ESFA finally launches 'tougher' apprenticeship provider register

The “tougher” register of apprenticeship training providers has finally reopened, more than a year after the last window closed.

It’s now open indefinitely – meaning that providers can apply on a rolling basis, rather than having to wait for an application window.

It comes almost 15 months after the Education and Skills Funding Agency revealed it would be reviewing the register after the third window closed in October last year.

Changes to the register include greater scrutiny of providers, who will have to have traded for at least 12 months and provide a full set of accounts.

Subcontractors delivering less than £100,000 of provision a year will now have to be on the register, whereas previously they did not need to be.

All providers will be asked to re-apply, although Keith Smith, the ESFA’s director of apprenticeships, revealed in October that the agency will segment them into groups – with those deemed “high risk” being invited first.

“We want to focus the re-application process on those providers that are potentially not delivering, and on those that we think will struggle to pass our new requirements,” he told the Association of Employment and Learning Providers autumn conference on October 30.

Those that go for 12 months without any delivery are likely to be kicked off the register, he said.

FE Week reported yesterday that a third of the providers on the register in 2017/18 had not delivered any training by the end of August.

There are currently 2,571 providers on the register, of which 1,930 are main providers, meaning they can access apprenticeship funding directly.

A further 261 are employer providers and 380 are supporting providers, meaning they can only deliver provision worth up £500,000 a year as a subcontractor.

The register was originally intended to open on a quarterly basis, and its lengthy closure has left many providers not currently on it that want to deliver apprenticeships frustrated.