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Apprenticeship Week
January 25, 2020
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An Activity Pack is available for National Apprenticeship Week 2020, which is full of fun and engaging activities for students.

The pack consists of 10 easy to use activities and answer sheets, so you’ve got everything you need to get your students engaged and informed about apprenticeships!

Interactive Apprenticeship Quizzes
Challenge your students with online interactive Apprenticeship Quizzes!

The quizzes can be set as homework or delivered as part of a lesson. Fun multiple choice questions will help students to think about the benefits and opportunities of apprenticeships.

AW2020 Daily Broadcasts 
Daily broadcasts will run throughout NAW2020 from 9.30am – 3pm, Monday – Friday. Interviews will feature a range of apprentices from different employers, sectors, backgrounds and apprenticeship levels. Join Friday for a live broadcast with members of the Young Apprentice Ambassador Network! Find out more here. 

ESFA: New Apprenticeship Service Webinars & Roadshows
January 23, 2020
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Webinars

ESFA are holding several webinars from January to March aimed at employers, training providers, and any organisations/ individuals with an interest in the apprenticeship service.

All webinars are hosted by subject matter experts to help service users to understand more about the apprenticeship service.

Attendees will have the opportunity to ask experts questions in a live Q&A and take part in interactive polls.

Topics include:

  • apprenticeship eligibility
  • apprenticeship funding rules
  • moving from apprenticeships frameworks to apprenticeships standards
  • off-the-job apprenticeship training
  • transitioning smaller employers onto the apprenticeship service

You can sign up now.

You can watch all apprenticeship service webinar recordings on YouTube.

Provider Roadshows

ESFA will host the second series of provider roadshows in February and March 2020 for main providers on the register of apprenticeship training providers (RoATP).

The events will be collaborative and consultative.

The events will focus principally on the transition of smaller employers that do not pay the apprenticeships levy to the apprenticeship service. ESFA will also talk about the full withdrawal of apprenticeships frameworks and end-point assessment organisations (EPAOs).

ESFA will provide you with opportunities to network with other providers, and to feedback around key themes so that we all have a chance to share good practice and learn from experiences of others. They will write to providers in January with more details about the agenda, and about the venues.

In the meantime, our roadshow dates are as follows.

  • Tuesday 25 February – North East
  • Tuesday 3 March – North West
  • Monday 5 March – London
  • Tuesday 24 March – Midlands
  • Thursday 26 March – South Central
  • Tuesday 31 March – South West
The Challenges of Apprenticeship Expansion in England, the USA and Australia
January 17, 2020
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New research by Dr Johann Fortwengel and Professor Howard Gospel of King’s Business School with Dr Phillip Toner of the University of Sydney, Australia, has highlighted the difficulties of expanding apprenticeship numbers, especially in industries with little historical experience of this form of training.

Professor Howard Gospel, Emeritus Professor of Management, King’s Business School
Professor Howard Gospel, Emeritus Professor of Management, King’s Business School

The team also found that successful attempts to renew apprenticeships involved efforts to synchronise government-led and employer-led initiatives, and engaged employer associations, unions and others. This kind of coordination was more likely to lead to a sustained increase in apprentice starts; simply providing funding and leaving employers and market forces to determine the types and structure of programmes available was less effective.

Professor Howard Gospel, Emeritus Professor of Management said:

“Apprenticeships were a theme in the UK election; the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour all talked about investment in apprenticeships.  But expanding the number of apprenticeships and ensuring they are valued by employers is challenging to get right.

“Our research shows that while both England and Australia have delivered increases in apprentice numbers since the 1990s, that growth faltered when expansion into new industries led to doubts over quality and confusion over what apprenticeships should really deliver.” 

Dr Johann Fortwengel

Dr Johann Fortwengel, Senior Lecturer in International Management, adds:

“These experiences are important lessons for the US, where efforts to increase apprenticeships have so far been proportionally smaller. Expansion into new areas has been on the agenda since the Obama administration, but with little real progress to date.”

