For apprenticeships to work the ESFA and IfA must put the employer first
Nick Mapletoft believes the Education & Skills Funding Agency (EFSA) and the Institute for Apprenticeships have to take responsibility for the drop in apprenticeships.
The fiasco caused by the EFSA, when it launched the non-levy tender contracts last year, is the start of a catalogue of errors by the government body.
Having abandoned the first round of procurement entirely, after everyone had tendered, it then prioritised the contracting of the re-tendered non-levy on the amount of funding potential providers requested, rather than on track record of provision.
This resulted in many new providers being unable to meet the targets they put in their tender, because they neither had the demand nor the experience. No wonder the EFSA had to rethink the awarding process, especially after it gave a contract to a provider that had gone bust a couple of months prior, while colleges with ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ rankings missed out.
Ironically, further impact has been caused through the interference of the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) in what is meant to be an employer led initiative.
Despite the Chartered Management Degree Apprenticeship (CMDA) being one of the few new standards employers want, the IfA has proposed a drop in the funding rate from £27,000 to £22,000. This has resulted in more than 150 employers appealing against the proposed change, with not a single employer supporting it.
The problems caused by this uncertainty mean that providers cannot effectively plan their provision. Furthermore, providers operate in a market that works to an average profit margin of 4%, yet the EFSA withholds 20% of funding until the apprentice successfully achieves a degree, which could be more than four years from the start of the course.
At a time when only 20% of British managers have a formal qualification in management, which is a major factor in us falling behind other G7 nations in terms of productivity, you would think that the two bodies tasked with getting the best out of apprenticeships would be going all out to help employers. Instead all they seem to do is erect obstacles.
About the author
Nick is the Principal & CEO of University Centre Quayside (UCQ) which is a private University Centre which delivers Education & Skills Funding Agency-funded adult education and training, and levy-funded provision.