IfA: ‘Faster and better’ promise from new boss

IfA: 'Faster and better' promise from new boss

The Institute of Apprenticeships will make its processes and policies “faster and better” in 2018, under the new regime of former military man Sir Gerry Berragan.

It launched its assault on government red tape in a statement on Monday, just two weeks after the former army adjutant general took over as chief executive.

Among the improvements the institute promises are “faster standards development” and “revised funding calculations” – two bones of contention for the employer groups developing standards and the providers wanting to deliver them.

“We’ve always recognised some of the systems, policies and processes we inherited needed improving,” it said.

“Institute staff have been listening, consulting and planning improvements to make the process faster and better.”

The institute is “working hard to shorten the process” of developing standards.

From the New Year, it said, “trailblazer groups will be able to access intensive two-day workshops to complete the writing of standards or assessment plans from start to finish” which will save “about a third of the usual time”.

It also plans work with the groups so that “standards and EPA plans can be submitted and approved in parallel, saving about six weeks from the end-to-end process”.

Furthermore, it committed to “developing a quicker and more transparent system for making funding band recommendations” aligned to the new approvals process, “to cut out unnecessary stages and make sure new apprenticeships are ready as quickly as possible”.

FE Week has previously reported on the frustration felt by various trailblazer groups at the delays to getting standards approved for delivery.

Keith Donnelly, who chairs the group working on the level two carpentry and joinery standard, which is still in development, is one such malcontent.

He complained to FE Week in June about the “inordinately long time” it was taking to get the standard ready for delivery – which is now close to four years.

He has now welcomed the IfA’s new measures.

“Anything that can speed up the approval process for standards will be most welcome by employer groups across the country,” he told FE Week.

Other trailblazer groups have discussed the difficulties they have had in agreeing funding bands for their standards, which have added lengthy delays to the approval procedure.

It’s understood these hold-ups are the result of processes established by the IfA itself in April, when it introduced a funding board to secure “value for money”.

Other improvements due to be brought in next year include a new policy to clarify when qualifications can be included in apprenticeships, because current policy had “led to some unpredictable results”.

The IfA’s overriding principle is that “apprenticeship standards assume that the apprenticeship itself is the qualification”, a statement with which Mark Dawe, the AELP’s chief executive, took issue.

“This seems to be a very strange choice of language and change of position from before,” he said. 

“We believe that successful apprentices deserve more than assumptions, namely a proper qualification which benefits them in the employment market.”

Sir Gerry’s appointment as IfA boss was announced in November, after a six-month long recruitment process.

He served as a career soldier for 37 years and was initially appointed as an IfA board member in January.

He took over on November 27, replacing former interim chief executive Peter Lauener, who had been about to retire, but who has instead taken up a temporary position in charge of the Student Loans Company.