How Has COVID-19 Affected Training in the Workplace?

Covid-19 has had a massive impact on all businesses, from micro-sized through to huge conglomerates. Some of the biggest and most complex questions we have been asked surround training and furlough.

Initially, there wasn’t much clarity about what is allowed and what isn’t allowed while staff were furloughed. Now we have more precise guidance on training and furlough, I can share that information with you.

What Types of Training are Affected by COVID-19?

In essence, there are two types of training – funded training and unfunded/commercial training.

Funded training includes Apprenticeships, Traineeships or ESF (European Social Fund) Training Programmes, whist unfunded/commercial courses may include in house training, e-learning, first aid, food safety, etc. It took a long time for the government to provide clear guidance as to what training is permitted to continue and what can’t.

For example, First Aid certificates have a three-year validity period and – as employers must provide “adequate” first aid coverage under the Health and Safety (first aid) regulations 1981, or in child care settings are mandated to have a specific type of first aid – employers were faced with staff’s certification expiring during lockdown.

Providers such as ourselves are not able to offer appropriate courses because of social distancing rules and Government advice to “stay at home.” This has led to the HSE announcing a three-month extension to the validity of current certificates. This had been applied across most compliance qualifications, including food safety but, to be safe, please contact the training provider that issued your certificate.

Funded training and furlough guidance arrived much later as the government focused on Schools/Colleges and the GSCE/A-level exams that were due to be sat currently as this is written. The clarity of information that came around Apprenticeships and other workplace funded training was muddy at the beginning, became murky and… after a lengthy wait, providers finally got something useful to work from.

For those that don’t know or haven’t worked with funded training before, funds are essentially held in central pots within the ESFA (Education and Skills Funding Agency) or the ESF (European Social Fund.) Both these agencies then distribute funding through procurement processes to Colleges, Devolved Authorities, LEP’s and private training providers such as ourselves here at DA Training and Consultancy. There is then another layer where “Prime Providers” such as colleges and large training providers can then sub-contract the funding to other training providers. (I’m sure you can see the levels of complication that could arise from this!)

Providers like ourselves were on the phone daily to our learners and employers with new updates as information changed so that they were aware of how they could be affected by the government’s new “Job Retention Scheme”. At first, we were informed that furloughed employees couldn’t complete training. Finally, we received the good news that they could complete training, so long as their training didn’t directly generate income for their employer. Finally, some good news! Therefore, the latest ongoing guidance is that all furloughed employees can continue learning while on furlough.

You Say Employees Can Complete Training While Furloughed, but what is Acceptable?

When it comes to training and furlough, this is quite a complex answer and depends on the situation. If we look at Apprenticeships, for example, it is an excellent opportunity for the Apprentice to continue to do lots of work on the knowledge area side of the Apprenticeship. It will be very difficult to complete the Skills and Behaviours section as these will most likely require you to be completing work tasks and produce evidence, which is not allowed under the furlough scheme. It is a great opportunity for Apprentices to complete some “off the job” learning to help build their hours up towards their Apprenticeship too.

Some employers have decided that all furloughed staff will not complete any Apprenticeship training and have paused payments on their Levy accounts, so the best thing to do is to have a 4-way discussion between your Apprentice, Line Manager, HR and the training provider to find out what works best.

Regarding other funded training and furlough, you will need to speak with your training provider to see if they are able to adapt to online delivery. For example, some courses require physical interaction so aren’t suitable to be done via Zoom or Teams, etc. and will have to be paused. Other courses are perfectly fine to be adapted (providing the learning experience and quality of delivery is maintained.)

E-Learning is a great way to spend some of your time while on furlough.

Many employers, training providers or HR companies (such as Kate Underwood HR) are able to provide access to online training. The wonderful thing about e-learning is that it can be done at your convenience and at your own pace. If you are home-schooling and time is limited during the day, you can log in at night, or early in the morning. It’s up to you!

There are courses available on work-focused areas or personal interests. For example, I have just completed a course about young people’s mental health to help me understand the barriers and stress that my children may be facing at this time. Sometimes people provide free courses as well as paid courses so look out for them, they can be really useful.

Barriers to Learning at Home

Sometimes there are barriers to learning at home. They can be physical barriers, such as not having internet or computer access, and they can also be phycological such as “I don’t have the time” or “I’m too busy”. The best thing to do is to speak with your employer, your training provider or even your children’s (if you have them) school or college. The government are rolling out a scheme so that the following people can access free digital support and internet access:

“Laptops and tablets will be provided for disadvantaged families, children and young people who do not currently have access to them through another source, such as their school. Digital devices can be requested for:

  • care leavers
  • children and young people aged 0 to 19 with a social worker
  • disadvantaged year 10 pupils

Internet access will be provided through 4G hotspot devices for any of the following people who do not currently have it:

  • care leavers
  • young people aged 11 to 19 with a social worker
  • disadvantaged year 10 pupils.”

(Source https://www.gov.uk/guidance/get-help-with-technology-for-remote-education-during-coronavirus-covid-19#who-can-receive-digital-devices-and-internet-access)

Your local authority will administer the above scheme, so please contact them if you require this support.

Other options include speaking to your training provider, employer or learning and development consultant. Some employers that have issued staff laptops so that they can use them from home and here at DA Training and Consultancy, we have purchased devices we loan out to learners without access who are completing one of our programmes. People seem only too happy to support learners or employees at the moment, so always ask if you need anything. We were lucky enough to receive a grant from Eastleigh Borough Council, which enabled us to purchase more computers, and we are now able to support even more people than before.

Dealing with the psychological side is a bit more tricky. I’m no psychologist, but what I offer to our clients is advice based on my circumstances. I can’t promise to schedule their time for them, but I can tell them how I juggle home-schooling 3 children, my work commitments and my commitment to myself and my family. I explain what works for me, but it might be different for everybody else, and that’s ok; every one of us is dealing with a different situation.

I’m Still Confused, Where Can I Go For More Information?

When it comes to training and furlough for employees, your first point of call should be your training dept or HR. They should be able to advise if they have any partnership agreements or services, they can offer to you. Speak to friends or family, perhaps ask if they’ve had a great learning experience with a company that they recommend. Search the internet; most providers will have a website and be able to provide useful information on what they can offer at this time.

The government also has an online register of training providers for Apprenticeships which feature learner and employer satisfaction scores which might help you make a decision. For employers or business owners, you may or may not have these services available to you. If you don’t and would like a genuinely unbiased chat about training and development, please get in touch. I don’t charge for this, all I ask is that when you want to take things further, you allow us to support you.

Why Choose DA Training and Consultancy?

We provide completely unbiased advice on Training and Development. While I would love each and every one of you to become a learner or employer working with us at DATC, we understand we can’t be all things to all people. We have our niche, and we’re really very good at what we do, but there are some things we can’t do, or our delivery model just wouldn’t suit you as an employer or learner.

If DATC can’t help you, we will be sure to tell you… but what I will do is ensure I signpost you to someone who I believe will help you and work at the same high standards that you could expect from us.

We are a local business that really tries to support the Micro businesses and SME’s along the South Coast. We also support larger organisations such as local authorities and major manufacturing companies. Still, our niche and passion is to help smaller businesses grow and develop their talent.

If you have any questions surrounding training and furlough, or any questions in general, please feel free to contact me at DA Training and Consultancy. I’m more than happy to have a chat to see how DATC can help support your business for free and with no obligation. Visit our website to see some of the companies we work with and read testimonies that people have provided at www.datc.co.uk or contact me directly; my details are [email protected] or 02380 016555 LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/gary-callaghan-60983061

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