GMLPF Infographic: Impact of COVID-19 on Apprentices

In the week commencing 20th April 2020, GMLPF undertook research into the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the employment and training status of apprentices in the Liverpool City Region. As part of our suite of COVID-19 communication materials, we have produced an information sheet illustrating the findings of this research.

These figures on this infographic are approximate and based on assumptions drawn from research with a sample of GMLPF members. This information is intended to provide an insight only into emerging trends. These figures and trends may change as more providers respond.


GMLPF infosheet: Putting Apprentices on Furlough

As part of our suite of COVID-19 communication materials, we have produced an information sheet about apprenticeships and furloughing. The information sheet targets employers and aims to raise the awareness of furloughing as an option for employers to consider before making apprentices redundant. It also points out the disadvantages of breaks in learning.

We encourage members to share this with their employers.


Members concerns about Coronavirus/Covid-19

The UK Government confirmed yesterday that it is remaining in the “containment stage” of its response to the coronavirus. Measures to delay the spread of the virus i.e. “social distancing” will not be introduced yet.

Notwithstanding that, a number of members have raised issues about this including; the need to work intensively with learners to allay their fears, the financial implications of a protracted pandemic, the practical challenges that providers (particularly those delivering work-based learning support) might face in engaging and supporting learners.

Clearly, as we have seen in other countries and Italy in particular, the number of cases that are reported in the UK is likely to increase significantly and will have an impact on learning providers and their ability to deliver learning programmes.

GMLPF is liaising with DfE, the Combined Authority and Ofsted to obtain and then disseminate any updates that they may have. These will be circulated as and when they are published. In the meantime, members should follow national updates by visiting this site which has some very practical information on the virus, how to delay it and what to do if anybody develops an illness as a result of contracting the virus. The guidance is largely focused on public health messages, in line with Public Health England’s core guidance.


Coronavirus break in learning guidance

DfE yesterday published some interim guidance that will allow apprentices to have a break in learning if they cannot be assessed due to the coronavirus. At the moment this only applies to apprentices who have reached the gateway and those who have gaps in learning due to coronavirus. A break in learning will apply where there has been a break of four weeks or more. The DfE guidance is set out below:

  1. Apprentices who are ready for assessment – i.e. who reach gateway and cannot be assessed due to assessor illness or Covid-19 related measures, will be allowed to have a break in learning. This should protect funding and completion of apprenticeships and should be reflected in the July completion rules.  The normal breaks in learning process should be followed and therefore we only need notifying once a break in learning has exceeded 4 weeks.  A break in learning must occur before the learner is recorded as completed.  Apprentices can go on a break in learning between completing the learning activity (learning actual end date) and the assessment, but there would be no requirement to record in this in the ILR as it will not have an effect on funding.
  2. Apprentices who experience gaps in training due to Covid-19 related illness in the workplace or off the job can classify this period as a break in learning.  The normal breaks in learning process should be followed and therefore we only need notifying once a break in learning has exceeded 4 weeks.
  3. Usually, breaks in learning are only permitted where they are learner-driven, however, we are aware that there may be occasion where an employer who is following government advice may take action that results in an apprenticeship have to be paused.  In these occasions, a break in learning can be used where there will be a break of longer than 4 weeks. The normal breaks in learning process should be followed.
  4. DfE advises adhering to the current escalation process of raising EPA (end-point assessment) issues through EQAPs (external quality assurance providers) in the first instance.

DfE emphasised that there “is a need for everyone (employer, provider, EPAO, Apprentice) to take a reasonable and balanced approach in these situations and to recognise that the health and wellbeing of individuals is a higher priority than performance measures”. 

It is understood that the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) will shortly be publishing guidance for this area in response to potential disruption from Covid-19.

If you have any queries or concerns please do contact us and we can raise this with authorities and other bodies such as AELP.

In the meantime, there may be merit in members revisiting and updating their Business Continuity Plans to help them identify levels of risk and put in place contingency measures to ensure that the risk of business disruption is minimised.

