So, what do you need to think about before submitting your application? SDN Associates (and former ESFA Senior Managers) Karen Kelly and Anna Sutton give us their top 5 tips:
But first, what’s different about the new Register?
In short, it’s a more robust and stringent process. There are new questions and a greater emphasis of examples, so the ESFA can assess readiness to deliver.
The ESFA also want to see more evidence and detail – in particular, your policies, processes and procedures, such as an Employer Engagement process that wasn’t a requirement previously.
So, with that in mind, here are our top tips:
1. Make sure your application tells your story
The RoATP application is all about getting across how you will deliver excellent apprenticeship training for apprentices and businesses again and again. This means it’s important to articulate confidently why your apprenticeship service deserves to be on the Register. In the skills and education sector, we can often undersell ourselves – this application is not the place to be reserved, it’s your chance to shout about the great work you do, so you don’t miss out on the opportunity to deliver apprenticeships.
Having said that, it’s even more important to be sure your story is ready to be heard. By that we mean, don’t apply to the Register if you can’t meet all the criteria that is asked of you. Read the application thoroughly and use it to reflect on your practice and get your business up-to-speed before applying.
2. Collect examples of good practice
Throughout the application form you are asked for examples that demonstrate your good practice. This means it doesn’t matter if you’re re-applying to the Register or a complete newbie, you should be confident you have case studies that showcase your readiness before applying.
SDN has already supported several training providers through this process, and one of the first things we say to our clients is to read and understand what is required from the application before applying. It may be wise to spend the next three months collecting evidence and case studies before putting your first application attempt together.
3. The devil is in the detail
Throughout the application you are asked to submit various policies and procedures. It’s easy to go through these like a checklist… ‘Health & Safety policy? – Check!’, ‘Safeguarding policy? – Check!’, but do those documents tease out the information that the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is looking for?
This is especially significant to applicants completely new to apprenticeships. You may have been successfully delivering commercial training for decades and have an up-to-date Health & Safety policy, but it should specifically reference apprentices in your application so the ESFA is confident you can support this type of learner sufficiently.
4. Live your practice and policies
If you do not have specific policies that you need for the application, it can be tempting just to buy an off-the-shelf document from a consultant or a bid writer. Whilst working with a third party like SDN can be a huge help… please, please, please make sure you have direct input into what is written about your business.
If you submit policies and procedures in your application that sound great, but do not reflect the processes you have in place, this can come back to bite you. Yes, you may get on to the Register in the short-term, but if there are problems with one employer or one apprentice and you have not followed the procedures you laid out in your application – the ESFA is quite within their right to ask questions as to why.
Make sure your application reflects what is happening on the ground and isn’t a wish list. If you’re not delivering the way the application expects you to, get ready first.
5. Get external support if you’re unsure
Whether you currently deliver apprenticeships, or have aspirations to do so – getting on, or maintaining your status on the Register could be critical to the success of your future plans – so it’s worth investing in!
You get two attempts per year at submitting a RoATP application. This means you can have a go at applying and still not be ruled out, but it can be a stressful period for you and your staff if you don’t get through first time.
For those that prefer the reassurance of a critical friend, why not work with an external organisation to critique your application or even help assess your readiness and guide you through the process? This could be another training/employer provider or an industry expert’s RoATP application service.
Former ESFA Senior Managers, Karen Kelly and Anna Sutton, Associates, SDN