Apprenticeship learning should continue during lockdown

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Apprentices in workshops and bodyshops should continue their learning during the lockdown period as their skills may be needed to deal with the backlog of jobs once fleets return to business-as-usual.

Thatcham Research has issued a call for businesses to continue their investment in apprenticeships.

Following intensified lobbying of Government, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has responded confirming that apprentices can continue to study. While the National Body Repair Association (NBRA) has since shared recent guidance to repairers on how to manage apprentice learning during the lockdown including, where necessary, under the furlough rules.

Dean Lander, head of repair sector services, Thatcham Research said: “Whether an apprentice is still required to be in the bodyshop, is spending more time at home or has been furloughed their learning should continue.”

Lander believes that there is a clear benefit to repair businesses in maintaining their investment in apprenticeships: “When lockdown comes to an end and the public return to the roads in significant numbers, there will inevitably be a corresponding increase in accidents. Apprentices can play a crucial role in dealing with this demand.”

“The progress an apprentice makes during this period could be vital to the success of the bodyshop when normality returns.”

At present, Thatcham Research has 155 apprentices on programme throughout the UK; from first-year learners to third-years approaching the end of their course.

“Many need ‘hands-on’ practical experience learning alongside seasoned technicians, as well as the shared goals of their peers, to make the most of the programme. Suddenly being thrust into a skeleton crew where vital mentors aren’t always on hand will cause anxiety. On-site learning and practical assessments may be delayed due to the lockdown. However, extending the programme, even by a few months, could be hugely demotivating. Some may consider dropping out without qualifications; at the very least delays would have a knock-on effect on their career earning potential,” said Lander.

For this reason, Thatcham Research is not enforcing breaks in learning for its apprentices. With all apprentices on programme due to complete in early 2021, there is a window of opportunity to catch up once restrictions are relaxed. In the meantime, Thatcham Research has adapted the programme to offer an extended range of remote learning.

Lander added: “If we stand by the repair workforce of tomorrow now, we’ll minimise disruption when normality returns - and ultimately increase the value of the investment in apprentices many times over.”

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