Apprenticeship review targets 45 providers

More than 40 colleges and training providers are being investigated as part of the review into short duration apprenticeships.

“We are working with the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) to consider the outcomes of each review of short provision,” a National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) spokesperson said.

“Action is already in hand to investigate cases where there is cause for concern, with 45 different colleges and private training providers being closely reviewed.”

The investigation follows an initial review which judged all apprenticeship provision against the Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (SASE) and Delivery Model Guidance.

Teresa Frith, senior skills policy manager at the Association of Colleges (AoC), said: “It should be noted that there are 45 provider organisations being investigated – this does not necessarily indicate that all 45 cannot justify their delivery models.

“Indeed three existing frameworks are recommended by Sector Skills Councils as needing less than 12 months for completion, so there is a likelihood that at least some will come through their investigation in a positive fashion.”

A spokesperson for the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) added: “AELP will support action by the NAS that addresses cases of poor quality provision whether it is relation to a college or an independent provider.

“However, we note there are 45 cases out of a total cohort of some 1,000 skills providers and we shouldn’t rush to judgement on the extent of the overall problem before we know the outcome of each case review.”

The 157 Group says these colleges and training providers are likely to be under review because of the confusion surrounding best apprenticeship practise.

“Although 45 different colleges and private training providers are being closely reviewed, this does not necessarily mean that they are culpable of any wrong-doing,” a spokesperson for the 157 Group said.

“If anything, in a time of policy upheavals, changes and challenges, this number is most likely to be reflective of the inevitable current confusion around best apprenticeship practise.”

The review into quality and short duration apprenticeships has led to a number of new measures which were announced by John Hayes MP, Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, in the House of Commons last month.

The new measures include a minimum duration of 12 months for all apprentices aged 16 to 18, as well as a requirement for every apprenticeship programme to deliver “significant new learning”, rather than accrediting existing knowledge and experience.

Mr Hayes said: “If the standards are sufficiently stretching and the expectations of competence high, I believe that a course should naturally extend over at least 12 months. That will be the expectation first for 16 to 18 year-old apprentices from August 2012, as new contracts to training providers are issued.”

The new measures are part of a Quality Action Plan which will allow the NAS to tighten contracts and immediately withdraw public money from apprenticeship providers who are failing to meet the appropriate standards of quality.

“The review of short provision provided some of the content and direction for our Quality Action Plan,” a NAS spokesperson said.

“During 2012, we will work with the Skills Funding Agency, Sector Skills Councils, and other partners across the sector to implement each of the recommendations in the Quality Action Plan, including those on short duration Apprenticeships.”

The spokesperson added that apprenticeship programmes which do not meet the relevant standards, but still offer “valuable support to young people” will be referred to other agencies such as the SFA for consideration.

The De Vere Academy of Hospitality is one provider which has already announced a new apprenticeship programme following the review by NAS, which be launched on February 1 and last at least 12 months.