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Apprenticeships - your furlough questions, answered

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It’s a difficult time for everyone, and many businesses are looking for guidance on what their apprentices can be doing whilst furloughed.

Furlough for Apprentices

It’s important to point out that Apprentices can still study for their apprenticeship even whilst furloughed, as long as they’re not actually doing work for their employer. For more information please visit the site.

A furloughed employee can take part in volunteer work or training, as long as it does not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of your organisation.

The Government amended its guidance note on 4 April, to state that apprentices must be paid their appropriate wage. This should be at least the apprenticeship minimum wage, national living wage or national minimum wage, for time spent doing training whilst furloughed.

But not whilst not training!

This means there could be two rates of pay for some apprentices who are on the apprenticeship minimum wage.

Here are our answers to the common questions and concerns relating to furloughed apprentices:

What can my apprentice do whilst ‘furloughed’?

Furlough is a perfect opportunity for apprentices to keep learning and get ahead.

Even if their exams may have been postponed, they can still study towards their qualification. They can focus on: skills and behaviours, any functional skills work required, their training log, or even EPA prep.

If they were slightly behind in their 20% Off the Job Time, it’s also an opportune moment for them to catch up and make a significant difference to their Apprenticeship. In fact, they can get well ahead with their studying, which means that when they return to work, there isn’t as much off the job time immediately required.

In a sense, the Apprenticeship can provide structure and purpose in this difficult time, when the apprentice may feel that the normal order to their lives has undergone a radical upheaval.

My apprentice has children at home and is finding it hard to study

We fully empathise with those who are currently having to look after children whilst studying and/or working. Luckily we have options to help make things more manageable.

Our online study resources are geared towards bite sized learning and are accessible wherever the learner may be. Also don’t forget we also have learning coaches on hand to help with scheduling and effective study methods.

Through Instagram Live, we’re running some short live sessions on how best to manage studying from home as well as the power of positive psychology.

For furloughed apprentices, we’ve created a new microsite to support them with their skills and behaviour development specifically during this Covid period. Their Talent Coaches will be able to direct them to the resources and activities, chosen with the current climate in mind.

By just setting aside a couple of 30 minutes learning sessions during a particularly frantic week, an apprentice can keep making progress. It’s often easier to continue through a bite-sized approach, than stop altogether for a long period, require a break in learning, and then having to find the motivation to restart.

What happens if my apprentice’s EPA is imminent?

We are currently working closely with EPAOs (End Point Assessment Organisations) in search of greater flexibility for apprentices wherever possible.

In the meantime, apprentices can still make preparations for interviews, discussions and projects, but they will not be able to access any work, or be considered as working.

It’s worth considering whether the apprentice’s line manager might also be furloughed. If so, we may need someone else to be nominated by you as the employer to be involved in the Gateway Review or interview.

What if my apprentice can’t sit an exam?

Even though examination sittings have been seriously affected, we can still develop a study plan to ensure exam readiness for the future. Most awarding bodies have now provided new dates for exams, or remote proctoring.

This may shift the completion date of the apprenticeship back in some cases. It’s very much something we encourage our apprentices to talk with their Talent Coach about.

The apprentice can also focus on other essential elements of their apprenticeship, such as skills and behaviours, functional skills, reflective practice. There’s more than enough to keep them focussed.

My apprentice’s workload has increased. How can we facilitate 20% off the job training through busy times?

Your apprentice’s Talent Coach can review and amend the learning plan to reflect the new workload. We can be flexible to help the apprentice stay on track.

20% Off the Job Time doesn’t have to be every week. It’s calculated over the whole duration of the ‘on programme’ learning period. As long as they can do some studying or Skills and Behaviour development work over the next four weeks, we can keep them progressing.

My apprentice is overwhelmed and needs a break

The last thing we want to do is put any pressure on your apprentice in these challenging times. Our Talent Coaches can provide support to reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed.

We can also allow up to 4 weeks with minimal learning to provide breathing space. If and when they feel ready to resume, we can help to plan weekly learning in very short sessions to keep them on track at a comfortable level.

If that really isn’t feasible however, and they absolutely cannot study for more than 4 weeks, they would need to go on a ‘Break in Learning’.

With a ‘Break in Learning’ we recommend they last 4 weeks at a time, and then are reviewed. Importantly, you should only press ‘ pause’ on your Apprenticeship Service account, rather than stop. As, in the government’s own words

The employer should not ‘stop’ the apprenticeship through the apprenticeship service as this will prevent it resuming subsequently.

What support is there for apprentices that are furloughed?

At Kaplan, we have a range of support options for your apprentice:

  • Continued contact from Talent Coach
  • Tutor support
  • Learning Support
  • Increased on-line learning: bite sized and engaging
  • Instagram live Q & A sessions on studying better; positive psychology and mindfulness
  • Mental health and wellbeing guidance.

An opportunity to keep going

There’s still much to achieve for your apprentices during these unprecedented times. They can keep mentally fit, intellectually honed and can continue to acquire new skills for the future world of work.

Whilst furloughed, your apprentices are like sporting substitutes: trained and ready to re-engage when the time comes.

For more apprenticeship guidance please visit our Coronavirus advice page.

Article as at 8 April 2020

NB The Government has made several amendments to its guidance documents since March 23rd. At the time of writing, the latest revisions were made on 4 April. Do check in on their website if you’re reading this after 8 April, in case it has been updated.

- Jenny Pelling, Apprenticeship Partnerships Director at Kaplan.