The wellbeing of our apprentices, our members of staff and our partner employers is at the heart of everything we do at Damar and our response to the developing Coronavirus pandemic is driven by this ethos.
We are following the NHS advice and since the government response moved to the “delay” phase, we have introduced additional measures to reduce the risk of transmission. The key change is that all face-to-face meetings and training sessions now take place remotely by video conference or telephone.
Our support team and head office functions continue as usual although our physical office is now closed, with all staff working from home.
We will keep the situation under review and will update this note if there are any further changes.
A successful apprenticeship is always a partnership between an employer, the apprentice, their supervisor and our team at Damar. As the Coronavirus pandemic unfolds, the importance of partnerships, whether at work, at home or in our communities will be ever more apparent. We are absolutely committed to working with you to ensure that apprentices are safe, healthy and supported over the coming weeks and that all our students continue to make progress.
Here are the answers to some further questions that you may have:
Can employers continue to recruit new apprentices during the outbreak?
Absolutely. We are approaching the school and college leaver season and our recruitment team is working hard to support employers and candidates looking to start apprenticeships. Despite the economic impact of COVID-19 we are keen that the “class of 2020” and does not miss out on apprenticeship opportunities.
Can existing employees wanting to start their apprenticeship be enrolled?
Yes. Our enrolment paperwork is already completed online. The launch visit, when we finalise the detailed programme planning and induction, can take place remotely.
How will training be delivered?
Most of our delivery is already a blend of face to face, remote visits, online content and directed self-study. Visits that were face-to-face will now be conducted remotely by video call or telephone.
What technology do you use?
The best alternative to a face to face visit is a video call. Indeed, this can often work better if the supervisor is based elsewhere or if (as is likely in the coming weeks) more people are working from home. We use Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business and Zoom. It is also possible for student visits to take place via telephone.
For several years we have used our own digital learning platform, Damar OpenLearning, for many of our training materials, recorded webinars and online workshops.
Every apprentice has a OneFile e-portfolio account where apprentices, supervisors and our trainers can see and manage learning and progress.
Our digital content team (details below) is on hand to help if there are any problems.
What about classroom sessions?
Some of our programmes have scheduled classroom sessions. With effect from the week commencing 23 March, these have been taking place remotely.
What if the apprentice is furloughed or working from home?
The apprentice can usually continue with their learning. In some cases we will change training plans slightly as this time can be used to develop apprentices’ knowledge before it is applied back in the workplace.
Will exams and end-point assessment take place as normal?
Many exams and end-point assessments have been delayed. Changes here will significantly depend on the approach taken by awarding bodies and the end-point assessment organisations we use (principally, Pearson, City & Guilds, CILEx, the AAT, SQA and ILM). We have strong relationships with them all and are updating apprentices and employers promptly when there are changes.
What if the apprentice becomes ill or needs to self-isolate?
Apprenticeships are designed to work around interruptions such as illness and holidays. Where a longer break (of a month or more) is needed, a formal “break in learning” is possible. Apprentices who are working at home can continue as normal with their apprenticeships.
What if the Damar trainer becomes ill or needs to self-isolate?
If the trainer is unable to deliver a session as planned, their line manager or another member of the training team will usually be able to step in. We will let you know as far in advance of the meeting as possible of any change.
How will we review progress if the trainer isn’t coming to the office?
Regular progress reviews are a crucial part of each apprenticeship and these will now take place remotely. As before, the trainer will make a note of the review on OneFile for the apprentice and the supervisor to approve.
Will apprentices be able to complete their apprenticeship on time?
Unless apprentices are unwell for a protracted period (more than a month) or office closure means they are unable to put their skills into practice at work (and they can’t work from home) then the period of teaching and learning should finish as planned. If there are delays to exam sittings or end-point assessment then end dates may be delayed in some cases.
Where face to face visits do take place, what guidance has Damar given to its staff to minimise risk?
Although face to face visits will not be taking place for the time being, our colleagues have been following the NHS guidance. In addition to the rules on hand hygiene and what to do if they or a member of their household displays symptoms, colleagues are washing their hands thoroughly immediately before and after all meetings and we have also asked that they do not shake hands.
Who should I contact at Damar if I have any questions?
We understand that COVID-19 may give rise to a range of questions and our experienced team is on hand to support. In most cases, the first port of call will be your Damar trainer or account manager, but we also have a team of specialists:
For questions relating to apprentice welfare, our safeguarding team: email@example.com
For questions relating to IT/online access, our digital content team: firstname.lastname@example.org
For questions relating to the Apprenticeship Levy and payments, our contracts team: email@example.com
You can also reach us on the main office number: 0161 480 8171.