From education to employment

3 Out of Every 4 Apprentices Still Being Trained by Independent Training Providers


For the third consecutive year, the market share in training apprentices for employers has remained unchanged with independent training providers (ITPs) responsible for the delivery of 3 out of every 4 apprenticeships in England.

74% of the 496,000 apprenticeships started in 2016-17 were delivered by ITPs in partnership with employers either under a direct contract with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) or under a subcontract with a further education college or another provider. 

As in previous years, this official data has been obtained by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) from the ESFA via a Freedom of Information request and the latest data for the academic year 2016-17 covers the first three months of the apprenticeship levy’s introduction when the ESFA contracting system changed.   


AELP CEO Mark Dawe commented:


‘Requesting and publishing this data is not a point-scoring exercise.  Instead it is an important reminder to policymakers and opinion-formers what an important role the independent provider sector plays in the delivery of the government’s flagship skills programme. 


‘Before AELP started making these FOI requests – and we shouldn’t have to be making them – we found vey senior people in government who simply had no idea who actually trained apprentices and they were therefore not accessing the appropriate frontline experience and expertise before making far-reaching decisions on the apprenticeship reforms.  This might explain why some aspects of the reforms have gone so badly wrong.  Even now, a commission on lifelong learning has just been set up by a major political party without independent provider representation.’


Subcontracting under scrutiny

With the House of Commons Education Committee currently looking at subcontracting in the sector, the official data shows that there was an overall 3% drop in subcontracted starts in 2016-17 for all providers compared with previous year (26% instead of 29%).

General FE colleges subcontracted out 36% of all their apprenticeships, a 4% drop since last year.  ITPs subcontract out a smaller proportion of their apprenticeships (21%).  Nearly all subcontracted delivery is done by ITPs.

As the aim of the government’s new subcontracting rules of January 2018 was to encourage more direct delivery by all types of registered apprenticeship providers and the large levy-paying employers can now choose their provider irrespective of ESFA contracting arrangements, it will be very interesting what the data reveals for 2017-18.  The picture may change again if non-levy paying SMEs gain the same freedom of choice in April 2019.

The latest data has been published for the start of the AELP National Conference, sponsored by NCFE, at which the skills minister Anne Milton MP is scheduled to speak about the apprenticeship reforms.


Mark Dawe added:


‘AELP supports the employer-driven principles behind the government’s apprenticeship reforms.  With the information available to them including Ofsted judgements, employers are perfectly capable of choosing a training provider, college or another type of provider that will be responsive to their needs. 


‘While there is, and should remain, a place for bona fide subcontracting in the sector, the reforms should reduce the subcontracting that has been about protecting the contract value allocated to the lead contractor and boosting its general accounts rather than maximising the amount of funding available for frontline training.  We believe that the ESFA rules should be amended to place a 20% limit on management fees, as the AELP/Collab Group/HOLEX subcontracting guidance recommends.’

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