How will COVID-19 affect apprenticeships in the long run?

The COVID-19 situation has created a ‘new normal’ in apprenticeships. Will it last?

How will COVID-19 affect apprenticeships in the long run?

The COVID-19 situation has created a ‘new normal’ in apprenticeships – students learning from home, tutors providing remote support, a suspension of Ofsted inspections and temporary funding rules.

There’s been a lot of change in a short period of time. It’s hard to believe that in just a few weeks, the whole sector has adapted to a whole new way of working. But when the dust settles and we get back to some kind of normal delivery, how will COVID-19 affect apprenticeships in the long run?

Like with anything in life, there’ll be a mix of positives and negatives...

Increased adoption of tech

A big positive that’s likely to come from this situation is an increased adoption of tech. Providers that have systems in place to support learners remotely are finding the transition easier than those that don’t. Some providers are even experiencing higher engagement and achievements thanks to tech.

Many providers have seen that they can engage learners and employers far more effectively and efficiently remotely, so when revenue does return to normal, they can actually be more profitable than before.

This situation has shone a light on elearning, and hopefully more providers will use tech to support their delivery in the future.

Reduced number of starts

In April 2020, just one month into the COVID-19 situation, providers reported an 80% reduction in apprenticeship starts. As employers focus on rebuilding their business after COVID-19, we’re likely to see a reduction in apprenticeship starts across many sectors. Hopefully when employers start seeing revenue return to normal, they’ll be able to focus on skills development to support the future of their business.

Increased starts in some standards

Sectors like product development, engineering, technology and healthcare are likely to experience an increase in starts. COVID-19 has transformed these industries and even shifted public opinion of skills, which may result in an increase in apprenticeship starts in some key areas.

Reduced learner engagement

Apprenticeship engagement may drop as learners transition back to work after a break in learning or being furloughed. Providers may need to provide extra support to help learners with resocialisation, resetting behaviours and supporting mental health. The COVID-19 situation will affect us all differently, so providers need to prepare how they’re going to deliver this extra-curricular support.

Increased learner engagement

Some providers have experienced increased learner engagement during lockdown. One example is Hopwood Hall College who've reported a 37% increase in learner engagement since lockdown. Their apprentices have enjoyed taking control of their learning, tracking their progress and receiving support and assignments from their tutors remotely.

As learners get back to work, many will be excited to apply the knowledge they’ve learned during this situation and be eager to build momentum with their on-programme progression again.

Under-confident apprentices

Across the country, school leavers have had their predicted grades used for their formal GCSE and A Level achievements. For many young people, this will mean they’ve been assigned a lower grade than they hoped to achieve through hard work and revision, and this may negatively impact their confidence. They may significantly underrate their ability in RPL assessments and need extra support to get back up to speed.

When we do return to normal, school leavers will also have been out of a learning situation for months. They may have missed work experience opportunities and be unfamiliar with exam conditions, which may make the transition back into learning in the workplace difficult. Confidence plays a huge role in learning and achievement, so supporting apprentices with their confidence will be more important than ever.

Over-confident apprentices

On the flipside, school leavers may have been predicted a stretching grade that overplays their ability. These apprentices may be over-confident and overestimate their ability in RPL assessments. Providers will have to monitor learners closely to make sure they’re keeping up with their learning and can apply their knowledge appropriately in the workplace.

As you can see, COVID-19 will affect apprenticeships in the long term in very different ways. There’s going to be a lot of ups and downs for everyone, so providers will need to pay close attention to their apprentices’ rate of learning, engagement, confidence and mental health.


One thing that will definitely help providers keep in contact with their apprentices is technology. OneFile’s apprenticeship software is designed for remote learning. Apprentices can take control of their own learning and progress, while tutors have the access they need to monitor and support learners effectively. It’s the middle ground between school and work that will help learners adapt to this new scenario.

With OneFile, you can create plans, set activities, provide feedback, monitor progression and even complete reviews – all from the safety of your home. OneFile will help you support learners now, and long into the future.

To find out more about OneFile and how it supports all aspects of remote learning, download your free remote learning guide.

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This article includes research and opinion sourced by OneFile at the time of publication. Things may have changed since then,
so this research is to be used at the reader's discretion. OneFile is not liable for any action taken based on this research.