Levy confusion: Final SFA apprenticeship allocation meeting cancelled

Levy confusion: Final SFA apprenticeship allocation meeting cancelled

A key meeting that the Skills Funding Agency was supposed to hold today, to reach final decisions on which providers will be allocated a non-levy employer funding allocation, has been cancelled.

FE Week has also learned that no date has been set, for when this will be rescheduled.

The Skills Funding Agency was due to hold the meeting, where amounts that providers will receive supposed to be agreed, following publication of the results of the applications to the new Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers .

This has also not been published.

SFA staff had briefed stakeholder that they would share decisions made today on March 14, but the process now appears to have stalled.

News of the cancellation comes shortly before the apprenticeship levy is due to go live next month.

It also follows a distinct lack of interest shown by providers, in competing for SFA contracts to deliver training to small and medium sized businesses from May.

FE Week reported in November that a quarter of apprenticeship providers had declined this opportunity, through the first round of applications for the RoATP.

When asked why today’s meeting had been cancelled, and if this meant the process had effectively ground to a halt, a DfE spokesperson would only say this morning: “The RoATP application instruction document states that results will be communicated to providers in early March 2017. That remains the case.”

She added the SFA was still “finalising” the results for the apprenticeship allocations to non-levy employers. These would also be communicated to providers in early March, she claimed.

Initial applications to join the RoATP, which providers have to be on if they want to deliver apprenticeship starts from May 1, closed on November 25.

FE Week analysis showed a week later that 1,753 providers applied to the register, to be able to deliver training directly or as a sub-contractor to large, levy-paying employers.

Of these, just 1,310 – or 75 per cent – also applied to deliver training to smaller, non-levy paying employers.

This meant that 25 per cent of providers turned down the opportunity to receive an allocation to deliver apprenticeships to companies that won’t be subject to the levy.

The SFA then announced on February 8 that it “will reopen the register for new applicants and/or those who were unsuccessful in their initial application.

“The re-opening will be soon after the first planned publication, probably in March,” a spokesperson added.

FE Week asked the department that evening if this was a panic measure to bring in more providers, and if the results of this second window would now be published before May 1.

The DfE took two weeks to respond, eventually saying on February 22 that this wasn’t a sign of panic.

But the question over when the results of the second process will be published remained unanswered.