Risks, as they stand, include: staff contracting the illness and being unable to work or close family members contracting Covid-19 and the family having to self-isolate, learners developing symptoms and learning providers having to close temporarily to deep clean or close for a longer period, employers seeing sickness levels spike and being reluctant to release learners for OTJ training or in extreme cases not allow providers access to their premises. There is a risk that learners may take longer to complete their learning and that providers might not be able to recruit employers or learners to profile. Both of these have scenarios might impact on provider cash flow.

As part of their business continuity planning, members at this time might wish to explore the scope for making greater use of IT and remote delivery, home working etc to overcome some of the issues associated with coronavirus

Alongside this, there are clearly some practical measures that providers can take within their own organisations such as increasing the frequency of building cleaning and communal areas in particular, making available more cleaning products (liquid soaps in the absence of sanitising products), messaging to staff and learners etc



Subcontracting Consultation Workshops

GMLPF is organising three small provider workshops, to be held at GMLPF’s Offices to consider the ESFA Subcontracting Consultation. The three events are designed to talk around the rationale for the subcontracting consultation, provide early-stage feedback from ESFA on each of the proposals (drawing upon the first 100 or so responses), discuss issues and develop a response to the consultation.

The three workshops are taking place on the following days:

24th February @ 12.30 – 2.00: Subcontracting and Sports Provision BOOK NOW 

2nd March @ 12.00 – 1.30: Subcontracting – the Subcontractor’s perspective BOOK NOW

4th March @ 12.00-1.30: Subcontracting – the Prime perspective BOOK NOW

Northern Skills Network – Official Launch

On 13th February 2020, the NSN was officially launched with a conference held in Leeds. It was also an opportunity to launch a new strategic relationship between the NSN and NCFE, who have joined the NSN Board.

The conference was attended by over 130 people representing training organisations, colleges, universities, stakeholders, Government officials and sector support companies. The Northern Skills Network is designed to provide a vehicle for flagging up skills issues that are pertinent to the North of England and feeding in intelligence to the Northern Powerhouse debate. Members should note that Jake Berry MP is no longer the Minister in Charge of the Northern Powerhouse. He has been replaced by Simon Clarke MP whose role will be to promote the Government’s “levelling up” agenda and Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport, who will represent the Northern Powerhouse at Cabinet-level.

A  number of keynote speakers presented at the conference:

Roger Marsh, Chair of the NP 11 Network (11 N LEPs) and Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse, who both welcomed the NSN as a vehicle for setting out a vision for skills across the North and tackling the key skills challenges that face us. Collectively, the NSN and its 9 Regional Networks bring together 300+ providers who deliver some 45% of the N’s Apprenticeship programmes

Chris Morgan, Deputy Director of Technical Education, IfATE gave an update on the development of T Levels. It is clear that we have a long way to go in terms of developing and rolling out T levels. There are concerns about how the programme is compatible with the concept of social mobility, how T levels link to Apprenticeships and also whether T levels are sufficiently flexible to address local skills needs.

Chris Jones, Specialist Advisor to Ofsted, gave an update on the emerging findings of the first 6 months of Ofsted inspections. Key issues remain; the effective use of assessments, development of appropriate curriculum and off the job training. Chris also spoke about the publication of Ofsted’s recent annual report where the significant and marked drop off of Level 2 Apprenticeship starts has been flagged as an area of real concern.

The slides from the conference can be seen here

Alongside this, Ian Lomas of GMLPF, facilitated one of the workshops at the conference that focused on the ESFA Sub-Contracting Consultation. Paul Johnson and Chris Lews from the ESFA gave a presentation on the rationale and focus of the consultation. Following on from this GMLPF will be holding a series of small workshops for members on this theme in order to outline ESFA thinking, gather feedback and submit a sector-wide response to the consultation

The event was a resounding success and feedback from delegates has highlighted the need for a Northern based body or grouping of local Skills Networks to come together to undertake research and provide a voice for N Learning Providers, working alongside AELP who have the national remit.

gmlpf members sitting at a table listening to trainer on mental health awareness course

GMLPF members complete Lottery-funded two day programme in mental health

GMLPF members completed the second day of a two-day training course in mental health awareness last week. The course equipped them with a formal level 2 qualification and the skills to champion and “triage” mental health issues with apprentices and other learners.

