The Association of Employment and Learning Providers has claimed that some large employers are auctioning off access to their Apprentice Levy funding pots. The AELP has come out strongly in its response to the government’s plans for reforming the funding of apprenticeships and has focused its ire on the proposal of making funding rates negotiable.
“Funding rates should not be negotiable,” the submission stated. “Fundamentally we still believe negotiating a price for education and training is wrong. There is no other part of DfE’s education and training system where the rates for delivery are not set. We believe that keeping negotiated funding will lead to a fall in quality of provision and impact the social mobility agenda.
“Such a policy encourages inappropriate behaviour and, for example, we are already seeing employers asking providers to pay them to have access to their levy – this has to be wrong.” The AELP’s solution is simple: all apprenticeship funding should be set rates.
‘Funding has been slashed’
The AELP also claims that 16-18 funding is not adequate, saying that it had received a high volume of concern from members who engage with 340,000 employers. “The fundamental issue appears to be the Framework funding rate for 16 – 18. In many cases the funding has been slashed; however there is no properly priced apprenticeship Standard to move to.
The AELP says it fears that the removal of area uplift and disadvantage uplift from funding rates would mean that “learners with most need will be abandoned and areas such as central London will become apprenticeship deserts.
In the AELP’s view, the solution lies in maintaining the framework funding rates at current rates until there is an approved Standard and costed End Point Assessment to move to, that has been in place for at least 6 months.”
Timeframe is ‘too short’
In common with several observers – including business groups and employers – the AELP is also concerned with the proposed timeframes for implementation, saying that the register and procurement timescales before going live are now too tight. “The timing of announcing whether a provider is on the register through to starting learners is too short,” the AELP says.
Indeed, the AELP says it fears the system will collapse, “As there will be insufficient time between March 2017’s confirmation of a provider’s ability to deliver Apprenticeships and enabling starts from May 1st
The Association suggests a set of solution to these concerns, including:
Learner transition – A key transitional principle should be that any existing learner is able to complete with the same funding, same expected end date, same prime provider and same subcontracting arrangements whether or not their provider(s) is/are on the new register and whether or not the subcontracting is valid under any new rules.
New apprentice starts for levy paying employers begin from 1 May 2017 and will be delivered by providers from the new apprenticeship register.
Non levy paying employers’ Apprenticeships will be delivered by existing providers using their existing contracts through to 31 July 2017. These contracts are already in place and would just need a variation to allow starts up to end-July 2017. New starts from 1 August 2017 would be from the providers with new contracts. This would allow time from March to August 2017 to sort out any procurement process issues, e.g. minor incomplete submissions rather than failed submissions and contract size problems
Subcontractors are required to be on the apprenticeship register by April 2018 to continue to deliver for all new starts – to allow limited resource to focus on getting the prime contractors on the register for levy payers and contracts set up for non- levy paying leads.