The researchers tracked efforts in England, Australia and the US to revive apprenticeships as a solution to skills shortages, youth unemployment, and broader challenges like rising income inequality. Historically, these ‘Anglo-Saxon’ economies  have lacked effective support for industry-wide apprenticeship training schemes. Also, compared to countries, such as Germany or Switzerland, demand has historically been limited, with a large proportion of young adults choosing the university route over an apprenticeship.

UK

In England* apprenticeship starts grew by 400 per cent from 1996 to 2017, especially from the late 2000s onwards. Growth was driven by changes in the definition of apprenticeship and by the extension of apprenticeships beyond construction and engineering into non-trade specialisms, especially from the mid 2000s onwards.

Expansion into the service sector has also prompted two major dips:

  1. First post 2010 in the face of doubts over standards in new non-traditional training programmes for sectors like hospitality and retail, and
  2. Second since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in Spring 2017.

Howard Gospel says: “There are multiple reasons for disenchantment with the apprenticeship levy. Some employers see it as too complex, or excessively interventionist. Other commentators are concerned that it is funding already well qualified existing employees on degree and other higher qualifications. To date the initiative hasn’t delivered on some high hopes for what it might achieve.”

Australia

By comparison with England, Australia grew its number of apprenticeships relatively steadily from 60,000 in 1995 to 377,000 in 2012, with consistent employer and bipartisan political support.  Extension of apprentice-type training to new service sector occupations accounted for over 80 per cent of the increase.

Publicly funded non-profit Group Training Organisations (GTOs), often linked to employer associations and unions played an important part in the growth, and were successful in recruiting smaller employers to apprentice schemes, which often lack the financial and staff resources to support their own training program. A relatively strong technical college system also helps in Australia. However, funding was cut back sharply due to escalating government expenditures and concern at declining quality, prompting a collapse in trainee led by non-trade apprenticeships.

”Support for the traditional apprenticeship model remains strong in Australia in government, and among employers and unions. It continues to be an important institution for young people seeking to enter the labour market and for older people looking for a skilled, better paid job,” says Dr Phillip Toner.  

“However, the extension of this model into new occupations, mostly in the service sector such as lower-skilled hospitality, sales, security guards and clerical work has been largely unsuccessful. Employer support for extending apprenticeships to these roles was only partly founded on real labour market need, and more substantially down to generous government employment subsidies. This fact has been revealed by the sustained collapse in this type of training over the last 6 years following the cessation of the subsidies.’’ 

USA

In the US, President Obama re-visited President Clinton’s relatively unsuccessful efforts to revive apprenticeships in the 1990s and also sought to target non-traditional sectors such as ICT and health. The policy of expanding apprenticeships has continued under President Trump, with the explicit intention of encouraging greater involvement of industry and to promote apprenticeship in new areas.

However, to date, little progress has been made.   

     Dr Johann Fortwengel continued:

“between 1998 to 2017, there was a 65 per cent in apprentice starts in the US. However, as far as we can see from Department of Labor figures, extension into new sectors and occupations has been limited.  Given our findings, that may be a blessing in disguise: there is an opportunity to reflect on what might work before ploughing resources into this effort.”

*Because of differences in apprenticeship systems and data across the jurisdictions of the UK, only England is examined here. 

ViewPoint: Utilities Demand More From Apprenticeship Levy
January 6, 2020
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CONTRIBUTOR: Nick Ellins, Chief Executive – Energy & Utility Skills

Image result for utilities sector

The utility sector led the way in implementing the government Apprenticeship reforms, was the first to secure a Trailblazer Standard and graduate an apprentice through the new system. They offer to act as a proven and credible ‘critical friend’ to an incoming government.

Now, Energy & Utility Skills, a skills and assurance organisation for the UK utilities sector, published a comprehensive review into the delivery and effectiveness of Apprenticeship reforms. The work forms one part of its workforce renewal and skills strategy to ensure that the gas, power, water and waste management industries has the human capital required to deliver environmental infrastructure and essential services to nearly 67 million UK consumers.

The employer-led review was independently written by Professor David Way CBE, a leading figure in UK skills and Apprenticeships. The report found the energy and utilities sector – which is of high strategic importance to government plans to boost UK productivity and will invest more than £100bn in the economy – has made the policy reforms deliver high quality workers but further adjustments are needed to make the apprentice system fit for purpose.

