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

Cabinet Office guidance for England published on 4 January regarding the third national lockdown provided advice on who is permitted to leave home for work to reduce the spread of the virus. The guidance stated that you should continue to travel to your workplace if you work in critical national infrastructure, construction, manufacturing and several other sectors.

The DfE advises that any assessment schemes which are necessary to assess and assure competence and/or safety of employees within these three sectors may continue i.e. only those activities required to enable the sectors to continue delivering safely should continue during the current lockdown period.

This applies to assessments that must be carried out face-to-face. However assessors must have regard to the HSE guidance on working safely and take measures to reduce the spread of the virus.

Different rules and guidance exist in Scotland and Wales and the ECITB is seeking clarity on the equivalent guidelines from the Scottish and Welsh governments respectively.

Further to feedback received at the ECITB CCNSG Provider meeting held in January 2021 the ECITB have released information on a ‘live’ virtual delivery model for the CCNSG 2 day National Programme, please contact your ECITB Account Manager or e-mail programme.admin@ecitb.org.uk for further information.

A number of financial support measures were also suggested and discussed at the meeting and the ECITB have reviewed the potential impact that any changes may have on other ECITB stakeholders, whilst also making sure we can provide some financial relief to our ATPs and Centres. In light of this the ECITB will be reducing the delegate registration fee by £10 per delegate for all CCNSG Programmes (including Renewal and LaTS). This reduction in delegate registration fees will be introduced from Monday 1st February 2021 and will last until the 31st March 2021.

Last updated 08/02/21

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

Cabinet Office guidance for England published on 4 January regarding the third national lockdown provided advice on who is permitted to leave home for work to reduce the spread of the virus. The guidance stated that you should continue to travel to your workplace if you work in critical national infrastructure, construction, manufacturing and several other sectors.

The DfE advises that any assessment schemes which are necessary to assess and assure competence and/or safety of employees within these three sectors may continue i.e. only those activities required to enable the sectors to continue delivering safely should continue during the current lockdown period.

This applies to assessments that must be carried out face-to-face. However assessors must have regard to the HSE guidance on working safely and take measures to reduce the spread of the virus.

Different rules and guidance exist in Scotland and Wales and the ECITB is seeking clarity on the equivalent guidelines from the Scottish and Welsh governments respectively.

Many ATPs are still open to deliver technical tests under Covid-safe guidelines. ECITB is therefore not extending all technical test certificates at the moment.

However, there may be specific employer requirements that the ECITB will review on a case by case basis. These may include:

  • Where there is no operating ATP delivering tests within 25 miles of an employer’s site, to minimise long journeys, the employer can request ECITB to consider an extension for employees whose certificates will expire.
  • Where an employer’s risk assessment does not allow for any employees to visit any other premises other than a work site then the employer can request ECITB to consider an extension for employees whose certificates will expire.

Employers should contact ECITB’s Technical Manager, Blair Barclay, to request individual extensions. We will not consider requests from individuals, only from employers. This applies to certificates expiring between January and the end of March 2021 and we will review again at that point, or earlier if lockdown conditions change.

Last updated: 08/02/21

The Coronavirus regulations provide an exception for gatherings for the purpose of education or training, so it is therefore permissible to undertake this in a variety of different venues. However, in considering whether to deliver, you will wish to consider the following:

• Wherever possible, delivery at this time should be online to reduce the risk of further transmission of infection, particularly in areas where any local restrictions on movement are in place. Further information on the local protection levels within Scotland currently in place can be found here: Coronavirus (COVID-19): Local Protection Levels In those areas where a stay at home instruction is in place, consideration should be given to the essential nature of the training in question if it is considered that such training cannot be done virtually;
• If the training can only be delivered face to face, then you will wish to consider the guidance set out in the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Community Learning and Development Guidance, and the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Universities, Colleges and Student Accommodation Providers Guidance which sets out the requirements and considerations for delivery of education and training in formal and non-formal training environments;
• Those employers/providers delivering training in the workplace for staff who would otherwise continue to be in that workplace, such as those in construction, manufacturing or the delivery of key services, will also wish to consider the guidance appropriate to their sector;
• If delivery is planned in a hotel or other privately hired space and the venue continues to be available for training, you will also wish to consider the relevant sector guidance set out in the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Tourism and Hospitality Sector Guidance
• Dependent on the number of attendees, a checklist on events is available here and may be helpful – Coronavirus (COVID-19): events sector guidance – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
• Risk assessments should be carried out in advance of any delivery, in respect of both the venue and delivery or training itself, with all action taken to ensure safe delivery of the training;
• Residential training events carry heightened risk and training providers will wish to consider if the residential element is required. It may be possible that a blended approach of on-line and face to face learning for only those parts where this is necessary might enable delivery in the venue over one day. In Stay at Home areas in particular, specific and careful consideration should be given to the essential nature of the training to be delivered at this time with a view to deferring it where possible.

