Covid-19 guidance for employers, training providers and centres

The coronavirus (Covid-19) epidemic is posing major challenges for employers, learners and providers across the Engineering Construction Industry. This remains a constantly evolving situation and we are currently evaluating how we can support industry through the new lockdown period beginning 5 January 2021.

This webpage will be updated with the latest information about how the ECITB is responding to the crisis across all ECITB operations and will be updated as soon as possible. All new developments will also be communicated through our social media channels.

To find out more about the ECITB’s package of measures to support industry in 2020 and beyond here.

A core initiative is the ECITB’s Train to Retain scheme which has now had two application rounds for graduates, apprentices and trainees.  To find out more about the Train to Retain support programme click here.

The ECITB is committed to supporting the industry through the Covid-19 pandemic in whatever way possible.When the Covid-19 crisis first hit, the ECITB took swift and decisive action to put in place an extensive £14m package of support for industry. This included moving training and assessment online, direct funding of training from approved providers and a new scholarships programme. The £4.5m Train to Retain scheme, launched in May 2020, is a major skills rescue package for industry, which to date has agreed training support for 139 apprentices, 339 graduates and 30 trainees whose professional training and development in their respective engineering construction roles has been impacted by Covid-19.

Together our response ensured that training continued during the crisis, essential skills were retained and new talent pipelines were created.

We are acutely aware of the challenging circumstances faced by many employers during this unprecedented year and we appreciate the timing of next year’s levy assessment is not ideal. Affordability of levy payments is critical, so if you anticipate any difficulties in making payment in Q1 2021 please contact the ECITB as soon as possible.

Last updated: 14/01/21

From 1st September, the CCNSG Essential Worker initiative and extension to the 3-month renewal grace period will end.

If your CCNSG safety passport expires after 31 August 2020 you will only have the normal 3 month window to renew.

Our network of CCNSG training providers are now, in the main, back to face to face delivery with the number of cards delivered increasing from 78 in April to over 2,000 in July.

Last updated 05/08/20

The Coronavirus has had a major impact on training and the ECITB has been actively supporting employers take advantage of online training options for their staff. Employers can continue to apply for ECITB grant support towards online training through the Membership Services Portal or by speaking to their account manager.

Staff of in-scope employers who are still furloughed are able to undertake training so long as certain conditions are met (see guidance here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme). Where the conditions are met, the ECITB will grant support training for staff on furlough.

Updated 11/08/20

In response to the new lockdown period in January 2021, the ECITB will grant support all eLearning courses for our customers subject to funding availability until December 2021.

Updated 14/01/21

In 2020, the COVID-19 crisis had a major impact on the recruitment of apprentices, with up to a 50% reduction in new starts against the forecast at the beginning of the year. It seems likely that this trend will carry over into 2021. In the short to medium term, it is unlikely that employers will see apprentice recruitment as a priority and there is a risk that new entrant numbers overall will decline. In 2020, the ECITB worked on a range of initiatives to ensure employers continued to benefit from a pipeline of new entrants, including expansion of the ITEC programme (see below) and our Scholarship initiative.  2021 will see a wider range of Scholarships at level three and the introduction of a new level two Scholarship which will replace the ITEC programme.

We continue to urge all in-scope employers not to dismiss any apprentices they employ and would encourage them to first speak to ECITB about the support that may be available, including through Government.

As part of the cross-government efforts to respond to the impact of COVID-19, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has implemented several measures,  to make it easier for apprenticeships to continue and complete in a different way if they need to, or to break and resume an apprenticeship later when that becomes possible.

The latest ESFA guidance is available here

Specifically, the guidance includes information on:

  • introducing flexibilities to allow furloughed apprentices to continue their training, as long as it does not provide services to, or generate revenue for, their employer
  • encouraging training providers to deliver training to apprentices remotely and via e-learning as far as is practicable
  • allowing the modification of end-point assessment arrangements, including remote assessments wherever practicable and possible in order to maintain progress and achievement for apprentices
  • clarifying that apprentices ready for assessment, but who cannot be assessed due to COVID-19 issues, can have their end-point assessment rescheduled. Apprentices whose gateway is delayed can have an extension to the assessment timeframe
  • enabling employers and training providers to report and initiate a break in learning, where the interruption to learning due to COVID-19 is greater than 4 weeks
  • clarification on how to record breaks in learning so that funding is not unnecessarily disrupted
  • confirming that, where apprentices are made redundant, it is our ambition to find them alternative employment and continue their apprenticeship as quickly as possible and within 12 weeks.

ESFA has also issued specific guidance on its relief scheme to support post-16 providers, which is available HERE.

