A new relief fund will help apprenticeship and adult learning providers survive the Coronavirus crisis so the skills gap does not get any wider, according to business leaders.
The Education & Skills Funding Agency has launched a post-16 provider relief scheme to give those organisations who deliver training and apprenticeships for young people and adults an opportunity to apply for funds so they are in a stable position once the crisis is over.
Sally Lucas, executive director at Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber Training, said the fund would help vital training providers get through the next few months.
She said: “The relief scheme is exactly that – a relief for providers such as Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber Training as it means that we can apply for funds to help see us through these difficult months and then come back strong when some sense of normality resumes.
“Businesses won’t see any immediate benefit from the fund but those who have apprentices or have staff utilising adult learning through a provider such as ours can rest in the knowledge that this fund will help us to survive the crisis and be ready to provide a full service once it is over.
“There was a skills gap way before the Coronavirus crisis hit and we can’t afford for that to widen as it is vital for UK plc that we continue to invest in skills for the future of our economy.
“The only shortcoming in the fund is that it doesn’t apply to apprenticeships for levy paying organisations so we can only apply for those costs that don’t relate to those who haven’t come to us from apprenticeship levy payers.
“But, on the whole, this is further welcome intervention from the Government.”
BCC Head of People Policy Jane Gratton said: “This much needed fund will help to ensure SMEs and their apprentices can continue to access training throughout the pandemic and into the recovery period.
“To ensure businesses have the skills they need for the future, it is vital that apprentices are supported to complete their apprenticeship programme. The relief fund will put many training providers in a stronger position to support employers now and in the year ahead.
“Businesses have invested in apprenticeships to boost the quantity and quality of technical skills in the workplace and provide routes to well-paid career opportunities for employees of all ages.”