The new register of levy-providers and a bottomless funding pot

This week has seen the publication of the much anticipated list of ‘the training providers that can support levy paying employers’; otherwise known as RoAT ‘P’

These lucky 1,700 organisations have the opportunity to compete for the £200m pcm Levy pot and possibly even more – as unusually this funding stream appears to have no limit – or at least no limiting factors or control.

In theory there is no cap on either:

i) the amount that any particular provider can earn or

ii) how much funding any particular levy paying employer can access

Of course a provider first needs to attract the employers and then to earn the money.

And the levy paying employer will need to pay 10% of the cost of any funding they access beyond their levy pot.

However this is still something quite radical for the sector and it will interesting to see if it lasts.

There is a second, slightly less glamorous but vitally important, register due shortly; of those who can access the smaller and much more carefully controlled £440m for SME apprenticeship training. We might well expect that this will be comprised mainly of a sub set of providers who are on this longer list.

 

So who is on the register?

More employers. From 70 to 170. This is one of the most exciting developments. As employers seize the opportunity to develop and deliver their own apprenticeships. There will be some really disappointed employers, who failed to make cut and some frustrated employers who do – as the reality of handling public funding sinks in. However it is really important that employers who want to offer apprenticeship training can and do so; and that we all do what we can to support them.

Official subcontractors – ‘supporting providers’. This is mixed bag of new providers, small providers and providers that had been kept downstairs and out of the light. Very possibly the ‘ones to watch’ category.

Main providers. As well as the usual suspects (minus a couple of notable exceptions) there are some interesting new Main providers. Notably lots more Local authorities, Hospitals and Health trusts, some of whom are registered as main providers rather than as employers, meaning they can service other employer’s needs as well as their own.

But the stand out group is the 80+ Higher Education establishments – so maybe ‘we are going to uni’ after all? If you can’t beat them join them – parity of funding if not esteem.

Overall I cannot see how there being more choice can be anything but a good thing

 

How to pick - a - pitch - perfect - provider?

We are now in the midst of the pitching season with providers up and down the country showcasing their wares at a succession of beauty parades - as employers seek out their perfect-partner before the dance ends and someone turns the lights on.

But how does an employer pick their perfect provider from the growing list?

Well the AS (DAS) uses the find a provider function which is a good place to start and the FE choices site provides further background information, but neither are comprehensive or terribly user friendly.

There is a real opportunity for someone to create a smarter provider comparison site (or to resurrect the Employers guide to training providers)…..

More choice – fewer options?

For smaller employers in particular, the biggest issue is (still) finding a provider who will want to deliver what you want, when and where you want it. Try and find local software apprenticeship training on a cold winter’s day in the English countryside.

This is one downside of a market led skills system. But by the removing the planning controls, we are creating an environment where if there is enough demand, a solution should emerge.

However the great advantage of Apprenticeships compared to other forms of skills provision remains the fact that it involves no detailed state planning and that demand is generated by employers and so automatically reflects the evolving labour market.

In order to realise the potential of that advantage we need a provider base that can rise to the challenge and keep up with demand. There are now 1,700, rather than 1,100 of us and hopefully this represents an increase in quality as well as quantity.

Richard Marsh, Apprenticeship Partnership Director, Kaplan

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