Apprenticeships can be one of the greatest drivers for social mobility we have, leaving them underfunded is one of the greatest social injustices

As a bid writer the instinct to sniff out a good opportunity seems to be ingrained in me, every morning looking through the tender notifications to see what’s opened up and trying to match them to our clients.

Often it’s a pretty easy job – Apprenticeships in county A to provider B etc.

Occasionally you get the odd one from left field like a ESOL tender dressed up to look like a healthy eating initiative, but this weekend one dropped in that made me nearly choke on my tea and blow my top.

During a time when it is well documented that providers don’t have enough Apprenticeship Non-Levy funds to satisfy demand the Department of Education have released an Open Future Opportunity (i.e. they are planning to do this soon) for a tender to Support LEPs to Promote Apprenticeships to SMEs, with a budget of £500,000: Apprenticeships support for smaller employers through LEPs/Intermediarie.

Yes in a time where providers may be having to turn business away from SME’s who want to engage in Apprenticeships because they don’t have enough contract value, well documented on this website and other FE News outlets, the DfE wants to chuck half a million quid at promoting them.

I’ve now spent nearly 20 years in and around Apprenticeships and this may be the most ludicrous proposition that I’ve heard so far!

This September school leavers may face the real prospect of not being able to start an Apprenticeship because the funding isn’t there.

At the moment it looks like a large proportion of Apprenticeship starts are concentrated on Management Apprenticeships, while the vocational sectors that support young people such as Business Admin, Hair Dressing and Childcare will be struggling to support new entrants as the majority of employers who engage providers to deliver Apprenticeships to this sectors haven’t the contract value available in their Non-Levy contract to support these employers.

Apprenticeships can be one of the greatest drivers for social mobility we have, leaving them underfunded is one of the greatest social injustices.

The final stage of the Apprenticeship reforms can’t come soon enough.

James Hart, Director, The Education and Skills Consultancy Ltd

About the author: James and his team are experts in tender writing, quality assurance and building team performance and can support FE organisations no matter what stage of their journey they are on.

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