Eleven member organisations enrolled on the two-day training course, delivered by AT Skills. The initiative is part of the GMLPF Minds project that has received nearly £10,000 from the National Lottery Community Fund.

GMLPF’s successful bid for funds has so far enabled research into mental health in the Liverpool City Region skills sector as well as subsidising this mental health awareness training for providers. Also, the region’s apprentice ambassadors recently undertook mental health awareness training thanks to this Lottery-funded project.

Recognising the symptoms of poor mental health

Over the past year, GMLPF members have reported significant mental health issues among their students, and more recently, their staff. This course has helped providers to start tackling the problem. They are now able to recognise the symptoms of poor mental health promptly. Ian Lomas, chief executive of GMLPF, explains:

“More than eight in ten of our members have reported that the mental health of learners has an impact on programme delivery. Staff are spending a significant number of hours tackling the problem while learners are suffering. A similar number say problems are piling up and affecting the mental health of staff as well. The training aims to create a better and more productive learning environment for everybody.”

Boosting apprenticeship numbers

Those completing the course gain a Level 2 in Mental Health Awareness awarded by Active IQ. Ian adds:

“The strain on resources in the sector is reaching unprecedented levels. Mental health challenges are adding to this. We’re putting this National Lottery funding towards relieving the pressure and boosting the number of students who complete their apprenticeship or other training.”

The learning providers who attended last week’s course included Andrew Collinge, Halton Council, Liverpool Football College, Myerscough College, NTG Training, North West Community Services, North West Training Council, Onside Education, Rocket Training and The Engineering College.

Annette Swinnerton from North West Community Services told us:

“The course has provided me with time away from the workplace to stop and take stock of the issues. I’ll now return to my job with much more understanding and an objective approach. The training gave me new skills and I’ve more knowledge about signposting people for assistance. I want to use what I’ve learnt to help colleagues, apprentices, and other learners.”

The two-day course ran at The Maggie O’Neill Community Resource centre in Knowsley on Wednesday 17th and 23rd October. There is an additional course running during November, on the 13th and 20th. GMLPF members can book a discounted place through Eventbrite.

GMLPF training to tackle mental health crisis in LCR skills sector

GMLPF research amongst providers of apprenticeships and other training has revealed the scale of mental health problems in the skills sector across the Liverpool City Region.

The research was conducted with GMLPF members as part of the National Lottery Community Fund  GMLPF Minds project. The findings confirm that mental health challenges faced by learners are having an ongoing negative impact on the delivery of training including Apprenticeships.  The research shows that the problem has escalated and reveals also that mental ill-health amongst learning provider staff is also starting to become an issue.

More than 80 per cent of GMLPF members report that mental ill-health is having an impact on the delivery of training. The main issues cited as being experienced by learners are anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, substance abuse and self-harm. The worrying statistics also include evidence that absence and students dropping out is frequently linked to these mental health issues.

Ian Lomas, Chief Executive of GMLPF says:

“Young people are starting apprenticeships and other training with existing pressures that include poverty, stress and lack of resilience. National figures show the 16-24 age group is the most likely to experience stress or anxiety. Worryingly, learners are not seeking the help they need.  Dealing with the fall out has a knock-on effect for our members’ staff, increasing their own stress levels.”

The GMLPF Minds project has received nearly £10,000 from the National Lottery Community Fund. The money has been spent on understanding the local issues and a tranche of the award will go towards mental health awareness training for provider staff.

Ian adds:

“The funding has made it possible for us to introduce much-needed training for provider staff. Providers are being offered mental health awareness and first aid training at a greatly reduced rate.”

AT Skills are delivering the mental health awareness and first aid course at a modern training facility in Huyton.  The Maggie O’Neill Community Resource Centre in Knowsley will host the two-day course starting on Wednesday 16th October.

Alan Reddin from AT Skills told us:

“We first ran this course in January. The feedback was overwhelming and provider staff expressed how critical and useful the training is for the modern-day challenges they face. Participants gain a Level 2 Award.”

