Lasting change is widely forecast for when the UK emerges from the current crisis.  Workforces are likely to be leaner and smarter with apprentices playing an increasingly important role. Statistics show apprentices have a positive impact on productivity under normal circumstances. For an economy in recovery, they can make even more significant contributions, thanks to their energy levels, enthusiasm, fresh perspectives and new ideas.

Current lockdown restrictions have just been extended for three weeks. Keeping apprentices on the payroll and motivated from a distance can be challenging. So we’ve put together five essential messages about apprenticeships during lockdown which may help.

1. You can furlough apprentices

The advice from Downing Street is very clear: if the current crisis impacts firms to such an extent that they are having to consider laying off apprentices, then there is the option of furloughing. Apprentices can be furloughed, just like all other members of the workforce. Full details are included in the Government’s Job Retention Scheme. Get in touch with us at TRS if you need any help clarifying or implementing this.

2. No lockdown on learning

The very best news for your apprentices is that they can continue with their off-the-job training while furloughed. Much of TRS apprenticeship training was delivered virtually before this crisis, so this is not a new area for us. Indeed in some cases, TRS Training can provide intensive training timetables so apprentices can undertake a good proportion of their off the job training while in furlough.

3. Keep up employee engagement

Take this opportunity to get to know your staff members, including apprentices. For many of them, working from home will be challenging.  Directors and managers should encourage breaks and exercise as much as routine and productivity. Calling an employee just to see how they are getting on can be a great lift for both of you! Furloughed employees are not allowed to work, so communications with these staff members should not be work-related.

4. Bolster mental health

There are plenty of ways to boost the mental health of apprentices as well as other staff.  Let them know they can talk to you about any problems, and remind them discussions are confidential. But this is often not enough, as some sadly still feel there is a stigma to admitting they are not okay.  Mitigate this by emailing out a list of online resources and signpost to relevant online or phone support widely available through charities or your in-house facilities. Now is a time to nurture staff, and help them deal with any issues that will affect their work, such as mental health. Don’t forget TRS is here to offer personal support to your apprentices as well as training services.

5. Hit the ground running

It’s useful to take this time to plan ahead for your apprentices. While TRS is delivering training remotely using online resources and video calling, think about how to get the most of your apprentices when they return to work. By then they will be ahead of their off-the-job training target so will be able to put more hours into their role. By the time they complete their end-point assessment, can their job evolve to use more of their new skills?

This pandemic has thrown the economy and individual businesses into turmoil, but opportunities will still arise. Before you implement a potentially damaging break in learning, please speak to the highly qualified team at TRS Training.  If you need advice on how to best support your current apprentices, please contact your TRS trainer.