Dozens of providers exempt from rule

Forty providers are exempt from funding rules that ban introductory apprenticeships where more than 10 per cent of learners are out of work, FE Week can reveal.

The 40 were over the limit before its introduction this year and so were told to carry on — although they have been ordered to try to hit the target.

It has also emerged that the The De Vere Academy of Hospitality is the only provider given “formal approval” to keep running its access courses with more than 10 per cent unemployed.

The permission, from the Skills Funding Agency and the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), allows the academy to bypass funding rules, which state: “Providers must not recruit more than 10 per cent of their apprenticeship starts on to the access to apprenticeship pathway without the prior agreement of their agency relationship manager.”

The agency is working with these providers to support transition and ensure new apprentices do not exceed 10 per cent,”

A spokesperson for NAS said: “The 10 per cent rule on access was introduced with the 2012/13 funding rules, published at the end of May 2012.

“Providers delivering access before the changes did not require approval to deliver above 10 per cent, as no rule applied at that time.

“We can confirm that 40 providers are legitimately exceeding 10 per cent having done so before the introduction of the new rule.

“No further providers have been given formal approval by the agency to deliver above 10 per cent.”

She said providers who exceeded the limit before May needed time to change.

“The agency is working with these providers to support transition and ensure new apprentices do not exceed 10 per cent,” she added.

De Vere was the only provider that could continue to exceed 10 per cent as it used a new model that attempted “to address a specific need identified by the sector and using a sector-led solution. As with any new developed initiative it is being closely monitored and assessed.”

The full list of the 40 providers is subject to an FE Week Freedom of Information request.

The De Vere Academy advertised two access courses on its website earlier this year. Both were to last seven weeks and included two or three “work trials”.

However, funding rules say that learners on these courses should spend most of their time “in a substantive work placement” with the same number of hours “as expected for those on a full apprenticeship”.

The De Vere Group has defended its programme saying that it had achieved “outstanding” success rates and was helping to address youth unemployment.

The SFA allocated £9.6m to the De Vere Group, known as the Alternative Hotel Group, for the 2011/12 academic year, according to government figures. It included more than £8m for apprentices aged 16 to 18.