Contracts from the much-delayed non-levy tender will finally be given out from tomorrow, the government has announced.
It remains to be seen, however, how long it will take for them all to be distributed.
“We said in the notification of award decision letters that we would begin entering into contracts from December 19,” said a message posted on the government’s Bravo tendering site. “We are pleased to confirm that the agency will start the process of issuing contracts from tomorrow.”
The Education and Skills Funding Agency has now confirmed this on gov.uk, saying that it will soon “start” awarding contracts to hundreds of providers for apprenticeship training to non-levy paying employers. None of these employers pays the apprenticeship levy, because they have an annual payroll of less than £3million.
“In cases where providers have been unsuccessful in the procurement, we are extending contracts by three months so businesses and apprentices have stability while completing existing training,” said a spokesperson. “Contracts for the non-levy funding will run between January 2018 and April 2019.”
“The investment announced today will ensure that all businesses are able to benefit from high-quality apprenticeship training provision,” said the apprenticeships and skills minister Anne Milton.
FE Week reported on December 15 that the ESFA was extending back the 10-day standstill period for the non-levy tender.
This meant they would not be given to successful providers in the early part of this week as had originally been expected.
The DfE claimed three days later that we were mistaken and there had “not been any change”, but the December 18 date when contracts had originally been expected subsequently passed.
The 10-day standstill period had clearly been extended.
It is standard practice for 10-day standstill period to follow, so providers have a reasonable amount of time to contest allocation decisions; the decision to extend would have been influenced by unhappiness with the results of the tender.
A total of 714 training providers won contracts in the £650 million procurement for opportunities to train apprentices between January 2018 and March 2019.
Yet almost a third did not have an apprenticeships allocation last year. One ‘outstanding’ provider was said to face a significant challenge to survive after it was only awarded a fraction of funding it needed.
Other high-profile providers, such as the ‘outstanding’ Exeter College, were denied contracts altogether.