The ‘Test and Adjust’ report calls for six key actions:  

  1. Filling the funding gap

The predicted funding shortfall for Apprenticeships must be transparent. Any funding gap should be filled by a combination of increased public funding and lowering the payroll threshold to below £3m for employers who contribute to the Apprenticeship Levy. Public funding offers a proven healthy return for the UK economy

Linking Apprenticeships to the Industrial Strategy 

Success should be about more than the number of Apprenticeship starts, it should be linked to outputs and productivity. The sector calls for a change in approach to ensure critical skills delivery is incentivised, quality is increased and not undermined by funding cuts.

Sector training pot 

Unspent Apprenticeship Levy funds are returned to treasury. The sector askes that Levy funds are retained within the sector to create a flexible ‘sector training pot’ to be used for tackling skill challenges and enhancing productivity. Employers in the energy and utilities sector are currently losing up to £2.5million a month of unspent Levy

Employer leadership 

The employer-led approach must be extended to all parts of the Apprenticeship system. Employers know best when it comes to the skills and knowledge required in their businesses. This is tested at the end of the Apprenticeship programme by an Independent End Point Assessment organisation. Why then go back and check if 20% of their time was spent on ‘off the job’ training? Employers need to have more control over how their apprentices are trained.

UK wide approach 

Over half of the sector’s employers operate across the UK’s four nations, delivering services to around 67 million UK-wide customers. Every company in England must pay the Apprenticeship Levy based on their UK PAYE bill. However, it is only directly available to fund apprentices in England. In the other 3 nations it is passed back to their governments. This often leads to employers having to pay twice for Apprenticeship training. It is not uncommon for companies operating across the 4 nations to have cohorts of apprentices on two different Apprenticeship programmes.  The sector calls for a coherent UK-wide framework that works for employers and apprentices

From T-Levels to Apprenticeships 

The industry is positive about the introduction of T-Levels but calls for more transparency and detail on the pathways from T-Levels to Apprenticeships and employment. The sector is keen to see T-Levels and Apprenticeships working as one continuous process.

Nick Ellins, Chief Executive of Energy & Utility Skills, said: “The energy and utilities sector employs over half a million people, generates 5% of GDP and contributes £51m annually to the Apprenticeship Levy pot. They set the standard in delivering successfully against the policy reforms and from the start sought to positively help the government to ‘test and adjust’ its approach.

This report from Professor Way, sets out clearly for the incoming government, where to adjust the reforms to bring immediate benefits and policy success. Too much time is being spent focusing on the Apprenticeship Levy as an end in itself, what matters is the quality of the talent that emerges into the economy and society, and how effectively the system works for the employers who foot the bill.”

Report author, Professor David Way, CBE, said: “Employer-led reforms to the Apprenticeship programme are beginning to bear fruit, especially by improving quality. This will be vital for future productivity growth and for the expansion of the Apprenticeship programme.

The Apprenticeship Levy has not yet had the transformational impact on employer investment in skills training that Ministers were looking to achieve. However, employers are now familiar with the systems and are steadily increasing the proportion of their Levy payments that they are able to use.

By extending the employer-led approach to all parts of Apprenticeships and ensuring employers see the Levy arrangements as fair and transparent, there is every prospect that we will see the growth in high quality Apprenticeships that will drive the productivity increases needed for the UK to compete in the global economy.”

Nick Ellins concluded: “The Apprenticeship reforms have brought undeniable benefits to the employers in our sector, and they wish to accelerate the gains being made by identifying and embedding reforms that will work for the incoming government and for business. Their track record of turning theory into practice makes them a tried and tested partner for government. It is time to step back, draw breath, talk candidly, target the resources and efforts to maximum effect and use this insightful research to help Apprenticeship policy progress to support the needs of the whole UK economy”

Government Announces Pay Rise for 2.8 Million People
January 2, 2020
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National Living Wage set to increase by 6.2% in 2020.

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  • Annual pay rise of up to £930 for a full time worker.
  • National Living Wage (NLW) increasing from £8.21 to £8.72.
  • New NLW rate starts on 1 April 2020 and applies to over 25 years olds.

