From education to employment

Clawback of funding from independent training providers for uncompleted Apprenticeships is beyond the pale

Gillian Keegan Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Apprenticeships and Skills

#Coronavirus – @GillianKeegan Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for #Apprenticeships and Skills has written to non-college stakeholders about the measures that the Government has put in place to deal with #Covid19 and includes links to both to some new guidance – wider #FE operational guidance as well as the more specific apprenticeship guidance.

Sector Response to Gillian Keegan’s Letter

jill whittaker 100x100 pixelsJill Whittaker, FCA, Managing Director, HIT Training Ltd, said:

“As non-college training providers we recognise that we are independent businesses, choosing how we spend our income and how we distribute our surpluses. This, inevitably and appropriately, puts us in a different position to FE colleges where the relationship is first and foremost one of servant to government and a community. In the current environment, it is right that college funding is protected, and that training providers are treated as are other businesses. 

“However, what independent training providers and FE colleges do have in common is our shared concern for our learners and I fear that the latest guidance from ESFA does not go far enough to reassure apprenticeship providers of all kinds that they will be supported with appropriate funding when they do the right thing and continue to support apprentices with their learning – remotely, via online one to one learning, through webinars, bespoke programmes, support calls, and more – whatever the circumstances.

“End point assessment will also need to be changed temporarily as workplace observations become an impossibility. The flexibilities offered to GCSE and A level awarding organisations should be extended to end point assessment organisations. Trust them to do the right thing to ensure learners are not disadvantaged. Unprecedented times need unprecedented measures.

So, a plea to the ESFA – if any apprentice wishes to continue their learning through these strickened times, let them. Continue their funding even if they are laid off by their employer. Please don’t do anything that would disadvantage those apprentices. Our country is going to need all the help we can get to get through this crisis, and at the end of it the more skilled staff we have going back into the workforce to support the recovery, the better. It’s within your gift ESFA, we are doing the right thing, you should too.

And a further plea to IfATE – if schools and sixth forms can find a way to trust teachers to make an assessment of a GCSE or A level grade, surely you can do the same with your highly regulated and expert end point assessment organisations.

“Trust us, and we will deliver for you.”

Mark Dawe AELP 100x100Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive Mark Dawe said:

“The omission of any DfE funding support for apprenticeships and other skills training goes completely against the assurance offered by the Secretary of State to the House of Commons last week. We are left to conclude that the government is not serious about apprenticeship training or any other forms of skills training continuing while the pandemic goes on or that it is very happy to preside over many independent training providers (ITPs) going out of business over the next three months.

“How are providers expected to implement the proposed flexibilities in today’s statement if they have vastly reduced income coming in? It is now a battle for survival. The majority of provider staff will be furloughed which means they will not be available to support the training of apprentices and other learners.

“Coming after Friday’s guaranteed funding support for mainstream FE provision, the DfE statement adds insult to injury. For example, it says that “Government policy does not allow payment for services in advance of delivery” and yet this is precisely what it announced for colleges on Friday. ITPs delivering adult education, traineeships and other forms of training have similarly been offered zero assurance by today’s statement.

“Then on apprenticeships, the statement goes further and lays down terms for clawback of funding from independent training providers if the crisis means that apprenticeships can’t be completed. Given that it is not their fault that they cannot gain access to apprentices or assess them, this is beyond the pale.

“Unless the government urgently rethinks its stance that it has had two weeks to think about, we are likely to see the start of the collapse of the training and assessment sector over the next week unless action is taken on funding, and those employers who want training and assessment to continue will have no place to go when this is over.

Colleges only deliver 25% of apprenticeship training. This means that they are no position to rush in and fill the gaps that will appear in key sectors and in many towns and rural areas across the country, including the Red Wall areas, if ITPs, who deliver nearly 7 out of 10 apprenticeships, start going bust. Niche provision in sectors like textiles will also suffer very badly.

“Another important point on the quality of provision is that nearly all ITPs have made the transition across to the new apprenticeship standards whereas less than 6 months away from the switch-off of frameworks, many colleges are lagging in making the change.

“So employers looking to get back on their feet after the end of the pandemic will find that the apprenticeships that they want won’t be available to them. And soon that other oven-ready solution of EU migrant labour won’t be there either to fill the gaps.

“What about this year’s school-leavers aged 16 or 18? Where are the opportunities going to be for them if lots of apprenticeship training providers are no longer around?

“This is why any further delay on a funding support package for apprenticeships and ITPs is totally unacceptable.

“AELP has this evening demanded an urgent meeting with the Apprenticeships and Skills Minister. We also hope that MPs on the Commons Education Committee will be raising these issues with the minister when she appears before them on Wednesday.”

Richard Marsh 100x100Richard Marsh, Apprenticeship Director, Kaplan, says we should be protecting Apprentices during this #Coronavirus crisis:

“I am afraid to say that this is very disappointing.

“There are actually no major changes or relaxations in this ‘guidance’.

“There is a lot of detail about how training providers will have to justify being paid for 4 weeks training in March if a learner has only completed 3 weeks’ ,,,, but nothing on the major issues at all.

“It reads like a very defensive document – all about protecting the existing rule sets – this is not the policy leadership we shall need in order to save a whole cohort of Apprentices.

“After the bold moves on GCSEs and A-levels this has left Apprenticeships looking like the poor relation and an afterthought.

“There is nothing on:

  • Functional skills testing – which will stop thousands of apprentices completing. What point is there in bringing in requirements for face to face invigilation for this when we are being asked to isolate ourselves!
  • Off the job rules – being flexed to accommodate changing work patterns.
  • Exams and EPAs all being conducted remotely or by-passed (why is this ok for A levels but not for Apprentices?)

“If we are not careful the message for Apprentices is that your courses are not worth saving. This cannot be what the Government wants or means and they must look at this again. Immediately.”

ANTHONY IMPEY 100x100Anthony Impey, Chair of the Apprenticeships and Skills Policy Unit, Federation of Small Businesses, said:

“Never, in living memory, has any government had to move this quickly or at this scale. Our government has taken some bold steps to intervene and support the economy in the past few days, to ensure that the country has a fighting chance of recovering as quickly as possible after the devastating impact of the crisis.

“This needs to include assurances for the further education sector so that we have the skills infrastructure capable of meeting the demands of the post-crisis workforce, including a comprehensive apprenticeship system.

“The Government should provide the much-needed assurance for independent training providers, many of whom are small businesses, who will be wiped out as a result. We now risk a sector that can’t bounce back when this crisis is over, which would be bad for our economy and our young people.”

Lindsay McCurdy 100x100Lindsay McCurdy, Founder, Apprenticeships4England, said:

“Gillian Keegan, Apprenticeships and Skills Minister has let the Apprenticeship Sector Down: The Sector has been thrown down the swanee

“ITP’s deliver 7 out of 10 apprenticeships. and many now will shut up shop. With no DfE funding support ITP’s  will not be able to survive, look at the ROATP register, many are only delivering a small amount of standards many at the bottom end of the funding stream.
“Nothing in this communication about functional skills, off the job training or EPA. This lack of support will also have a knock on effect on support organisations to the Apprenticeship Sector.
“When this ends we will not be able to offer apprenticeships to employers but most importantly to learners. Time for the sector to come together or there will be no apprenticeship sector left.”

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