Updated 15/01/21

The current ITEC cohort are undertaking a compressed 32-week course, rather than the normal 42 weeks. This is a full-time condensed programme that focuses on specific skills shortages in particular regions of the UK. To support learners impacted by the pandemic, the ECITB is providing ITEC students with a training allowance payment of £100 per week over the duration of the course. This has been introduced to support the 2020 cohort of ITEC learners who in previous years could have had part-time jobs; the introduction of a full-time condensed programme will lessen the opportunity for any part-time work. Due to the constantly evolving situation with Covid 19 the actual duration of the programme is being constantly reviewed by the providers and the ECITB to ensure the learners have every opportunity to complete in a timely manner.

Provision has been made for some learners to follow a discipline-focused programme for the 2020 cohort; for example, some ITEC students are learning welding and pipe fitting skills knowledge rather than general engineering training.

Undertaking training in a safe, socially-distanced environment is of paramount importance. Training providers delivering the course have been required to show they could deliver safe classroom and workshop spaces and use digital technology for virtual delivery of the knowledge elements of the programme.

Seven training providers have been awarded contracts to deliver the course to a cohort of 90 learners who will follow programmes tailored to welding and pipefitting disciplines or general engineering starting in September 2020.

The 2020 ITEC programme is being delivered by:

  • GEN2 (Workington)
  • The Engineering College (Birkenhead)
  • NETA (Stockton-on-Tees)
  • North Lynsey College (Doncaster)
  • Weston-S-Mare College
  • Yeovil College
  • Bridgewater & Taunton College

Updated 15/01/21

The ECITB scholarship programme is a two-year full time off the job programme in a craft or technical discipline. During their studies, learners will acquire nationally recognised engineering qualifications as well receiving other skills training relevant to their chosen discipline. To support the learners the ECITB are paying the learners a training allowance payment of £140 per week. As per the ITEC programme, the ECITB are working with the training providers to ensure that the programme continues be delivered in a safe and effective manner despite the ongoing challenges presented by Covid -19.Eight training providers have been awarded contracts to deliver the Scholarship to an initial cohort of 128 learners who will follow Scholarships in various level 3 craft and technician disciplines starting in September 2020. Further cohorts will start across the UK in 2021.

The 2020 Scholarships are being delivered by:
• GEN2 (Workington)
• The Engineering College (Birkenhead)
• NETA (Stockton-on-Tees)

• North Lynsey College (Doncaster)
• East Coast College
• Middlesborough College
• Richmond upon Thames College
• Bridgewater & Taunton College

Updated 14/01/21

At the start of lockdown we announced that any candidate awaiting a technical test and/or whose Work Based Task Assignment was near the 12-month limit would be given a 6-month extension to complete their test, as well as to any candidate who has a valid test certificate which is set to expire in the coming months.

As we are coming out of lockdown and providers are able to resume activities we have reviewed the situation and decided that the extensions will stop from 31st July 2020.  Any candidate whose expiry date was between 9th March and 31st July is eligible for the 6 month extension.  Any candidate with an expiry date after 31st July will be expected to complete the renewal under the normal conditions.

Last updated: 08/07/20

Connected Competence testing remains available through our network of approved training providers throughout the UK. Please contact your preferred training provider directly to confirm opening hours and booking procedures.

Last updated: 10/01/20

Provider audits are now starting again. The provider account manager will be in touch to arrange the audit subject to local Covid-19 restrictions and following the ECITB risk assessment.

Last updated: 03/08/20

The Awarding Organisation wrote to all its Approved Centres outlining its approach to the continued delivery of ECITB qualifications as the pandemic continues to have effect.  Policies and procedures are in place allowing for the remote assessment of candidates for any or all of – 1.skills observations, 2. VQ Knowledge Tests and 3.Technical Discussions.  Candidates and employers should discuss requirements direct with the Approved Centre. These processes can be applied outside of or within national lockdown, regional or tier restrictions subject to the specific COVID 19 rules not prohibiting their application.  Normal test fees continue to apply.

Remote external quality assurance of centres by the Awarding Organisation has proved highly effective with no loss of quality or scrutiny.  As a result, some of these measures have now been introduced as permanent policy. Physical monitoring visits will take place as required and permitted subject to a satisfactory risk assessment by the Awarding Organisation and discussions with the Centre.  This will ensure appropriate social distancing and safety measures are in place.  Centres should liaise with their External Quality Assurer (EQA) in relation to these matters.

The Awarding Organisation continues investigating further use of technology to aid and benefit Centres and candidates in the future delivery of its qualifications.

As a reminder, all Approved Centres who wish to adopt the use of digital recording for remote skills and/or knowledge assessment must seek advice and approval from their EQA prior to assessment taking place. Email qualifications@ecitb.org.uk for further information.

Technical Discussions can continue to be carried out remotely without the need for additional approval unless there is no audio or visual recording (i.e. a written transcript is provided instead by the assessor – in these case prior approval is required).

For those Approved Centres who have ECITB candidates who are also apprentices, please refer to additional guidance provided by the ESFA and the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE).

