PCS survey highlights issues facing apprentices during pandemic

08 Sep 2020

Difficulty contacting their training provider, a lack of information, insufficient time to undertake their qualification and some disabled staff finding online learning incompatible with their disability, are among the issues highlighted by a PCS survey of civil service apprentices.

To help identify the impact of Covid-19 on apprenticeships, PCS conducted a survey across all four nations and government departments. In total 796 apprentices took part, with participants studying from Level 2 (GCSE level) through to Level 7 (Master’s degree level), two-thirds of these being at Level 3 and more than half in operational delivery.

Paused apprenticeships

Overall, almost 47% of respondents had their apprenticeship paused. In DWP it was the majority, though most resumed on 1 July and in HMRC approximately half paused. In other departments apprenticeships mostly continued. More than 84% had no input into the decision to pause and only a quarter had a conversation with their employer about this. While paused, over a third took on extra work and a further third took on new work. Worryingly 1 in 8 appeared unsure whether their apprenticeship had paused, raising questions around communication and the level of support provided.

Continuing apprenticeships

Where apprenticeships continued, 9 out of 10 worked from home, almost a third were not receiving the minimum 20% off-the-job training and almost a fifth had no contact with their provider. Almost half of those not paused stated, they either could not continue with their studies, or could not continue to the same extent. Reasons given included:

  • Being unable to undertake practical modules and tasks
  • Lack of support
  • Tutor problems
  • And issues with the quality of online training.

Equality and diversity

Issues around equality and diversity were identified. For example, some identifying as disabled found online learning ‘incompatible’ with their disability and a high percentage, 85% identified as having a white ethnic origin. As such, there may be equality issues and the diversity of the scheme may be falling short.

Ongoing theme

A significant number appear unaware of details surrounding their apprenticeship including, their provider’s name, the end date and whether the apprenticeship has been paused. This suggests possible issues with communication.

If your apprenticeship has been impacted by any of these issues, please contact your union learning rep for further support.

More information can be found on the PCS Learning pages.

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