Employers join forces to overturn ‘highly-damaging’ funding rate cuts for popular management apprenticeships

The employer group behind three popular management apprenticeship standards has the backing of more than 150 employers – including retail giant Tesco – in its fight to overturn plans to slash their funding bands, the Chartered Management Institute has claimed.

The chartered manager, operational manager and team leader standards are all facing cuts of between £500 and £5,000, following the Institute for Apprenticeships’ recent rate review.

The group behind the standards is appealing against the recommendations, and has enlisted the support of 152 employers, including BT, Asda, IBM, Aldi, ODEON, Tesco, Next and Birds Eye.

They all signed an online appeal, led by the CMI, against the proposed “extensive and highly-damaging cuts” and urging the IfA and the Department for Education to “undertake a full and transparent economic and social impact assessment” before making any final decision.

“We simply can’t see why government is shooting one of its most successful policies in the foot”, said Petra Wilton, director of strategy at the CMI.

“As the overwhelming outcry from employers demonstrates, it makes so little sense.”

Anne Thomas, education director at Serco, and co-chair of the employer group, said the proposals would “clearly undermine” the company’s “future ability to use our levy on the management skills we need for our future business growth”.

“It also frustrates the hard work of the employer trailblazer group which has invested significant time and resources into developing high quality apprenticeships which will no longer be funded as promised,” she said.

It’s not clear exactly who has signed the appeal, as FE Week’s request for a full list of signatories was turned down.

HMRC, one of the Trailblazer group members, would not say whether it supported the appeal.

Our request to the IfA for an employer who supported the recommendations was also denied.

FE Week exclusively reported two weeks ago that the three standards – which between them accounted for almost 20,000 starts in the first nine months of 2017/18 – were in line for funding cuts as a result of the IfA’s review, which launched in May.

The level management degree apprenticeship will have its funding cap cut from £27,000 to £22,000.

The band for the level five operational manager standard will go from £9,000 to £7,000, while the level three team leader standard will be capped at £4,500 – down from £5,000.

The Trailblazer group is appealing against these recommendations on the grounds that the process behind them wasn’t “fair and transparent”.

Employers in the group are said to be particularly concerned that the review did not consider the economic and social impact of the proposals.

In addition to the formal appeal by the Trailblazer group, the CMI will also be appealing to the DfE before it makes a final decision.

Both the CMI and Serco have a vested interest in the outcome of the review: the CMI is an end-point assessment organisation for all three standards, while Serco is an apprenticeship provider – although it doesn’t currently offer the three standards, according to the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

The IfA would not be drawn on the CMI’s actions and the appeal when asked for a comment, beyond reiterating the process behind the review – which included the right to appeal.

“We encourage all our stakeholders to engage with us about any concerns regarding the review process,” a spokesperson said.

The funding band review, launched in May, covered 31 standards.

FE Week has so far learned of the outcomes of eight of these – six of which resulted in recommendations to reduce the funding rate.

Just one so far has led to a recommendation for the funding to increase, and one to stay the same.