Last updated: 15/01/2021

We continue to provide all ECITB business operations and are working hard to ensure minimal difference in the level of service we provide; this includes telephone services and access to the Membership Services Portal.  We have also put in place robust grant payment arrangements to ensure payments are completed promptly.

The vast majority of our staff continue to work from home and have been instructed to attend face to face meetings only where these are essential and a thorough risk assessment has been carried out. All ECITB regional forums, events and group meetings for the foreseeable future will either be held remotely, via telephone/video conferencing, or will be postponed. If you are signed up to attend an event, you will be informed of the alternative arrangements.

Last updated: 12/08/20

Here is the latest guidance from Government:

The ECITB is in close contact with Government officials to ensure they are aware of the impact the crisis is having on the Engineering Construction Industry. We are also discussing additional measures that might be needed to support employers, learners and providers at this time. We welcome your views on what more Government or the ECITB can do to support you.

Please contact your account manager or ECITB Chief Executive Chris Claydon at ceo@ecitb.org.uk

Updated 15/01/21

The Flexible Workforce Development Fund (FWDF) helps businesses continue to invest in their workforce and is available for all of Scotland ‘s employers who are subject to the UK Government’s Apprenticeship Levy. For the first time, the fund will now be available for both levy payers and SMEs, across the private, public and third sectors.

The FWDF was doubled to £20m for 2020/21, with £13 million made available through the first phase to allow colleges to provide additional support for levy paying employers.

The second phase of the fund, backed by £7 million, will also be utilised to respond directly to the impacts of the pandemic, and will open to applications 16 November 2020.

Of this, £5 million will be available to support SMEs through a college and Open University in Scotland partnership, while Skills Development Scotland will offer a new option which will test the use of private training providers for levy paying businesses who require specialist training.

More info from the Scottish Government: https://news.gov.scot/news/new-ways-of-working

Other useful links:

http://www.open.ac.uk/scotland/SMEs

http://www.sfc.ac.uk/funding/college-funding/flexible-workforce-development/flexible-workforce-development-fund.aspx

https://www.ourskillsforce.co.uk/develop-your-workforce/flexible-workforce-development-fund/

https://findbusinesssupport.gov.scot/service/funding/flexible-workforce-development-fund

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, the ECITB will support certain e-learning courses that do not involve certification. If the e-learning is included in the Member Services Portal (MSP), this will be supported at 100%. Employers should consult the MSP or contact their account manager.

Yes, the ECITB can help with the cost of course conversion to online. This will be reviewed on a case by case basis. Consideration will be made around the subject matter, the volume of training and the costs associated. Please speak to your account manager about the support available.

The ECITB will fund in-house training where equivalent training is available through the MSP. Training will be funded at the rate listed in the MSP. Where in-house training is not listed a discretionary request will need to be submitted.

Furloughed staff using the Government’s Coronavirus Job retention scheme may still be able to undertake training so long as certain conditions are met (see guidance here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme).

Where the conditions are met, the ECITB will grant support training for staff on furlough.

The ECITB does not have the legal power to issue levy rebates. The ECITB derives its powers to collect a levy through the 1981 Industrial Training Act and the 2017 Levy Order. Both pieces of legislation would need to be amended to allow the ECITB to give rebates. We are acutely aware of the financial pressures that many levy-paying employers are facing and are discussing this matter with our sponsor department, the Department for Education. Financial relief has also been offered to business by the Government through the Coronavirus Job retention Scheme and other measures.

The next set of levy payments are due in January 2021. They will cover the levy base period April 2019 to March 2020. It is important that the ECITB is able to support training that has been deferred during the crisis and it is therefore not our intention to delay the January 2021 levy collection.

The new levy rates will be in place for levy raised in respect of the 2019/20 base period which means the first increase in the offsite levy rate will be applied to levies raised in January 2021. It is important that ECITB is able to support training that has been deferred during the crisis and it is therefore not our intention to amend the rates that will be applied to the 2019/20 base period.

This year the deadline for the completion of the Levy Declaration will be extended to enable employers to complete the declaration over a longer period of time than usual. The portal is planned to open in mid April and the submission deadline will be set at 31st August 2020

The ECITB does not grant support mandatory training requirements such as FOET, BOSIET and MIST. This training would happen regardless of ECITB grant support and therefore it is not considered to be an effective use of the levy. Should an employer wish to appeal, they can do so in accordance with the ECITB Grant Policy Complaints Procedure, through the ECITB complaints section of the website

Yes, we  support e-learning or virtual learning that is used as a refresher. We do this already for Mechanical Joint Integrity as an example. We will also support employers who are looking to convert face to face training to e-learning to enable them to continue training.

The ECITB grant supports a wide range of e-learning delivered by other external providers. These courses and their grant lines are available to access in the Member Services Portal.

Yes, details of the candidates registered for the qualification will need to be provided along with evidence of payment (normally a provider invoice indicating payment has been received).