Providers escape ‘£2m’ bill as fee plan dropped

Providers escape ‘£2m’ bill as fee plan dropped

Apprenticeship providers have escaped a potential sector bill of more than £2m after the body which issues completion certificates for all frameworks scrapped plans to introduce a charge for resubmitted forms.

The Federation for Industry Sector Skills and Standards (FISSS) wants to simplify its process for applying for the certificate in a bid to bring down a rejection rate that two years ago stood at 29 per cent of the 354,487 forms handed in.

It is understood the rate has since fallen with new guidelines and the introduction of the ACE-it online database of example applications.

FISSS, which took over responsibility for issuing completion certificates from the individual sector skills councils in January 2012, is also scrapping the physical Apprenticeship Certificate England (ACE) declaration form and moving to a simpler, online process with which it hopes to help get the rejection rate down to 10 per cent.

It had also considered applying the £22 submission fee to resubmissions — and based on the 2013 numbers such a move would have cost providers, who submit the forms, a total of more than £2m.

But Mark Froud, FISSS managing director, told FE Week: “We spoke to providers and not surprisingly they weren’t overly keen on that as a route — but they were very helpful and came up with lots of different suggestions about how to handle the process going forward.”

The plans to simplify the application process were unveiled by FISSS chair Brian Wisdom at the FE Week Annual Apprenticeship Conference in central London last week.

The new online system is due to launch next month.

“We’ve made the system a lot simpler and easier for training providers to use,” said Mr Froud.

“The ACE declaration form accounts for about 50 per cent of all rejections — so what we’ve done is embed it in our IT system so most of the information we require is drawn down through our IT system.

“Now, all the training provider has to do is go through a very simple electronic procedure, check all the required information is there, and tick the box confirming it.”

He added: “We hope the changes will take the rejection rate down below 10 per cent, which is probably still too high.

“We will review the new system on a weekly basis — if it’s not working, we’ll withdraw it, go back to the old systems and try again.

“But we’re fairly confident this will simplify things still further.”

And in addition, said Mr Froud, FISSS would also remove the requirement for apprentices to submit a consent form to FISSS, via the provider, giving the provider permission to apply for the completion certificate.

Instead, providers will confirm they have a copy of the consent form on record and FISSS will carry out random spot checks.

The move has been welcomed by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, whose chief executive, Steward Segal, said: “We are pleased the process for applying for a certificate is being simplified.”