The Chartered Institution for FE has recruited just one new college and two independent training providers in the last six months.
The two ITPs welcomed into the CIFE today are Steadfast Training Ltd, rated ‘good’ by Ofsted in 2014, and Skills Group, rated ‘outstanding’ in 2011.
The identity of the new college member will be revealed next week.
The CIFE grants FE providers chartered status – which they hope will become a respected, sector-wide quality mark – if they pass its rigorous entrance process.
This requires evidence of qualities such as “an exemplary record of corporate governance”, “satisfactory financial health”, and a reputation for “honesty, openness and transparency” within the sector.
The three new additions will bring the total membership of the 18-month old institution to just seven at present, alongside existing members Hawk Training, Blackpool and the Fylde College, Bridgwater College, and Furness College.
But CIFE chief executive Dan Wright is focused on dramatically boosting the body’s intake, and plans for at least 80 members overall in the next two years.
This would allow the CIFE to be financially “self-sufficient”, he said, while it currently still relies on some Department for Education funding alongside its membership fees.
The annual subscription fee for members who have achieved chartered status is £5,000, but for interested parties there is also a £3,000 non-refundable fee to have an application reviewed in the first place.
Speaking to FE Week, Mr Wright acknowledged that in terms of outreach the CIFE had not got off to flying start.
“A lot was achieved in setting up the chartered institution but in terms of getting out there and moving it forward, we had made some progress but we’re beginning to see quite a lot of traction in that now,” he said.
Alongside the three new members already approved, he says a further is “under review”, and is likely to become a member soon.
He added: “Right now I’ve got somewhere in the region of at least a dozen [applications], with more that are on the blocks.
“There has been quite a lot of activity in terms of those that have expressed an interest and we are now trying to move that forward at a pace.”
No applicants have been turned away so far he said, adding that a “pre-assessment” process has helped to determine whether providers are ready to formally submit an application.
“We are managing to bring together some very high-performing, well-managed, well-governed organisations equally from the private and public sector,” he said.
He added that the focus of the institution going forward will be on disseminating best practice.
Mr Wright, who joined the CIFE in January, said one of the barriers preventing providers from being ready to apply was a lack of engagement with employers.
But gaining chartered status could be an advantage in the current climate he added.
“I think quite a lot of interested potential members see this as a way of being able to demonstrate to employers that they are a well-run, well-managed, high-performing and sustainable organisation,” he said.
Commenting on joining the CIFE, Jason Parnell, managing director of Steadfast Training Ltd, said: “We look forward to working with colleagues and member organisations of the institution to support the further development of the potential and reputation of the FE sector, and to address the inevitable challenges facing the sector at this time.”
Speaking for Skills Group, managing director Mark Boulting said: “This latest step demonstrates our commitment to raise standards, and the profile, of not only our own organisation but the sector as a whole.”
Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive Mark Dawe also congratulated the new CIFE members on their achievement.
He said: “These AELP member providers have gone through a rigorous process to achieve chartered status and the standards of professionalism embodied in it should further enhance their standing in the eyes of employers and learners.
“Achieving chartered status is voluntary and it is for individual providers to make a judgement about the cost, but it represents another opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to excellence as part of the sector’s key role in driving improved productivity throughout the economy.”
The Queen approved the grant of a Royal Charter to the Institution for FE in June 2015. The body was then given the Great Seal of the Realm in October of the same year and opened for applications the following month in November.