The national minimum wage for apprentices is to increase by four times the rate of inflation in April, the prime minister has announced. The official minimum wage for apprentices currently stands at £3.90 per hour, but in April it will increase by 6.4 per cent to £4.15.

Low-paid workers will receive a 6.2% pay rise with a new National Living Wage (NLW) of £8.72 per hour, the biggest cash increase ever, the Government has announced.

Nearly 3 million workers are set to benefit from the increases to the NLW and minimum wage rates for younger workers, according to estimates from the independent Low Pay Commission. The rise means Government is on track to meet its current target for the NLW to reach 60% of median earnings by 2020.

The new rate starts on 1 April 2020 and results in an increase of £930 over the year for a full-time worker on the National Living Wage. Younger workers who receive the National Minimum Wage will also see their pay boosted with increases of between 4.6% and 6.5%, dependant on their age, with 21-24 year olds seeing a 6.5% increase from £7.70 to £8.20 an hour.

The Government has fully accepted the Low Pay Commission’s recommendations after they consulted stakeholders such as unions, businesses and academics, before recommending the NLW and NMW rates to the Government. In September the Chancellor pledged to increase the NLW towards a new target of two-thirds of median earnings by 2024, provided economic conditions allow, which, on current forecasts, would make it around £10.50 per hour.

The introduction of the NLW has already delivered the fastest pay rise for the lowest earners in 20 years, putting more cash into the pockets of those who need it the most. Supported by the NLW, the lowest paid saw their wages grow by 8% above inflation between April 2015 and April 2018.

The Chancellor has also announced his plans to expand the reach of the National Living Wage to cover workers aged 23 and over from April 2021, and to those aged 21 and over within five years. This is expected to benefit around 4 million low paid workers.

The Government will set out more details on the future policy framework, including the important role of the independent Low Pay Commission, by the Spring.

Further information

2020 NMW/NLW rates increases

The increased rates were recommended by the Low Pay Commission, an independent body that advises the government about the National Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage.

The National Living Wage (for over 25 year olds) will increase 6.2% from £8.21 to £8.72.

The National Minimum Wage will rise across all age groups, including

  • A 6.5% increase from £7.70 to £8.20 for 21-24 year olds
  • A 4.9% increase from £6.15 to £6.45 for 18-20 year olds
  • A 4.6% increase from £4.35 to £4.55 for Under 18s
  • A 6.4% increase from £3.90 to £4.15 for Apprentices

The £930 increase in annual earnings compares the gross annual earnings of a person working 35 hours per week on the new NLW rate from April (£8.72) versus the 2018/19 NLW rate (£8.21). The £3,680 increase in annual earnings compares the gross annual earnings of a person working 35 hours per week on the new NLW rate from April (£8.72) versus the 2015/16 minimum wage rate (£6.70).

ESFA Apprenticeship Audit: Common Errors and how to Avoid Them
December 10, 2019
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A Tribal Group Blog by Carla Martinho

On 11th June 2019 the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) published the snappily titled “Common findings from funding assurance work on post-16 providers and institutions” guidance document. It summarises the findings from the agency’s annual programme of assurance visits (in other words, audits) of providers delivering:

ESFA apprenticeship audit: common errors and how to avoid them
  • 16 to 19 study programmes
  • apprenticeships
  • adult education budget (AEB)
  • Advanced Learner Loans

For apprenticeships, there were no real surprises contained in the guidance if you have been working closely with the sector since the reforms were implemented (or more accurately started).

Here’s a summary of the key findings relevant to apprenticeships and some tips for avoiding them to ensure a smooth and successful audit:

1. Recognition of prior learning

Some providers have failed to reduce the funding claimed for learners who have relevant prior learning. The ESFA has even introduced a new report in the Provider Data Self-Assessment Tool (PDSAT) to help providers understand where they may have failed to reduce the price – and to allow the Agency to monitor provider data on this too of course.

Top tip: If you aren’t checking your ILR data using the PDSAT every month, start now. And if all of your apprenticeships are charged at the same rate for all learners, then the likelihood is that you have an issue and need to review who should have their funding reduced because of prior learning or experience.

2. Ineligible costs

You can’t calculate how to reduce the funding for RPL if you don’t have a model of how the costs of the apprenticeship have been calculated in the first place using eligible costs only.

