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Apprentices keep jobs throughout pandemic

A training specialist in the Black Country has helped every single one of its apprentices to keep their jobs throughout COVID-19.

The Apprenticeship Works currently has 30 apprentices placed across the West Midlands, and at the height of the pandemic 17 were furloughed while 13 continued working.

But as the lockdown begins to lift, another five are now busy back at work, with just 12 still protected by the Government’s Job Retention Scheme while awaiting restart dates.

The apprentices involved are training in a range of skills including business administration, engineering, warehousing and building services design, and are attached to employers who have worked with The Apprenticeship Works for many years.

These include Voestalpine High Performance Metals of Oldbury, Unions Fasteners of Wednesbury, and engineering firm R H Nuttals of Aston.

Lisa Kelly, agency manager at The Apprenticeship Works, based in West Bromwich, said many apprentices had progressed faster than expected because of online communications.

“We’re thrilled that all 30 current apprentices have kept their jobs, and many are ahead of where they should be thanks to new ways of working, such as e-learning. I was really impressed that all our host employers have treated our apprentices exactly like any other member of their teams.

“They made efforts to keep apprentices at work for as long as possible and, in certain cases, set up equipment at home for them. Even some furloughed apprentices getting 80% of wages from the Government have had 20% top-ups from host employers, and all have been assured their apprenticeships will resume after lockdown.”

Jyoti Gordon, a senior manager at RH Nuttals, said: “We’re very pleased with the work our apprentices are doing and will hire more in the future from The Apprenticeship Works as this has been such a success.”

The Apprenticeships Works is an accredited Apprenticeship Training Agency (ATA), and Ms Kelly said all her staff worked from home throughout COVID-19 to continue supporting their young people.

“We contacted every apprentice regularly, checking welfare and making sure they were engaging with their training providers, using digital means to provide any information, advice and guidance needed. The apprentices have all been positive and have had a good understanding of the situation, showing commitment and wanting to remain at work.”

Ms Kelly said the apprentices had adapted to working from home where needed, eagerly continuing with online working supported by training providers, such as The Apprenticeship Works’ sister company Further Training. This has involved remote contact as opposed to face-to-face reviews, with apprentices fully supported digitally via Teams, Zoom or Facetime.

Ms Kelly explained that vacancies for The Apprenticeship Works had been on hold during the pandemic, but employers were now starting to contact them to explore new apprenticeship opportunities, as it was an attractive ‘risk-free’ option because the ATA employs the apprentices, meaning the businesses involved increase their productivity in an affordable manner, knowing that all HR functions, training and support are provided.

“We are more than able to adapt to new ways of working, such as digital meetings for interviews for vacancies and remote signups for new apprentices. It’s a new business as usual at The Apprenticeship Works, with social distancing taken into account.”

Pictured: Lisa Kelly, of The Apprenticeship Works

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