The new chief executive at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), Mark Dawe, is keen to portray his members as the apprenticeship ‘experts’ that colleges go to for help.

The scale of college subcontracting should come as no surprise to the Skills Minister and readers of FE Week, which has regularly reported on the issue since our first edition in 2011.

However, what is as welcome as it is surprising, is Mr Dawe’s decision to criticise the continued growth in subcontracting.

Readers of my previous editorials on subcontracting will be familiar with my concern over top-slicing arrangements.

But what’s surprising is that the membership body for so many of the subcontractors has criticised the growth in their use.

Many subcontractors I speak to are happiest out of the spotlight of a direct Skills Funding Agency (SFA) contract.

It’s an important intervention, although with increasingly diminished resources at the SFA it seems unlikely they will rush to issue new direct contracts.

It also leaves the Association of Colleges exposed and alone in failing to face up to the truth.

There continues to be too much subcontracting, and the SFA should step in to reverse the trend.

Will the apprenticeship levy be a subcontracting game-changer alone?

That, like so much of the levy plans, remains unclear, untested and uncertain.