Top tip: Create a template for calculating the cost of every apprenticeship standard or framework you deliver and check this against the eligible costs in the funding rules. Use this baseline model of costing to justify your Total Negotiated Price (TNP) price and amend this baseline to evidence reduction of price tailored for each learner who has RPL.

3. Minimum duration

This is one of the easiest rules to comply with and yet according to the recent findings, it’s one of the most common – and potentially most costly – errors! If this condition is not met, the whole apprenticeship for that learner will be ineligible for funding.

Top tip: As well as checking that all your apprenticeships meet the minimum duration rules, double-check that reducing the content of the apprenticeship to account for RPL doesn’t take the length of the apprenticeship below the minimum duration.

4. Off-the-job training

This is another one essential for funding, and if this condition is not met, the whole apprenticeship for that learner is ineligible for funding.

Top tip: Like the top tip for eligible costs, create a template for modelling how off-the-job training will be delivered for every framework or standard during the given duration. Then tailor it for every apprentice who has the content reduced due to RPL. Evidence of actual off-the-job training needs to be recorded for every learner and needs to evidence that it matches the model.

Check that 20% off-the-job has actually been delivered before completion and/or end point assessment.

5. Commitment statement and apprenticeship agreement

The information recorded on the commitment statement must reconcile with the apprenticeship agreement and the ILR. The absence of this evidence may result in a funding error.

Top tip: This isn’t just an induction process – you may need to update all three documents with relevant changes in circumstances such as breaks in learning, changes of job title, pathway or standard.

6. Learning start, learner status, learning end dates

This one is as old as the hills and sounds very simple, yet so many providers get caught out by it. Basically, if you are claiming funding for a learner starting their apprenticeship, you need to have evidence that they have started learning – not just been enrolled, inducted or started a new job. You need evidence that they have to have started learning activity related to the content of their apprenticeship.

Once they have started, if an apprentice is noted on your ILR as in learning, you need to be able to evidence at audit that they are undertaking learning on an ongoing basis. Again, don’t assume that attendance at work or college is evidence of learning, unless you can prove that they were there doing learning activity which forms part of their apprenticeship.

If a learner takes a break in learning or they withdraw from their apprenticeship you must be able to evidence learning up to the withdrawal date. If you can’t then you should change the withdrawal date to correspond with the last piece of learning evidence you have, even if that means drawing down less funding. With work-based learning particularly it’s very easy to get caught out because learners often withdraw because of dismissal at the end of a lengthy disciplinary process during which the learner is not engaged with learning. In that circumstance the end date on the ILR should be the last date of learning taking place and not the last date of employment.

Top tip: Review your learner list every month to check that they really are all in learning. This is where an eportfolio really comes into its own as you have an audit trail of learning taking place.

7. Employment status

Having stated at the start there were no surprises, I wasn’t expecting employment status to crop up in the findings. It’s simple – an apprenticeship is work-based learning; if the learner isn’t in employment, then they aren’t an apprentice and you can’t draw down funding for their learning.

Top tip: Don’t get caught out by signing up learners before their contract start date and using that as their enrolment date and the ILR learning start date (see also 2 above). It may only be a difference of a few days but they aren’t employed according to the funding rules.

8. Payment of employer contributions and small employer waiver

For delivery to non-Levy employers you need to evidence that you have invoiced the 10% contribution. For any employers where you are charging above the maximum funding cap, you also need to show that you have invoiced them for this difference.

Top tip: Invest in a student management system with good functionality around financial records and invoicing. For employers with 49 or fewer employees, make sure that you have a signed declaration from them before you deliver any learning.

9. English and maths

All learners who complete their level 1 English or maths should be offered the opportunity to study at level 2.

Top tip: Build this into your level 1 completion process. Could you hand out a letter with the certificate? You don’t just need to do it – you need to be able to evidence that it’s being done which can be difficult if none of your learners go on to study at level 2. 

These are my top tips to help you build audit preparation into your everyday delivery – but as always, they aren’t a substitute for reading the full document.

Young Care Leavers are Missing Out on Apprenticeship Opportunities
December 9, 2019
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Young care leavers are missing out on apprenticeship opportunities as experts warned they are not receiving adequate support to transition into sustainable careers.

