 90 per cent of our apprenticeships have managed to stay in learning, including those furloughed or those who took a break in learning to focus on work and are now re-starting.
Opportunities for employers
The Autumn term is traditionally a peak time for apprentice starts and we’ve already secured over 250 new apprentice starts, across a range of apprenticeship roles in the construction, engineering, business, and service sectors
We are continuing to see an increase in employers wanting to discuss potential apprenticeship roles and recruitment support as well as how apprenticeships can support the professional development of eligible existing employees. With the increased Government support, SMEs are slowly getting more confident and are looking again at recruiting apprentices.
They can take advantage of some significant grant opportunities – it’s £3k to recruit 16-18 year-olds, £2k for 19-24 year-olds and £1.5k for 25+ year-olds. Apprenticeships also offer more flexible starting points and although employers will continue to be naturally wary of the uncertain business climate, we’re confident that January/February will be a busy time.
A strategy for learning delivery
Our delivery model for apprenticeships will continue to evolve. The set up of lectures and theory delivered online has worked well via Teams so will continue for the predominantly theory-based apprenticeship programmes such as those in the business sectors. However, for those highly practical programmes such as engineering and construction, we offer a blended approach to ensure that the practical skills are well developed.
We have to be agile to respond, particularly as we approach autumn and winter, so will be rolling out this blended approach of online delivery and bubble learning in a phased way.
A strong platform for apprenticeships
At Leicester College, we’ve been strengthening the team and now have more capacity to come back from this with additional resources in our construction team, trainer assessors, sales and marketing, and enhanced processes around enrolment.
We’ve also integrated new employer standards into our frameworks so we’re in a good place to deliver a highly professional and effective apprenticeship programme in such a challenging climate for business and education.