The De Vere Academy of Hospitality has been given permission by the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) to start all of their learners on an access to apprenticeship.

“As agreed with NAS and the Skills Funding Agency (SFA), De Vere’s work trial programme allows all starts to be on a six week access pathway with the intention for learners to begin a full apprenticeship at week seven,” a spokesperson for NAS told FE Week.

The decision overrules version three of the Funding Rules for 2012/13, published by the SFA earlier this week.

Under paragraph 70, It says:  “Providers must not recruit more than ten per cent of their apprenticeship starts onto the access to apprenticeship pathway without the prior agreement of their Agency Relationship Manager.”

The De Vere Academy of Hospitality is advertising two access to apprenticeship schemes on its website, which both last seven weeks and include two or three “work trials”.

Learners are paid a training subsidy of £30 per week for the first fortnight, which is as an induction period spread out over three days for 20 hours. The learner’s hours are then extended over the next month to a maximum of 30 hours per week, when The De Vere Academy will decide whether or not to move them onto a full apprenticeship framework.

However, the Funding Rules for 2012/13 say that on an access to apprenticeship framework, the learner should spent the majority of their time “in a substantive work placement” with the same number of hours “as expected for those on a full apprenticeship”.

Kellie Rixon MBE, group brand development director at the De Vere Group told FE Week the model was useful for both the learner and employer to see if hospitality was the right career choice.

“As we deal with a large proportion of particularly challenging young people, it has been helpful in understanding and evaluating if an apprenticeship is really the right route for them,” she said.

The SFA allocated £9,679,626 to the De Vere Group, known as the Alternative Hotel Group, for the 2011/12 academic year, according to government data published earlier this week.

It includes more than £8 million for apprentices aged 16 to 18.

NAS said they have worked “extensively” with the De Vere Academy and People 1st, the sector skills council for the hospitality industry, to develop the access to apprenticeship model so it meets their “required quality standards”.

Sarah Benioff, national apprenticeship director for quality, programme and the apprenticeship vacancy service at NAS told FE Week:  “These are work experience programmes designed to provide young, unemployed people aged 16 to 24 with extra support and the opportunity to trial job roles in a certain sector before moving into employment as an apprentice.

“Access programmes provide progression into apprenticeships and are an important pathway to help more young people into employment and skills training.”

FE Week revealed last June how The De Vere Academy of Hospitality was delivering apprenticeships in 12 to 16 weeks.

The hotelier was then one of the providers the SFA and NAS looked into as part of their review into short apprenticeships.

A statement issued to FE Week by NAS last October confirmed they would be working with The De Vere Group and People 1st to develop ‘a tailored access to apprenticeship pathway’.

The De Vere Group later defended the programme, saying they had achieved “outstanding” success rates and were helping to address youth unemployment.

However, in December the company announced its current apprenticeship scheme, which lasts at least 12 months and follows on from the seven week access to apprenticeship framework.

Simon Waugh, then chief executive of NAS said: “We are confident that the new delivery model proposed by De Vere meets the comprehensive quality standards…as well as continuing to meet the specific needs of employers in the sector and young people wanting to work in hospitality.”