The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted industries and economies globally. As the UK begins to open up again, many companies will no doubt have to revisit their strategic priorities and long-term recovery plans, to understand and work through the damage that the crisis has caused.
The economy has been greatly impacted. As a result, the state of the labour market is currently one of the priorities on the government’s agenda, as it works out its next phase and determines how long it will take the country to find its way out of the worst recession for 300 years.
With unemployment soaring since the nationwide lockdown, no one will feel it more than the younger generation. Increased youth unemployment, coupled with increased employer training needs, means there is an opportunity for providers to put in place overarching apprenticeship standards across industries.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced that every young person in Britain will be guaranteed an apprenticeship as he warned it was “inevitable” that there would be “many, many job losses”.
The prime minister said the government would take an “interventionist” approach as the country recovers from coronavirus in an attempt to ensure the nation “bounces back sharply”. This means that apprenticeships will be an instrumental part of the national post-Covid recovery plan.
Leeds City College, one of the largest apprenticeship providers in West Yorkshire, has been working on a long-term strategic plan to ensure that young people looking to secure apprenticeships across all sectors, including healthcare, business, manufacturing, engineering and more, have the opportunity to do so post-pandemic. The college, which is part of the Luminate Education Group, has more than 200 apprenticeship standards.
Director of Apprenticeships Lee Pryor said: “We want to ensure that school and college leavers are able to secure future employment and a steady career, and apprenticeships are a great way to ensure this happens.”
“A number of apprentices have been furloughed but are continuing to study. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused complex challenges across the apprenticeship landscape. The unique position of apprenticeships – which combine education, training and employment – has made the sector particularly vulnerable to the current crisis.”
Lee said that the impact on training providers and access to learning has been compounded by the profound effects on employers and the economy. Adding that some apprentices, particularly those working in the sectors and industries most adversely affected by the nationwide lockdown, have experienced breaks in learning.
“With a minority of apprentices able to continue their apprenticeships as normal, not all will have equal access to the required devices, internet access or a suitable home learning space, leaving them unable to access training. As a result, our teams across Leeds City College have made every attempt to ensure that apprentices are getting the support they need during this time in order for them to progress, as the country begins to open up again.”
From 2010 to 2015, more than two million apprenticeships were created – since then, another 1.5 million were added and this has resulted in approximately 90 percent of qualified apprentices staying on with their employers. The growth in apprenticeships has helped the UK build a strong traineeship and skills-based nation. While the pandemic has halted growth, Pryor believes that there is an opportunity to regenerate apprenticeships across the West Yorkshire region.
“The benefits of apprenticeships for young people, include getting them on the career ladder and providing them with the practical skills they need to progress in their chosen field or industry.
“Similarly, companies have the added benefit of sustaining a competitive edge and boosting their business offering, by ensuring that their employees have the most up-to-date knowledge and skills.
“Furthermore, companies also get an injection of young talent and fresh ideas. This includes government incentives of £1,000 and free training for the under 18s. With the government announcing that it will be supporting apprenticeships post-pandemic, there is a lot of scope for the provision to grow and thrive,” Lee said.
The college has been conducting online interviews throughout lockdown and apprentices have been matched to jobs.
Lee added: “The Business Engagement team has been working tirelessly to make sure that it’s able to support businesses, helping them understand how their organisations will benefit from taking on an apprentice and how investing in training shows their commitment to staff development. This in turn, results in retaining current employees and attracting new talent.”
The college also invested in a new labour market intelligence tool more than a year ago to work with local employers to better understand skills gaps and widen apprenticeship standards.
With the support of the Business Engagement team, the college continues to offer a whole business approach, ensuring that apprentices are equipped with tailored knowledge and skills required for specific businesses and industries.