The Children’s Society and Catch 22 are calling for more changes to the apprenticeship levy to encourage this underserved group into work and help care leavers see apprenticeships as a financially viable opportunity.

The latest Department for Education figures show 39 per cent of care leavers aged 19-21 are not in employment, education or training, compared to 12 per cent of those in the same age group.

At the launch event yesterday the charities launched their new Bright Light programme.

The pilot, funded by The Clothworkers’ Foundation, will offer holistic and tailored support to London’s young care leavers to help them into apprenticeships, employment or further education.

Emma Allix, Catch22’s Programme Manager for Bright Light, says:

“It is vital that employers are understanding of the personal barriers these young people face, and that they offer effective long-term support. We all have a responsibility to be better corporate parents to care leavers, and with the additional help with transport costs, training, or just improving access, we can change these young peoples’ lives. By offering this support to these young people, employers will see loyal, motivated employees, likely to build a long-term career with their organisation.

“We want those who contribute to the apprenticeship levy to dedicate half their expenditure to those under 30. It is equally important that employers are supported and encouraged to take on apprentices too.”

Peter Grigg, External Affairs Director at The Children’s Society, adds: 

“We know through our work that care leavers face a myriad of issues when looking to their future. They have not had the parental guidance needed to navigate the world of job hunting nor will they have the financial backing to take up an apprenticeship that pays just £3.30 per hour. This low wage is simply not enough to live on. That is why we are calling on the first year apprenticeship rate to be brought in line with under 18 minimum wage. This additional money would remove some of the financial barriers and hopefully reduce the disproportionate number of care leavers not in education, employment or training.”

Bright Light will enable care leavers to achieve the best possible outcomes when transitioning from care into adulthood and employment. The course will provide one to one support for up to 18 months. Career coaches will help each individual build their confidence, to understand employer expectations, interview techniques, budgeting, the importance of time management and more.

Loveth Benson, a 22 year old from East London, is one of Bright Light’s first participants. Loveth is currently at university but was signposted to the course because of the struggles she has faced in trying to find a job.

Loveth explained:

“I was in care at 15 and lived with foster families, then at 17 I was living in semi-supported housing, which was quite regulated, so I wasn’t allowed to get a part-time job. When I could get a job, I didn’t know what to put on my CV, or how to even do one. I didn’t know how to write a personal statement or a cover letter, and there was no one to ask for help… no parents. This course is helping me to find out more about these things.”

Loveth hopes being part of Bright Light will help her achieve her dream career:

“I really want to be a social worker. Being in care, I met lots of young people with different issues and backgrounds, but all of them had no one they could ask for help… I want to be able to help them. I have only just started the course but we have already looked at jobs that can help me achieve my goals.”

AELP Fears re ESFA Subcontracting Ban
November 19, 2019
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The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) has today recommended a new, more “robust approach” to subcontracting in an effort to avoid an outright ban.

Subcontracting in FE, the practice of one provider paying another to deliver the training, has never been far from scandal and controversy. It has already been banned for advanced learner loan funded courses.

AELP fear funding agency considering outright subcontracting ban

In what the AELP describes as a “last chance saloon” for subcontracting apprenticeships and adult education budget funding, its chief executive, Mark Dawe, claims “by incorporating the recommendations in our submission into its rules, the agency can avoid ministers demanding a ban”.

The ESFA announced plans last month for a radical overhaul of its subcontracting rules amid high-profile cases of fraud, while Ofsted has launched research into the practice.

In its submission, the AELP said the “vast majority” of subcontracting is “high quality” and officials must not take a “damagingly blunt” approach to address the behaviours of a small number of providers.

The requirement and expectations of main providers who subcontract out government funding should be “much more robust” in order to ensure integrity.

AELP has produced a checklist of the “minimum expectations” of the main provider, which they say is significantly above and beyond the current ESFA rules and “should be adopted across the sector”.

This includes: acceptable fees, charges and additional services, quality monitoring and quality assurance, MIS, audit and ILR services, and contracting management (read the full report here).

The association says there also needs to be clarity on the “different types of subcontracting and what is and what isn’t a subcontract to help alleviate confusion across the sector, including with employers”.

