The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) has questioned the way learners are employed by Apprenticeship Training Agencies (ATAs).
An article in the association’s weekly briefing, written by Graham Hoyle, chief executive of AELP, said there had been “simmering disquiet” from members about the legitimacy of the ATA model.
“For many the capacity allowing the ATA to employ the apprentice is seen simply as a device to get round the dictat, supported by AELP, that all apprentices must be employed.
“It is perceived as a concession to a few to circumvent what is otherwise seen as a rigid stipulation, one which merely legitimises the continuation of the now outlawed programme led apprenticeships,” he said.
Mr Hoyle suggested in his article, which was sent to David Way, chief executive of the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), that ATAs be forced to deliver pre-apprenticeship or access to apprenticeship programmes until the learner was hired full-time by the employer.
He said providers would then be encouraged to develop a mixture of programmes aimed at progressing learners on a full apprenticeship “at the earliest opportunity”.
However, in a written response Mr Way said these concerns had been addressed with the introduction of the ATA Recognition Process.
The process, managed in partnership with the Confederation of Apprenticeship Training Agencies (COATA), meant colleges and training providers could only work with ATAs approved by NAS from 2012/13.
“All ATA apprentices are employed from day one of their apprenticeship by the ATA and undertake their apprenticeship programme with a host employer in real sustainable employment where they are able to complete their apprenticeship,” Mr Way said.
Peter Pledger, chairman of COATA said: “Graham Hoyle, he’s thrown in all the ATA manifestations all into one pot and damned the lot of them.
“It seems to me to be a fundamental misunderstanding about what an ATA actually is.
“An ATA is not a training provider, an ATA is an employer and it seems to me that he has missed that point.”
Mr Pledger said COATA would meet with NAS, AELP and the Association of Colleges later this month to discuss any issues.