IfA finally releases apprenticeship overspend presentation

The Institute for Apprenticeships has finally released a presentation given to employers that warned of an imminent apprenticeship overspend, following pressure from the shadow skills minister.

On November 30 during an employer engagement event at Exeter College the IfA’s chief operating officer Robert Nitsch included a forecast of a £500 million overspend on the apprenticeship budget in 2018/19 – rising to £1.5 billion by 2020/21.

The figures, exclusively reported by FE Week three days later, prompted wide-spread concerns and demands for an open debate on how the levy operates, and for the IfA to share the full presentation.

The institute finally released it last night but only to Gordon Marsden, the shadow skills minister, after he wrote to the IfA’s chief executive Sir Gerry Berragan about the issue in early December.

Gordon Marsden

The presentation has, however, had a couple of slides redacted while more information has been added to them since their original appearance.

Speaking to FE week about the situation, Sir Gerry (pictured) said: “It [the presentation] was about apprenticeships, what’s going on with apprenticeships, and it was designed to bring them up to date as to how the reforms are going.

“The particular slide in question was based on some speculative planning, scenarios, what if planning. It was there to really make two points.

“One is that the levy isn’t massively underspent – it’s being used. And secondly that it’s a finite resource and therefore when people say why are you being tight about funding and funding bands you’ve got to see it in the context that there’s a finite resource and therefore we need to make sure we get every bit of value for money out of every apprenticeship.”

He added the reason why it wasn’t released to the wider public was because from “misinterpretation, it would generate all sorts of concerns over whether the levy was being overspent”.

Keith Smith, the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s director of apprenticeships, told FE Week in December that he was “not expecting any pressures” on the budget this year.

This point was then reiterated by skills minister Anne Milton last week.

“I think the department is being pretty clear the levy isn’t overspent, but the point is that particular model took in certain assumptions and therefore showed how it could be,” Sir Gerry said.

When quizzed on why it took so long for the IfA to release the slides, despite multiple requests from FE week and parliamentary questions including from chair of the education select committee Robert Halfon, the institute’s boss claimed that the only request he knew about was from Mr Marsden.

He confirmed that the Department for Education had not told the IfA to not release the slides.

“It [the delay] was us looking at the slides and making sure that everything in those slides was on the official statistical release. That’s what we were doing,” Sir Gerry said.

“They were not going to be released until I released them today to Gordon, because at that stage we were clear on what the information underpinning them…in fact, what we’ve done is redacted two of the slides and produced slides that do reflect official statistics, the starts and the training slides.”

You can view the full slide pack here.