The course offers great value and will help tackle the daily challenges when participants return to the workplace.

The research findings suggest that one in every three of Liverpool City Region learners experiences mental health issues. Providers are spending more time on dealing with learners’ mental ill-health.  This places a drain on the resources of provider staff.

Attendees will gain an understanding of mental health and the main disorders they need to be aware of. Alongside this, they will have a good grasp of how to access support and advice. A cornerstone element of the training is about recognising and responding to the signs of mental ill-health.

Alan from AT Skills explains how attending the course will be effective when participants return to the workplace:

“The training will help providers to tackle mental health issues sooner and we expect this to improve learner success rates and reduce the strain on resources.”

Money from The National Lottery Community Fund will be used to subsidise the costs of training. GMLPF members can attend the two-day course for just £130.

Click here to book a place on the discounted training programme.

apprentices on mental health awareness training thanks to gmlpf lottery funded project

GMLPF Minds project gives LCR Apprentice Ambassadors the skills to champion mental health

The mental health of apprentices in the region received a boost through a GMLPF project funded by National Lottery players. 

Eleven employees from across the Liverpool City Region are set to become champions for good mental health at work thanks to their participation in a GMLPF Minds mental health training course.

The group of Apprentice Ambassadors is the first contingent to receive the training spearheaded by GMLPF and funded by The National Lottery Communities fund.  The new course welcomed its first delegates, all of whom are official Liverpool City Region Apprenticeship Ambassadors. They are already mentors and role models to other employees and aspiring apprentices. The Liverpool City Region Apprenticeship Hub manages the Ambassadors programme which sees role model apprentices and their employers raise awareness of the benefits of apprenticeships. The Hub runs a programme of support and development for Apprentice Ambassadors which includes participation in the GMLPF Minds Mental Health Awareness training.

Spotlight on wellbeing of apprentices and learners in LCR

The mental health awareness training took place in Liverpool city centre this week.  It’s part of the GMLPF Minds project that throws the spotlight on the mental health and wellbeing of apprentices and other learners in the Liverpool City Region.  It has equipped the attendees to return to the workplace as mental health champions. The training agenda answered questions including how to define mental health, the common challenges, triggers and causes and also the dos and don’ts around mental health. 

The course, designed and delivered by 3D Training, is highly interactive. Delivered in one day, the programme includes a variety of group exercises, activities, quizzes and case studies. It is hoped that further courses will run during 2019-20.

With the rate of apprentices and other learners experiencing mental health problems on a steep upward trajectory, GMLPF successfully applied to The National Lottery Communities Fund to conduct training and research. Nearly £10,000 was awarded which is being spent on research among members to uncover what urgent support is needed. This is complemented by training for GMLPF member staff and Apprentice Ambassadors.  The aim is that early intervention can stop apprentices and other learners falling through the net. 

CEO Ian Lomas presents apprentice Holly with completion certificate
GMLPF CEO presents one of the apprentices, Holly with her completion certificate for the GMLPF Minds mental health awareness programme

Ian Lomas, GMLPF Chief Executive says:

“People shouldn’t be denied successful careers because they get anxiety or depression.  Often these individuals are amongst the most diligent of employees.  We are driving for a cultural shift in attitudes towards mental health conditions. Raising awareness among the Apprentice Ambassadors is a small part of helping the tide change. Apprentices are the leaders of tomorrow, so there is no better way to help wipe out any lingering stigma attached to mental health.”

Support for provider staff

Ian adds:

“Whilst the education sector has been putting coordinated strategies into place for some time to help schools tackle mental health of pupils, the training sector tends to see learning providers left to deal with this challenge as individual organisations. Now, thanks to National Lottery players we can start to make inroads into tackle the specific challenges of mental health in the training sector.  As well as the mental health of learners, the GMLPF Minds project also focusses on that of provider staff who are taking the strain of this growing problem. We need to tackle the problem from all angles.”

GMLPF is very grateful to the National Lotteries Community Fund for their support without which we would not be in a position to make a positive change in this challenging area.

Full details of the research outcomes and training dates for apprenticeship providers will be released shortly.