NAS concerned about quality following rapid apprenticeship expansion

NAS concerned about quality following rapid apprenticeship expansion

The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) and Skills Funding Agency have this week published a statement (click here) saying they are “determined to see that recent rapid expansion of Apprenticeships is not achieved at the expense of quality”.

This follows exclusive coverage published by FE Week which detailed training providers delivering 12 Week Apprenticeships (click here) as well as the dramatic surge in 25+ apprenticeship starts (click here).

The NAS ‘Statement on the Quality of Apprenticeship Delivery Models’ says: “NAS will work with the Skills Fuding Agency and look critically at Apprenticeships delivered in a condensed way” and where the learner does not need to achieve the full apprenticeship framework “partial completion should be reflected in a reduction in the funding”.

The Statement also stresses that “An apprentice must be employed in a job role with a productive purpose, which will allow them to have the wider employment experience key to an Apprenticeship.

NAS will work with the Skills Funding Agency and look critically at Apprenticeships delivered in a condensed way”

“It is not acceptable for a provider or associated organisation to directly employ apprentices without such real work, purely with the intention of them achieving the Apprenticeship” and “Apprenticeship funding provided by The Skills Funding Agency cannot be used to pay Apprenticeship wages”.

The NAS employ more than 300 staff, most of whom have been focused on selling apprenticeships to employers and achieving government targets. However, with targets for the number of 19+ apprenticeship starts smashed early and questions being raised about the quality of delivery, their remit has recently changed.

A BIS spokesperson said: “A clearer role and remit for the NAS has been set out by Business Secretary Vince Cable. On 18 July the Secretary of State issued a Direction to the Chief Executive of Skills Funding Agency requiring him to delegate a range of functions to the Chief Executive Officer of the NAS”.

BIS went on to tell FE Week that the NAS will now be “accountable for ensuring quality and standards and securing value for money for public investment in apprenticeships. The underpinning services that will support these new arrangements are currently being finalised within the NAS and Skills Funding Agency and are expected to be in place by early autumn.”

It remains unclear how the NAS sales force will take on a new quality assurance role, but their statement concludes that they “will continue to work with external partners including AELP, AoC and Ofsted to develop this statement as part of our joint ambition to support the delivery of high quality Apprenticeships. We will also look to issue updates and examples on how this statement is applied in practice.”

Questions also remain as to how the NAS will monitor delivery models and value for money given a recent announcement from the Skills Funding Agency that to “reduce bureaucracy and to simplify the future funding of adult skills” they will no longer collect Apprenticeship group and one to one delivery hour data from providers (click here).