In addition we would also like to bring to your attention The Health and Safety Executive’s short guide on working safely during the coronavirus outbreak.

Last updated: 25/02/21

Private training organisations have not explicitly been told to close within the regulations, they have continued to deliver through this period, adhering to social distancing and ensuring Covid safe environments. As a result many training providers remain open for training. Sectors this would currently apply to are:

• Construction;
• Engineering;
• Manufacturing; and
• Sectors supporting the national infrastructure.

Welsh Government recommend that employability programme participants are allowed to attend training centres for practical training and assessments (Such as the Client Contractor National Safety Group (CCNSG) safety passport) where the employing sector is open. In allowing the training to go ahead it will be on the following principles:

1. Minimise contact between individuals wherever possible

o Face-to-face learning and assessments must be delivered on a socially distanced basis.

o Providers should ensure that participants arrive and leave the training facility at set times to ensure social distancing is maintained and there is no mixing with other participants outside of their course. Any breaks or lunch breaks may need to be staggered or extended to ensure numbers using any communal facilities are limited and there is no mixing of participants outside of their course.

2. Minimise contact with individuals who are unwell by ensuring that those who have COVID-19 symptoms, or who have someone in their household or extended household who does, do not attend their training centre.

o Under no circumstances should learners or staff attend their training centre or workplace if they feel unwell and have any of the identified COVID-19 symptoms; have tested positive to COVID-19; live in a household with someone who has symptoms of COVID-19, or has tested positive for COVID-19 (in which case they should be aware of the need to self-isolate immediately); have been asked to self-isolate by the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect service.

o Training providers should also have a clear escalation policy and procedures in place if learners or staff begin to show symptoms of COVID-19 while at their centre. These need to be fully understood by staff, learners (where able) and parents/carers.

o This would also be reinforced in any invitation to training correspondence issued by ACT or sub-providers for the MTS contract. For the CfW+ Programme we would ask that in the mentors correspondence with training providers they engage with, they would ensure the same principles would apply.

3. Ensure adequate levels of ventilation

o Providers should ensure adequate levels of ventilation.

4. Ensure good hand and respiratory hygiene

o Washing hands thoroughly and frequently with soap and running water or hand sanitiser is an effective way of minimising the risk of contracting COVID-19. Providers should, via messages, signage and notices, remind all learners of the need to clean their hands regularly, including when they arrive, when they return from breaks, when they change rooms and before and after eating.

5. Continue enhanced cleaning, including cleaning frequently touched surfaces often, using standard products such as detergents and bleach.

o Providers should follow the latest cleaning guidance for non-healthcare settings.

6. Where necessary, wear appropriate face coverings and/or appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

7. Comply with the Welsh Government’s and NHS’ Test, Trace, Protect strategy and under GDPR rules staff and will need to be informed of the learning providers’ obligations under the TTP strategy.

8. Contain any outbreak by following local health protection team advice.

9. Ensure safe travel to the venue

o As far as it is feasible to do so we would encourage participants to walk, cycle or use their own vehicle to travel to their training course. Where this is not possible then all participants should follow the Welsh Government guidance on travelling safely.

o People from different households (other than extended households where this would apply within current regulations) should not share a car. If participants only option is to use public transport then advisers/mentors would encourage the use of masks and sanitiser and ensure extra time is taken to plan the journey to help minimise any risk.

o Training providers and advisers/mentors should ensure, as far as possible, that the principles are adhered to.

Below is a link to our guidance around risk assessments in terms of being an employer:

https://gov.wales/your-responsibilities-employer-coronavirus

Last updated: 25/02/21

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 administration audits are ongoing remotely. Your provider account manager will be in touch to arrange the audit and request information required. As the Covid-19 situation improves we hope to restart face to face provider audits subject to local Covid-19 restrictions and following an ECITB risk assessment.

Last updated: 27/01/21

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.

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.

Last updated: 21/01/20

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 2020 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 in regular discussing with our sponsor department, the Department for Education on this matter. Financial relief has also been offered to business by the Government through the Coronavirus Job retention Scheme and other measures.

Employers received their levy assessments for the 2019/2020 base period in January 2021. It is important that the ECITB is able to support training that has been deferred during the crisis hence our decision not to delay levy collection. We are acutely aware of the challenges facing many levy paying employers, therefore if you anticipate difficulties making payment please contact your account manager as soon as possible.

The new offsite levy rate of 0.2% has now come into effect. It applies in respect of levies raised in January 2021 and covers the 2019/20 base period. The increase in the offsite levy rate is being phased in gradually over a three year period to mitigate the impact on industry and it is not our intention to change this.

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. ECITB approved training courses can also be viewed via our online course finder

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).