Keith Smith, Director of Apprenticeships, Education & Skills Funding Agency

I hope you’ve all had a great start to the year!

It has been an exciting start for us with the launch of our new apprenticeship campaign – “Fire It Up’.

The campaign and new website aims to help raise awareness of the benefits of apprenticeships as well as highlight the huge variety of apprenticeship options available for people of all ages and backgrounds.

In particular, we hope it will really start to challenge the outdated and snobbish attitudes that are stopping more people from considering apprenticeships and securing a great career.

The Further Education sector is playing a vital role in this, helping us to champion apprenticeships and making sure apprentices are receiving the high quality training they deserve. So do please support the campaign and let as many people know as possible how great apprenticeships are.

National Apprenticeship Week "Blaze a Trail"

I’m also really looking forward to this year’s National Apprenticeships Week, which will run from 4-8 March. As in previous years throughout the week there will be a range of events and activities taking place across the country to celebrate how apprenticeships are helping employers, individuals, local communities and the economy to thrive.

Last year was record breaking, over 780 events took place across England. This year, I hope will be equally successful, so do look out for where you can get involved.

Over the past few years, as you will all know, we have been working very hard to improve apprenticeships. Apprenticeships are now longer, higher-quality, with more off-the-job training and a proper assessment at the end. We are really proud of the progress we have made. We have more to do, but I hope we all have one thing in common – ensuring we continue to deliver high quality training.

Quality at the heart of the apprenticeship programme

It is absolutely vital that quality remains at the heart of the apprenticeship programme, which is why in December last year we strengthened the process for applying for and securing a place on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP).

I would like to thank everyone who took the time to respond to the review.  Your input in the process has been invaluable in helping us shape the new and improved approach.

The register is currently open, and thanks to your feedback, it will remain open with no closing date. It will mean providers can apply when they feel ready and are confident in their ability to deliver first-class apprenticeship training and meet our new entry requirements. Providers can submit up to 2 applications in a 12-month period.

Reapplying for the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP)

We have also started to invite providers that were already on the RoATP to reapply. We understand that this is annoying and creates more work for you. But we want the RoATP to continue to give assurance to employers and apprentices that their training providers have the capacity and capability to deliver good quality training, and that taxpayers know public funds are being invested wisely. 

If you haven’t yet received an invitation to reapply, don’t worry; every provider on the current register will be invited over the course of this year.

We also want to make the process is as fair as possible which is why providers with an outstanding or good grade from Ofsted within the last 3 years will be exempt from certain questions on the leadership and management of their delivery.

If you haven’t already done so  please do take a look at our new guidance for the RoATP and help us continue to transform apprenticeships!

New single team approach to managing contracts

Within the ESFA we are also now operating a single team approach to managing contracts and allocations which means apprenticeship providers are benefitting by having a central team delivering an end-to-end service.  

To improve the service we offer still further we will be assigning contract managers for the largest providers later this year and will outline more details in due course.  We hope you will all continue to see the benefits of these streamlined services over the coming year.

Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for your hard work and dedication and I look forward to working with all to strengthen the further education sector.

Keith Smith, Director of Apprenticeships, Education & Skills Funding Agency

About Keith Smith: With over 20 years of experience working in and around the education and skills system, Keith has worked in a variety of roles, from running local skills programmes to leading national projects. In recent years, he has been leading the development and delivery of the national Further Education and Apprenticeship funding systems. Keith has been a Governor of a number schools and University Technology Colleges. He is the Director with responsibility for implementing Apprenticeship funding reforms and the Apprenticeship Levy.

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