Apprenticeship Vacancy system ‘under scrutiny’

Sanctions are being considered for providers who fail to advertise vacancies on the Apprenticeship Vacancy (AV) system, an e-mail seen by FE Week reveals.

From August 2010, providers were contractually required to use the AV system, managed by the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), to advertise their own vacancies and also of those of any subcontractors.

The e-mail, sent to providers from representatives at the Skills Funding Agency, states the AV system is “under scrutiny” and that the Agency has been “asked to speak with providers with little or no usage statistics”.

It then shows a reminder to the provider of their own use of the system.

It adds: “NAS is undertaking an analysis and review of all providers, looking at Apprenticeship vacancy usage against ILR starts, in order to ascertain providers that are in breach of the Skills Funding Agency contract.

“Providers are also responsible for ensuring their subcontractor’s vacancies are posted on AV. Although this is yet not determined, NAS are considering a range of sanctions that might be used where providers are in breach of contract.”

Possible sanctions, according to the e-mail, include lack of growth to contract for adult skills and apprenticeship contracts.

They also include no employer leads being passed to providers from NAS, providers not being able to participate in marketing or publicity opportunities, and stopping ‘starts’ payments if a vacancy was not advertised through the AV system.

However, Sarah Benioff, director of quality at the NAS, denied that any current plans are in place for sanctions – but did not rule it out for the future.

She said: “At the NAS’ request, Skills Funding Agency relationship teams have been in contact with providers and colleges to offer advice and support to those who are currently not using the AV system.

“Apprenticeship providers are contractually required to use the AV system to advertise their own vacancies and those of any subcontractors. Usage of the system is growing strongly and there are no plans to apply any sanctions for those not using the system.

“We will consider other measures as necessary in future.”

The AV system, say the NAS, is intended for all apprenticeship providers and employers to benefit from a “free and flexible recruitment website and a wide range of candidates, and for potential apprentices to access all current vacancies in one place.”

However, providers have given a mixed reaction to the system

Paul Butler, business development director at Making Your Mark (LOTA), said that they solely use the AV system, with around 70 current vacancies listed.

He said: “We don’t have a problem using it. We found the site to be a good marketing tool. Going through agencies and local papers can cost a lot of money.”

However, Mr Butler is unsure of the use of the site by other providers in Essex as around “one-third” of vacancies for the county are for Marking Your Mark.

A staff member at a different provider, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I have had comments from employers that it is not detailed enough.

“It is a good tool, because it attracts candidates who are specifically looking for an apprenticeship, but because it is an online system they do not seem to know how to sell themselves as well via this method.”