COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown in the UK has led to many apprentices either working from home or being furloughed. Fortunately, in the vast majority of cases, this has not prevented apprentices continuing on with training and their personal and professional development.
We’ve all discovered that adjusting to working from home or being furloughed is a challenge, but apprentices have the additional issue of managing their ongoing 20% off-the-job training as well. Here are our top tips for how to do this (including some ideas from our own apprentices):
Figure out what days and times work best for your learning
Play around with what days and times work best for you and your circumstances. We all have times during the day when we feel more alert and are more productive. If you’re furloughed, it would be best to use these times for your apprenticeship work, so that you can relax with leisure activities or get some exercise when you’re looking to wind down. For apprentices who are working from home, you will also need to consider what days and times are critical for you to be working, rather than training. Consider what regular meetings you need to attend and when you’re at your busiest.
Diary in your 20% off the job
Once you know what works for you, add it to your outlook calendar or set an alarm on your phone. It can be tempting to finish off another piece of work, answer a few more emails or watch a bit more television and if you’re not careful, another day will be over without you having achieved what you set out to do. Your training provider should have given you a way in which to record your off-the-job activity once it has been completed so make sure you are keeping your apprenticeship journal entries up to date.
“I have learnt that it is important to try and maintain some sort of routine, despite the fact life Is far from normal. I have been doing this by still getting up and getting ready at my usual time, starting work at 8am, exercising either on my lunch hour or straight after I finish work.”
Establish a work space
Finding somewhere suitable to work or do your apprenticeship training can be difficult, particularly if there are a few of you in the household all working from home. Whatever room it is, establish the area in which you are going to work which, ideally, is somewhere different to where you spend a lot of your spare time. That way, at the end of your working day or training, you can leave that area and have a sense of leaving work.
“I keep my work space tidy, I stick to my working hours and when work is over, I close everything down and make sure that I do the things I would usually do if I was still working in the office.”
Turn off the TV and your phone
If you can, get away from any distractions whilst you’re completing training. If you are furloughed, turn off the TV and your mobile, or at least switch it to silent. If you are working, it may not be possible to be completely uncontactable for a few hours but if you make colleagues and your manager aware of what time you’ve set aside for training, this should hopefully ease the amount of contact they try to make during these periods.
Use the resources that are most effective for you
Different people learn in different ways, with some people preferring to read written material and others finding videos or more visual resources more appealing. Hopefully, your training provider has provided you with a mixture of materials that you can use during this time. And if you’re doing a lot of your training online, don’t forget to take regular breaks to have a stretch and give your eyes a rest.
Break your study session into manageable chunks of learning
When we’re starting something new, it can feel like it’s unsurmountable. Break your work down and, if you can, be specific about what you’re going to do in each of the time slots you set aside for training. This way you can get stuck in straight away and get more done, rather than wasting time figuring out what you’re going to do next
Complete tasks as agreed
Try to stay on track with your training and complete the tasks that have been set for you by the agreed deadlines. If you start to fall behind, it can get overwhelming and make you put your training off even further. Feeling like you’re making progress and sticking to a schedule will help you feel positive about your training and will spur you on to achieve more.
Resilience is what gives individuals the strength to cope with internal and external struggles and challenges and we certainly have our fair share of those at the moment. You can keep yourself mentally strong in lots of different ways - ensuring you get enough sleep, exercising, doing something creative, helping someone in need, meditating, sharing with others and generally being kind to yourself.
“I have started to learn to play the piano, incorporated some exercise into my day and socialised with colleagues, friends and family via video calling to cheer me up when it's possible.”
Talk to your training provider, manager and colleagues
If you are struggling or unsure about anything to do with your apprenticeship, talk to your training provider or someone at work. What might seem like a big problem, could actually be easily solvable. Even if your usual tutor or trainer is not available, there will always be someone on hand to help you with your concerns.
Make use of support
As well as your training provider and work colleagues, make use of your social network, including family and friends. If you’re feeling unmotivated or don’t know where to start, some advice from a loved one may point you in the right direction and help you get going. In this time of social distancing in a physical sense, it is more important than ever that we remain socially connected, whether that be face-to-face with members of our own household or over the phone, social media or video chat with friends. These little moments can make all the difference in these challenging times.
“Both my team at work and my extended family have created Whatsapp groups and, if anything, I am socialising with them more via Whatsapp than I had before the lockdown. I have also maintained regular attendance to my office yoga club via Zoom and will be attending my office book club meeting once I receive a date.”