Words by Abdul Mozzamdar (Development Manager)
It has been a challenging time to say the least and I saw many instances in 2020 where Early Careers vacancies such as Apprenticeships, Graduate placements, Interns, etc. being withdrawn due to the pandemic. But on the flip side, I have also seen employers embrace Covid-19 challenges by upskilling their existing staff and investing in new talent. In particular, the Construction, Healthcare, Digital Marketing, Warehousing and logistics industries. The apprenticeship starts statistics for 2019/20 was 322,500 apprenticeship starts which is down by 18% from the 2018/19 starts. 1033 apprentices were made redundant between March 2020 and July 2020 when the pandemic was at its peak, compared to the previous year where only 615 apprentices were made redundant. However, we have seen an increase in interest for Early Careers and Social Mobility recruitment as Covid-19 restrictions started to ease towards the back end of 2020. Employers are keen to invest in their staff and in new talent in preparation for the upturn once the vaccine has been administered widely. It has been a difficult 12 months, but we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The furlough and staff retention schemes went a long way to assist employers in keeping staff including those in Early Careers positions. The government also included more financial support for employers who wished to recruit new apprentices and support those in long term unemployment. Some examples of support:
16-18-year-old apprentices attracted £1000 in grants for the employer, this was increased to £3000
19+ apprentices did not attract any grants, but now an employer can get £1500 for every 19+ apprentice start
The Kick Start programme started in November 2020. This is a 6-month work experience placement for 16-24-year olds who are at risk of long-term unemployment. All associated costs for the work experience candidate are covered by the government.
Local Authorities have pooled unspent Apprenticeship Levy funds from larger employers and have started to distribute it to SME’s.
Unfortunately, I feel that we will continue to see a downturn in Early Careers starts in the first quarter of 2021 due to the stricter lockdown rules and uncertainty. Employers will be more cautious and will want to keep costs and headcount down so that they are able to retain the staff they already have. However, once the vaccine has been rolled out successfully, I predict that Early Careers and Social Inclusion projects will become more prevalent due to our nation growing a conscious during the pandemic and realising it is important to look after your people, their well-being and mental health and also supporting new talent through unorthodox methods such as recruiting ex-forces, ex-offenders, care leavers, etc. Those on the fringes of society.
Distance learning and online learning have been available to Early Careers Candidates for many years, but yes it has become more prevalent now due to Covid-19 restrictions and I am seeing colleges, universities, schools and training providers invest more into their online learning platforms and distance learning platforms and supplying staff with up to date tech to ensure a better experience for both the student and the tutor. However, we do have to consider that some students may not have access to laptops / computers and the internet. Again, I am seeing provision and funding made available for such students from local and central government to ensure no student gets left behind due to their personal circumstances.