Keith Smith, Director of Apprenticeships, the Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA)

ESFA’s Keith Smith showed a strong willingness to address policy and funding rules to ‘make sure the system works’ and Apprenticeships work.

Keith highlighted one such policy and funding rule to be looked at could be Apprenticeship Levy transfer for 16-18 year olds in SME’s, which are currently restricted, will now be reviewed and addressed.

Please find the video interview below taken just after Keith Smith came off stage at the AELP annual conference:

Making the Apprenticeship system great

Today I've been talking at the conference about the work we're trying to do to make the Apprenticeship system great. I really wanted to spend some time to convey to the audience of all the great work they're doing, how we're trying to create a really high performing system. We're only going to do that by working together.

I really want us to be ambitious about talking about all the benefits that Apprenticeships bring and talking about all of the great work that the sector does overall.

There are some important areas that we need to work better together:

  • Making sure that we've got the right policies
  • Making sure that we've got the right things to be able to deliver those policies

Importantly, that we work more collaboratively with the sector on making sure that they've got the right guidance, the right funding rules, that really helps them deliver really high quality programs.

Reviewing SMEs and 16 to 18-year olds and levy transfer

Gavin, FE News asked: You mentioned a few things on stage today at the AELP conference that you are considering looking into. Particularly one which was interesting to the audience was around SMEs and 16 to 18-year olds and levy transfer. I wonder if you could just clarify a bit more about it, I know you're looking into it, it isn't a change but just a few things like that, if you could elaborate?

That's a good example, like many, that I often refer to as "making sure the system works” and making sure apprenticeships work.

There were very good reasons why we created policies like that, because we wanted to understand where the financial rewards and incentives were for employers.

I think we're now learning through seeing what employers are doing, the demand for traineeships, and how they want to connect with different organisations and different employers, that perhaps some of those rules are getting in the way.

That's really why we're ambitious to try to understand how to make that work, and actually if that does mean that we result in getting more young people doing apprenticeships and that's got to be a good thing.

Keith Smith, Director of Apprenticeships, the Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA)


ESFA has called on small and medium sized apprenticeship employers and their training providers to help develop the Apprenticeship service. 

Small and medium sized employers that do not pay the Apprenticeship Levy, as well as their supporting training providers, can now express their interest to help ESFA shape its services so it meets future needs for all employers. 

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Applications will close for this phase of testing on Friday 5th July 2019

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