Supporting young people through Covid-19

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Stewart Segal offers youth-friendly advice and guidance for employers and providers in supporting young people through this challenging period. He also raises some key questions about the impact on apprentices specifically and what needs to be done to support them.

Whilst many of us are entering a new world of business uncertainty as we wait to head into the peak of Covid-19, we are quickly learning to adapt our working styles and operating models to cope with something we cannot predict or control. For most experienced workers the uncertainty of work is unsettling. Will we need to work from home, should we travel, will our employment be secure? For young people newly into their careers, you may be right to assume the uncertainty is even greater.

This is likely to be the first time young people have ever experienced this type of situation – both personally and professionally. With limited experience and possible fear in asking “silly” questions they may feel quite anxious about the unknown.

Young workers and those with additional needs may need their employers and education providers to work more closely with them to help them navigate this rapidly changing landscape. There is also a need to think of some of the more vulnerable people within this group – those on zero hours, in gig economy roles, self-employed, trainees and apprentices.

General Covid-19 advice for employers and providers with young workers:

    • Communicate frequently and clearly –  Usually we would recommend this being face-to-face but apply your own judgement to this
    • Discuss the potential risks but be clear about the contingencies your business is taking to protect its workforce, share advice and discuss a range of situations and what you would expect the young person to do – if they should feel sick, if they are anxious, about traveling to work etc
    • Consider providing training for young workers if they are expected to work from home, how do they manage their time, communications and meeting? What are the company’s expectations?
    • Ensure that young people have got the tools and environment to be able to work from home – a safe quiet place to work, broadband etc are there cost implications that they might need support with?
    • Provide a buddy for young workers so that they have someone they can ask questions of or raise concerns to

Apprentices and trainees

Covid-19 could have a wider impact on apprenticeships because of the complications of the wide variety of workplaces and employers.  Many workplaces are already experiencing additional regulation and avoiding any non-essential activities and visitors. Much of the apprenticeship training happens on work sites so the impact on apprentices can be immediate and significant.

Postponement of EPAs

1. The main issue is the postponement of the apprentices End Point Assessments.  Many EPAs are likely to be delayed which could have a number of consequences.

  • Many apprentices are on fixed term contracts and employers may choose to not retain apprentices on contracts until their assessments can be rescheduled.
  • Many apprentices may be due to be confirmed in new roles or more senior roles subject to their successful completion of the apprenticeship.  Delayed assessment will mean delays to their appointments and pay increases.

Recommendation: We would hope that employers will retain their apprentices on contract and implement any promotions, salary increases etc irrespective of their final assessments.

Disruption in programmes

2. Many apprentices will experience a disruption in their programmes. Trainers and on site tutors may be excluded from worksites or might be absent.

Recommendation: All providers and employers should ensure the apprentices are given every opportunity to continue their studies on a self managed or distance learning basis.  They should be allowed more not less time ‘off-the-job’ where possible.

Pressure on apprentices

3. The delay in programmes and final assessment will create an additional pressure for apprentices.  those that have existing issues around mental health, autism and other additional needs may well need additional support through this period.

Recommendation: All providers should review whether their apprentices need additional support as a result of the delays etc they should make appropriate claims for additional learning support and ensure that support is provided even if that is on line etc.

Offers of employment

4. At a time of business uncertainty there may be a temptation to revoke offers of employment made to apprentices and young workers.

Recommendations: Employers should honour all recruitment offers made to apprentices and ensure that all apprentices will be allowed to start where offers have been made, using the tips and guidance from this article and other Youth Friendly content pieces from our site.

During this time of uncertainty Youth Employment UK are happy to take enquiries from employers, providers and apprentices to support wherever possible.

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For more information, please email info@youthemployment.org.uk or call 01536 513388.

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