AELP has used its submission paper to again call again for fees and charges not to exceed 20 per cent of the funding – a recommendation that has been adopted by the Greater London Authority and other mayoral combined authorities with devolved adult education funding.

This maximum cap would “block the profiteering of a small number of providers who commoditise their privileged access to government funding and ensure value for money”.

AELP adds that there should be a clear policy on management fees and charges being only applicable to core funding and not additional funding “designed to support specific groups of learners or to support certain additional needs”.

ESFA should also procure funding from providers that is “continuously subcontracted out on a transitional basis”, the association’s submission said.

“Recent examples of subcontracting malpractice do not justify at all a call for an outright ban on subcontracting in the sector, but a much more robust approach on the part of the ESFA and Ofsted would make a huge difference in stopping further examples occurring,” Dawe (pictured) said.

“Over the last ten years, AELP feels that the ESFA has rather dragged its heels in making the required changes needed in its funding rules to put the issue to bed and we are probably now in the last chance saloon.”

He added: “Let’s have no more prevarication around this issue which has been damaging the sector’s reputation for far too long. Change the rules now.”

Eileen Milner, the chief executive of the ESFA, sent a sector-wide letter last month warning of rule changes to subcontracting and that she will take strong action against any provider that abuses the system.

She said there are currently 11 live investigations into subcontracting, with issues underpinning them ranging in seriousness from “complacency and mismanagement”, through to matters of “deliberate and systematic fraud”.

She revealed the government will review its current subcontracting rules later this year.

Ofsted’s research will mainly look at whether management fees, which have controversially grown to as much as 40 per cent on subcontract values, are having a detrimental impact on learners’ education.

There have been a number of high-profile subcontracting scandals in recent years. The most recent involved Brooklands College and resulted in the ESFA demanding a £20 million clawback.

Oxfordshire Advanced Skills Centre Officially Opened
November 6, 2019
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F1 engineering legend – and former UKAEA apprentice – Ross Brawn came to Culham Science Centre to open the new training academy.

The new Oxfordshire Advanced Skills (OAS) apprentice training centre has opened its doors at Culham.

OAS Director David Martin, engineering apprentices Rebecca Marsh and Ella Quigley, and F1 managing director Ross Brawn

OAS – which has the capacity to teach up to 350 young people a year – aims to increase the number of technicians and engineers for local employers. This is in part to plug the high skills gap in the county, which is one of the UK’s leading areas for science and innovation. Already almost 20 hi-tech employers are benefitting from having technicians trained at the facility.

OAS is a partnership between the UK Atomic Energy Authority and the Science and Technologies Facilities Council. It opened in an existing building on the Culham site in 2016 but the purpose-built training complex will enable it to expand its programmes using state-of-the-art equipment.

Guest of honour at the opening event was Ross Brawn – who enjoyed a successful career in motorsport including at Benetton and Ferrari and is now Formula 1’s managing director.

He said: “I am truly delighted to be present at the opening of Oxfordshire Advanced Skills, and the place where it all began for me as a young apprentice at the UK Atomic Energy Authority.

“My time here provided me with the skills and experience I needed to go out into the wider engineering world, and it laid the foundation for the career path I have pursued.

“Apprentices are our next generation of designers, engineers and global problem solvers, and the importance of advanced skills training in the modern world – alongside facilities like the OAS – has never been so important.”

The new OAS building has industry-standard equipment covering a wide range of engineering and technology disciplines.

David Martin, OAS Director, and another former UKAEA apprentice, said: “The vision was an employer-led skills hub that would provide high quality training contextualised by being delivered in the workplace, but OAS is so much more than that. We have created something very special here that has the potential to impact careers and business performance for decades to come.”

Training at the centre is provided by the MTC Apprenticeships, based on the model they have successfully developed at their Coventry engineering skills academy.

Paul Rowlett, MTC Managing Director, said: “We are delighted to be working with UKAEA and STFC to deliver the Oxfordshire Advanced Skills training programme. There is a clear synergy and shared vision across our organisations.”

The next phase of OAS is already being planned. As well as extending the facility at Culham to cover robotics and power engineering training, OAS will add a skills centre at Harwell Campus for apprentices in the space sector as part of the rapidly growing Space Cluster there.

