With a country-wide lockdown in place, and businesses focused on adapting to new ways of working, you may be forgiven for thinking that training would be the last thing on people’s minds. However, the CSA, as a Main Provider on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP), what we have been seeing very much proves that this has not been the case.
For us, the last few months has brought a new level of focus as the CSA continue to engage with employers who see the ongoing importance of developing skills within their workforce.
Since lockdown, we have all been dealing with challenges we simply couldn’t have prepared for. The introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme brought about many questions, especially for apprentices who were furloughed. Was training ‘work’ or could it be exempted? The Department for Education pushed back and thankfully it was agreed that apprentices could continue to train while furloughed. Many apprentices in this situation have therefore taken advantage of this time to study.
There is a huge amount of face to face interaction when completing an apprenticeship, and the CSA and its tutors have had to adapt accordingly
Technology has also played a big part for us in adapting to the pandemic. There is a huge amount of face to face interaction when completing an apprenticeship, and the CSA and its tutors have had to adapt accordingly. All interactions are now taken online via video calls and so far this has been well received by all involved. Our tutors have also been busy prepping existing learners for their end-point assessments, supporting them with their showcase portfolio and professional discussions. It was always hugely important that we continued as close to “normal” as possible, especially for those apprentices who had worked so hard to get to this stage of their apprenticeship. Thankfully we’ve managed in a way that has seen only slight delays however we look forward to celebrating the achievements of our next set of qualified apprentices in the coming months.
Safeguarding CSA’s learners
The current situation has meant that learners have found themselves, in some cases, being moved into the frontline, due to the nature of the businesses they work for. We have seen examples of learners becoming involved in the set-up of one of the Nightingale Hospitals, and in other areas, the preparation and delivery of emergency food parcels. Naturally, this proximity to operations that are in direct response to Covid-19 has the potential for people to become more vulnerable both physically and mentally, and we take our safeguarding responsibilities of our apprentices very seriously.
As part of this, and at the beginning of the UK lockdown, we successfully launched our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). Our EAP is a confidential service designed to help any of our learners deal with personal and professional problems which could be affecting their home life, their work life, and / or their health and general wellbeing.
Responsibility for EAP was given to Ashleigh Johnson, the CSA’s Safeguarding Officer and Head of Internal Operations. She says tutors have been extremely supportive in providing essential signposting to this confidential service, and apprentices are being actively encouraged to seek expert advice when they need it.
The EAP provides six sessions of online or telephone counselling, per employee each year, and the service also extends to immediate family members. The telephone support line is available 24/7, 365-days a year, providing critical incident and trauma support, and giving apprentices access to in-house counsellors, legal and financial specialists.
This has proved to be a very timely launch when the need for support is arguably at its most acute. Some employers have their own EAP schemes already in place and therefore the CSA’s EAP plugs an important gap for those apprentices who don’t have access to a programme. Balancing everyday life and juggling the requirements of work and home can create pressure for all of us, even in ordinary times and it is vital that our apprentices find a productive, healthy environment in which to thrive.
CSA launches new course
In amongst the adjustments that we have had to make, the Learning and Development team has also been able to launch two new courses in recent months. There was, of course, some trepidation about launching during a pandemic, but we were confident the demand was there, despite the unprecedented challenges facing businesses. The development and continued expansion of courses is crucial, especially at a time when more and more businesses can take advantage of apprenticeships.
The first is our Level 4 Counter Fraud Investigator Apprenticeship.
This 24-month apprenticeship standard is designed for the Counter Fraud Investigator (CFI) operating within the Counter Fraud Investigators sector who would be typically employed by HMRC, DEFRA, Department of Health, , DWP, Financial Services, and Local Government. Apprentices completing this standard will be training to lead non-complex, criminal and civil investigations, or act as case officers within a large investigation team working on more complex investigations. The standard supports and develops the skill and knowledge required to proactively investigate allegations of fraud and make effective, autonomous, operational decisions from referral to conclusion to drive their investigations.
Next was a remote debt collection diploma we launched in partnership with The London Institute of Banking and Finance (LIBF).
This is a 12-month course designed to be delivered to learners remotely with no workshop or classroom-based learning. The video classes and monthly remote coaching sessions are delivered by a team of financial services, risk and compliance professionals, who combine extensive industry knowledge and understanding with highly developed training, coaching and assessment expertise. Completion of this course leads to the award of a Certificate in Consumer Debt Collection (CertDC).
CSA -The future is learning
Since January this year, all employers no matter what shape or size, have had better access to apprenticeships. Previously, only businesses with an annual total payroll of over £3million were able to use the full benefits of the apprenticeship service. This has now been extended to small and medium sized businesses who now only have to contribute to five percent of the apprenticeship fee.
As we journey through these uncertain times, we remain optimistic. We are expecting more interest from both CSA members and other businesses looking for specialist learning opportunities. We are all moving towards what we now refer to as “the new normal” however, I have no doubt that learning providers, employers and employees alike will fully embrace this change and thrive to succeed.