From education to employment

ESFA must find a solution for small and niche providers, or we’ll see the effects for decades to come

Martin Taft, Managing Director of Springboard Training

An independent training provider has accused the Education and Skills Funding Agency (@ESFAGov) of stalling the training industry, as well as the careers of many school leavers, those facing redundancy, and anyone looking to improve their skills at a time of national crisis.

Springboard Training, an East Midlands skills and corporate training solutions provider, said that the ESFA closed its Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP) to new applicants wishing to offer apprenticeship programmes at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, stifling new jobs, training schemes, and risking the loss of talent within the industry.

Martin Taft, Managing Director of Springboard Training, said:

“Since April, the ESFA has acted as a bottleneck, preventing new independent training providers from offering real support at a critical time for jobs and the economy.

“Rather than perpetuating the monopoly of larger organisations in the further education sector, the ESFA has a duty towards small, high-quality training companies who can deliver tailored support within the local community.

“Ultimately, it is learners who are suffering due to the lack of options available.”

This follows an admission this month from the ESFA’s acting director of further education that the body’s relationship with independent training providers simply isn’t close enough.

Springboard Training also asserted that in closing RoATP applications, the ESFA is not only preventing new learners from furthering their careers, but is fuelling the inevitable unemployment emergency when the government’s furlough scheme comes to an end in October.

It says that smaller providers have a much greater understanding of the communities in which they operate – and in the solutions to help bridge the gap in jobs and training. There have been accusations within the sector that larger providers are responsible for fraudulent activity, and many have overseen mass redundancies due to the mismanagement of finances. 

The ESFA stated that its register remained closed, “in response to the Covid-19 emergency,” and that it could not confirm a reopening date.

Benn Carson Mar20 100x100Further Education consultant Benn Carson added:

“This is a crucial time for further education – and in using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse for closing its register, the ESFA is failing our sector.

“We urge the ESFA and ministers at the Department for Education to rectify this problem urgently – or risk further damage to the economy, jobs, and the future careers of young school leavers.

“Local and niche providers dealing with vulnerable learners are critical to our skills system. By shutting them out of registration, the ESFA has dealt a serious blow to the life chances of an entire generation and the damage is incalculable. 

“The ESFA must find a solution for small and niche providers, or we’ll see the effects for decades to come.”

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