ESFA scraps £100k threshold, forcing all subcontractors onto the apprenticeships register

The government’s new “tougher” apprenticeships register will reopen indefinitely from December 12, and will require all subcontractors delivering the programmes to be listed on it.

This will include, for the first time, those subcontractors delivering less than the current threshold of £100,000 a year.

The new requirement was revealed in an announcement about the refreshed Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers, published this afternoon by the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

It confirms many of the rule changes that the agency’s director of apprenticeships, Keith Smith, told the AELP conference last month.

It was already known that every training organisation on the existing register would need to reapply, but today’s publication reveals that only two applications in a 12 month period will be allowed from any provider.

To earn a place on the new register, providers and employers must now “prove they have actively traded for 12 months, are financially stable (evidenced by their financial information), skilled and are able to deliver quality apprenticeship training, before they apply, rather than when they begin delivery”.

The three-month trading history requirement for supporting providers has been retained to “enable new providers to build a delivery track record”.

Until now, subcontractors did not need to be on the register if they delivered less than £100,000 of apprenticeships provision a year. But new RoATP rules will put an end to this.

“All organisations delivering apprenticeship training must be on the RoATP,” today’s announcement said.

“By August 2019, it will be a funding rule requirement for all subcontractors delivering apprenticeship training to be listed on the RoATP including those delivering less than £100,000 a year as a subcontractor.”

It added that subcontractors can only receive funding of up to a maximum of £500,000 per year, and this is limited to £100,000 in their first year if they have “no recent history of apprenticeship delivery”.

The ESFA reiterated today that it is also considering the introduction of “provider earnings limits and in the coming months, will be seeking views from the sector on these”.

The limits will “ensure control, not just for quality reasons but the potential size and expansion of providers”. This rule is expected to be controversial among proven training providers, as previously reported by FE Week.

Commenting on today’s announcements, skills minister Anne Milton said: “It is vital that the training apprentices are receiving continues to be of the highest quality. Our new tougher approach builds on the robust checks already in place to provide even greater assurance that public money for apprenticeships is being used effectively .

“I would like to thank all those who took the time to respond to our review. Your feedback has been invaluable and has helped us to shape this new process.”

Eileen Milner, the ESFA’s chief executive, added: “Our new RoATP application process ensures that only those that can stand up to our tough quality assurance entry requirements can access government funds to deliver apprenticeship training.

“We are also being tougher on subcontractors entering the market, to ensure a focus on quality training and mitigate risk to government funds.”

The changes come after FE Week has reported extensively on the problems with the application process, and discovered, for example, one-man bands with no delivery experience being given access to millions of pounds of apprenticeships funding.

The register has been closed ever since the government shut it for review in October 2017, even though it was originally meant to open every quarter, leaving many providers wanting to get on there to deliver apprenticeships frustrated.