I’d imagine a straw poll of the recent ITT for Non Levy would reveal that most think it has been an ocean-going cock-up. However, there has been a silver lining and that has been the success of subcontracting. While subcontracting has a few vocal detractors, I have been an unwavering fan. This is because I believe that subcontracting has been the single most effective method of bringing new entrants into the training market. It has enabled new providers to enjoy the support and sometimes protection of a larger and more experienced prime. Where done well that prime has nurtured the subcontractor, developing their capacity and expertise in order to make them compliant, robust and successful.
This is my third riposte to Mr Roger Francis following his FE News article Goodbye Sub-Contracting, Hello Partnerships. Mr Francis and I come from diametrically opposing camps on this and many other issues but I felt that this article in particular dealt a low blow to many honourable and established providers. The author, who works for a subcontractor to two primes, might be speaking from bitter experience. Still, if I worked for either prime I’d be upset by the comment that lead providers often use subcontracting ‘as a license to print money, with extortionate charges being levied in return for very little worthwhile support.’
I would like to respond to the article by Roger Francis entitled Provider Funding Cuts – They Are Dead Parrots. Welcome To The New World . I couldn’t help feeling that the article laboured under the false impression that a free-market approach to apprenticeships is guaranteed to work. For me, this is a fundamental flaw that has skewed the debate towards one based upon theory rather than experience.
Remember going on holiday before the Euro. You’d change your Sterling into Pesetas and feel like you were a millionaire!. Then you’d discover that 1 peseta wouldn’t by you the hole in a Polo Mint. Well, I have been reminded of those halcyon days during recent meetings with employers as they prepare for The Apprentice Levy in April 2017. Perhaps, for the first time ever, the conversation has focused on the ‘price’ of an apprenticeship. The lack of knowledge among employers about the cost of delivering an apprenticeship has been alarming. One employer thought that an apprenticeship cost £200-£300! So, this disconnect creates an obstacle when tackling The Apprentice Levy, because unless you know the ‘cost’ of an apprenticeship, it is difficult to appreciate how far your levy account will go.
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