Survey uncovers impact of pandemic on apprenticeships

A survey of employers has found that 64 per cent of companies failed to invest in new apprentices over the last twelve months due to Covid-19.

(Image: In-Comm Training)

The latest In-Comm Training Barometer survey, launched to coincide with National Apprenticeship Week 2021, has found cuts to training budgets (51 per cent) and more than half of firms (53 per cent) dropping plans to take on young workers as they adapt to the challenges presented by the virus.

Highlights from the survey of 109 employers include nearly nine-tenths of companies retaining their existing apprentices, whilst the government’s furlough scheme has allowed 72 per cent of management teams to continue to offer training.

Skills Barometer aims to gauge training needs

In a statement, Bekki Phillips, Chief Operating Officer of In-Comm Training said: “Something that has been spoken about a lot lately is the fact that a generation of school pupils could be left high and dry due to interruption with exams and the lack of opportunities out there.

“We can’t just write them off, that’s not fair and will be hugely detrimental to industry for decades to come, compounding the existing gap we have been trying to bridge.”

She continued: “The appetite to invest in the future workforce is still there, but companies are under so much financial pressure from the pandemic that they have to make some tough decisions and it appears that this is already having an impact on the number of apprentices being recruited.

“We really need government to take note of this and look at how it could explore more targeted short-term financial support to help bridge the rest of the pandemic.

“The Kickstart scheme has been slow to take off and shouldn’t be seen as an alternative to Apprenticeships, whilst the recent white paper on Further Education highlights some good points, but they’re three to four years away.

“Employers require support now and in a way that takes some of the financial burden away, maybe through a simplified grant scheme or maybe even shared Apprenticeships where a number of companies could invest in the one individual.”

(Image: In-Comm Training)

For the first time, In-Comm’s Training Barometer sought the opinions of nearly 200 secondary school pupils, and nearly four-fifths said they would consider vocational learning as a potential route to a job.

“These results show the great strides our sector has made in promoting the benefits of apprenticeships, so they’re no longer seen as the fallback option,” said Gareth Jones, Managing Director of In-Comm Training.

“This is excellent news on one hand, but with companies now starting to hold back on recruitment, we could quickly find ourselves with lots of candidates and very few jobs.

“We need to try to capture this appetite for vocational learning and find solutions to the short-term issues we are all facing. One solution could be looking at how the Apprenticeship Levy pot is spent as a lot of the big employers will still have been paying into it despite Covid-19…could this be redirected to support SMEs in their desire to take on apprentices or boost other upskilling opportunities? Missing out on a generation of talent is simply not an option, especially as these skills will be needed to drive the bounce back.”

The Training Barometer, which will be used to lobby government and trade bodies, is part of a series of activities planned by In-Comm Training to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week 2021.