Apprenticeships - what’s new for 2018/19?

I can remember Association of Learning Providers conferences with an audience of 200 people; last week we had an AELP conference with 600 seated and many more stood around the edges. It is great to think that there is now so much choice for Apprentice employers across the country…..

At the conference there was audible disappointment the Minister did not announce any relaxations*, (to the 20% O.T.J rule or 10% employer contribution ) but no news is also good news and stability is surely the thing that we need most of.

The same applies to the 18/19 funding rules, which have appeared just weeks before they come into force but are also thankfully devoid of any major changes or surprises.

* At a later event the Minister did announce that Employers can now start to donate 10% of their unspent levy funding to more than one employer – and with £2bn unspent that represents a £200m opportunity...

Tipping points

Academic year 2018/19 starts in a few weeks; it is planned to be a year of tipping points:

  • The year in which ‘Standards’ become more prelevant than Frameworks (we seemed to be at about 50-50 in March) - see below table
  • The last full Academic year of Framework starts (if they are stopped in 2020 as stated)
  • The year in which more standards are actually available than are ‘in development’


  • The last year of Apprenticeship allocations – with non-levy payers using the Digital Account System from April ’19
  • The last year of national AEB allocations (the reappearance of local budgets) and the last year of ESF and EU membership….

English Apprenticeships starts from the published FE data.

It was not the introduction of the levy, or of the new standards that has caused the drop in apprenticeship volumes – they are both new and additional.

Rather it is the reduction in learners on Frameworks – caused by the decrease in their funding rates - which has caused the decline.









Of which levy funded








Of which Frameworks















Of which Standards









Table 1.

April 2019 and the next big milestone in the reform process

As the AELP and others have noted the headline ‘year on year’ starts comparison will start to look better once we get past the anniversary of the funding changes (as we will no longer be measuring pre and post reform figures).

However there is another change looming that could cause another ‘shock’ and drop in volumes if it isn’t well handled.

That is the end of funding allocations for non-levy payers and the switch to the ‘DAS’ system for non-Levy payers in 9 months’ time (April 2019).

This change has the potential to be really progressive and to usher in:

  • the end of ESFA allocations and their high risk procurement processes
  • the end of ‘contract caps’ and the need for subcontracting
  • freedom for employers to use any registered provider, not just those with ‘spare’ funding
  • the end of the 12 month Academic cycle and hence the ability to engage in long term planning with employers

All of which move the system further towards being an ‘employer led’ system and all of which are prizes worth winning.

However the task of getting 100,000 small businesses to set-up their accounts and agree contracts with the ESFA and their providers is a large one. It has taken 12 months to get 13,000 large employers (who have a levy to spend) to open an account.

It would seem that some form of phased approach will be needed or we will be in for another major system ‘shock’. If this change is still forecast to happen then (and there is no mention of it in the recent rules publication) then we all need to be part of a transition and communication plan that starts ASAP.

The ‘other’ thing happening in April 2019

Brexit 750x570

I estimate that there are roughly 10,000 EU/EEA citizens currently on apprenticeships (derived from those classifying themselves as ‘European other’ on the ILR) – and the number has certainly grown recently as more EU / EEA citizens have found work in England.

What we don’t know is from April 2019 will Europeans still be allowed to start ‘funded’ Apprenticeships? Will they be protected by transitional arrangements or will we have a hard Apprenticeship Brexit?

Wouldn’t it be great if we actually went the other way and said that as we need more skilled workers… anyone from anywhere can do an apprenticeship here if they can find an employer?

Remarkably enough that might even be easier to sort than allowing employers to support their UK wide non-English workforces – there is no sign that anyone is making any attempt to realise a UK wide system – much to many employers’ frustration.

In the sometimes bizarre world of Apprenticeships it appears that Swedish-English qualifications are acceptable (as Functional skills exemptions) but Scottish-English Core skills aren’t…..

Still if everything was simple and straightforward - what would we have to talk about?

Richard Marsh, Apprenticeship Partnership Director, Kaplan Financial

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