Steps to Making Apprenticeships Work in a Small Business
October 29, 2019
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Many small businesses think they don’t have time or resources to support an apprentice, but in fact, taking one on can help grow your business, if it’s done in the right way. 

The following article is by Anthony Impey.

Anthony Impey

As a small business owner, I know only too well that there is never enough time.

The day-to-day necessities of running a business consume every waking hour, leaving little or no room to work on those projects that you would love to do but never quite find the time. Small businesses often give this reason for not hiring an apprentice.

Research by the Federation of Small Businesses earlier this year confirms that management time is one of the most significant challenges that small businesses have with engaging with apprenticeships, with nearly one in three businesses reporting this as an issue. Another survey three years ago painted a very similar picture.

Setting out what’s expected of the apprentice, and the need to balance earning with learning, is crucial to achieving a return on investment as soon as possible.

There are many small businesses that do champion apprenticeships, however, and report positive results for their organisations.  

This raises the question: are apprenticeships a big burden on small businesses or is this a misguided perception?

In my experience, those small businesses that get great results from hiring apprentices do so by following a series of practical steps that are not wildly different from the systems and processes used for their other employees.

While there is a degree of adaptation to support apprentices, this extra effort is offset by the return on investment that begins, for some organisations, as quickly as three months after the apprentice starts.

Step #1: identify the business case for hiring an apprentice

It’s important that there is a solid business need driving the use of an apprenticeship, whether it’s to build the skills needed instead of hiring expensive fully-trained individuals, to develop your competitive advantage through building your own talent or to offer career progression for your existing team.

Step #2: adapt the recruitment process

For apprentices that are starting their first job, a traditional interview may not be the best approach to identify the most suitable candidates.

Simulated work, team exercises and even saying an interview is a mock interview, often produces better results.  

Step #3: kick-start with a tailored induction

While some small businesses may only have a very simple induction process for new team members, it’s essential to have one specifically for an apprentice.

Setting out what’s expected of the apprentice, and the need to balance earning with learning, is crucial to achieving a return on investment as soon as possible.

Step #4: set objectives

As with any member of a team, objectives that stretch and develop an apprentice will underpin their performance.

Linking objectives to their studies will further accelerate the rate that they start adding value.

Step #5: commit to the process of learning

As with many things, you get out what you put into an apprenticeship.

For employers, this means providing apprentices with the time and opportunity they need to study, whether that’s learning from others in the workplace or studying with fellow apprentices in a classroom.

With technology enabling many apprentices to study whenever and wherever, learning can be fitted to suit the unpredictable nature of many jobs.

At the same time, allowing apprentices to put what they have learnt into practice will help reinforce their knowledge and accelerate their positive impact.

Step #6: surround your apprentice with great people

If the size of your team will allow, there are three key roles that will help an apprentice thrive in your workplace:

  • A line manager who understands what the apprentice is studying and champions their development.
  • Someone who can mentor the apprentice’s professional development.
  • A peer who can provide practical support and advice to the apprentice.

The benefit of this is felt not just by the apprentice – those that support apprentices often say how much it has driven their own professional development.

Step #7: work with your training provider

Large employers with several apprentices are able influence the type of training they receive from a training provider.

While smaller organisations lack the scale to do this, they can still build a close relationship with their training provider with regular two-way communication about the progress of their apprentice and the content of the training.  

This will ensure that there is always a close connection between what is learnt off-the-job and on-the-job.

Step #8: get feedback

Regular feedback from your apprentice will enable you to refine and adapt their development and improve the rate at which they build new skills.  

Encouraging their involvement in peer and membership networks, such as the Young Apprentice Ambassador Network, will also empower them to believe their voice matters.

Step #9: foster wellbeing

We know only too well the stresses that can build-up in the workplace. For apprentices, this can be magnified by having to juggle work commitments with learning responsibilities, no matter where they are in their careers.

The transition from school, college or university to an apprenticeship can be very challenging while existing team members who are doing an apprenticeship to upskill may struggle to start learning if they’ve been away from education for some time.  

Being sensitive to these issues and making support easily available will make a huge difference.