The Education column with East Riding College’s Director of Business Programmes Richard Sellick: We’ll continue to champion apprentices

The last year has been very challenging for apprenticeships, both for the employers, providers and apprentices themselves.

Saturday, 20th March 2021, 11:35 am
Updated Monday, 22nd March 2021, 8:51 am
Richard Sellick, Director of Business Programmes, East Riding College and Chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership Apprenticeship Board.

It’s inevitable that the pandemic has had an impact on apprentices, just as it has on other learners, with disruption to on site practical teaching and assessment during lockdowns.

However, at East Riding College we have adapted in the way we have delivered our provision across the board, to make sure our learners are not disadvantaged, wherever possible.

All apprentices have been able to access continual training, and I’m happy to say all our apprentices going through their end point assessments are achieving, with many receiving high grades.

East Riding College has not had any apprentice withdraw from their apprenticeship as a result of the pandemic. We have worked really hard to support learners and employers throughout.

For instance, we have helped apprentices who have been furloughed complete their qualifications, and helped find apprentices new roles during a time of great uncertainty for employers.

I think it’s fair to say we’re bucking a national trend, with apprenticeship starts on the increase.

During the first lockdown 98% of our vacancies were removed from the marketplace, which especially impacted on school leavers hoping to start an apprenticeship in the summer and limited the number of opportunities for this academic year.

However, since September employers have come back very strong and the levels of vacancies have been quite high. In the second lockdown we haven’t seen the same reduction, employers are very positive and buoyant, and still looking to recruit even in hardest hit sectors like hospitality. I think this is because they are expecting to be able to bounce back and may even need to build in additional capacity as restrictions are lifted.

Working closely with other providers in the region as part of the LEP apprenticeship board, and the ESFA, East Riding College is looking to maximise all the opportunities we have to keep apprentices on programme. To do this we need the regulations to be as flexible as possible, in acknowledgement of the difficult circumstances both apprentices and employers have faced.

Ideally, we’d like any apprentices who lose their jobs after furlough ends to be given even more flexibility to help them stay on programme and find new placements.

Currently, those who have just started or are in the middle of their programme are at the biggest disadvantage if they find their job in jeopardy as they have only 30 days to find a new role.

We would like to see them have the same levels of support and opportunity to carry on their studies as those who are close to finishing, who have six months of ongoing support.

We’ll continue to champion apprentices and support them all the way through to completion, through the LEP Apprenticeship Board and by working with employers to reach the best outcomes for all concerned.