SimplyBiz Academy on its plans to weather lockdown storm

SimplyBiz Academy on its plans to weather lockdown storm
 Richard Ardron, managing director at the New Model Business Academy

As the UK enters its second month of lockdown The SimplyBiz Group's not-for-profit adviser training academy is confident it will weather the coronavirus storm.  

Last month warning bells were sounded over training providers which potentially faced losing funding from the Department for Education if they could not move apprenticeship programmes online. 

But Richard Ardron, managing director at the New Model Business Academy, said "significant investment" in technology by the academy's parent company meant its entire apprenticeship programme had been mobilised remotely. 

As a result the academy is still mentoring its 150 students online and remotely, with 80 per cent of the programme involving academic study and the other constituting on-the-job training. 

Mr Ardron said: "This means that we are ideally placed to support our students with the larger part of the programme, whilst setting and supporting prescribed learning activity that qualifies as on-the-job training.

"Whilst we have been able to continue to support all of our apprentices, we do of course recognise that not all apprentices and training providers have been so lucky, and we have enormous sympathy for those facing challenges at the moment." 

The academy boss said the overall learning programme for NMBA's apprentices remained uninterrupted, but the provider had needed to adapt its support to "ensure minimum disruption". 

As a result of centres closing across the country 35 of NMBA's students found themselves unable to sit scheduled exams, but Mr Ardron said the focus for these apprentices had instead been shifted to "soft-skills" training in the meantime.  

As a result of widespread exam cancellations the Financial Conduct Authority has granted an additional year for advisers to complete professional qualifications as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Mr Ardron added: "Apprentices in all walks of life have a lot to offer the UK workforce in the long-term, and we hope to see regulators and funders working in way which provides practical help to those sectors which need it when we return to some form of normality. 

"Even before the current crisis, the government was way behind on its apprenticeship targets in nearly every sector, so it would be great to see it bolster its provisions for apprenticeships firms – we have provided this feedback, and hope to see the issue addressed soon." 

According to guidance from the Department for Education training providers will continue to receive funding for apprenticeship training they have delivered, and can evidence, during the coronavirus lockdown. 

But if there is a break in learning for more than four weeks, funding to the training provider will be suspended for the duration of the break in learning.

Whilst Mr Ardron admitted the current situation was "unique and challenging", he said the coronavirus crisis could make anyone currently preparing for a career in the financial services sector a better adviser in the future.