Ofsted finds workers being forced onto provider’s apprenticeship programme

An experienced commercial training provider new to the apprenticeships market has been heavily criticised after Ofsted found staff at an employer were being forced onto their apprenticeship programme.

WDR Limited, which has 83 apprentices, received insufficient ratings cross the board in its first monitoring visit since it started receiving public funding to train apprentices in 2017.

Inspectors found level 3 team-leading apprentices “were given no choice by their employer about participating on an apprenticeship programme”.

Apprentices were given no choice by their employer about participating on an apprenticeship programme

This led to a significant number of them dropping out of the course: “In one group of team-leading apprentices, only four out of 12 who started in June 2018 remained on the programme” at the time of the inspection.

FE Week asked WDR Limited, which has operated as a commercial training company offering mostly leadership and management courses for nearly 50 years, for the name of the employer, but it declined to release it.

Bosses at the provider did change their recruitment policy after realising what was happening, but Ofsted said it was too soon to judge whether the change had made any difference.

Under Education and Skills Funding Agency rules, any provider with an ‘insufficient’ rating in an early monitoring visit Ofsted report will be banned from taking on any new apprentices until the grade improves.

WDR declined to comment when asked if it had been suspended from recruiting new apprentices yet.

Summing up what they found at WDR, Ofsted’s report said: “Leaders and managers have not sufficiently implemented the full requirements and principles of an apprenticeship.

“They do not have effective arrangements in place to monitor and review the progress apprentices are making or understand how they benefit from their training.”

Inspectors found WDR’s coaches do not identify a starting point so they can effectively measure how apprentices develop.

In addition, leaders and managers do not have a “clear overview of the skills, knowledge or behaviours apprentices are developing”; and do not check apprentices are receiving their entitlement to off-the-job training.

“Apprentices are not able to link what they are doing in the workplace to their apprenticeship programme,” Ofsted added.

“Apprentices are not always aware of the progress they are making or what they need to do to complete their full apprenticeship.”

Leaders and manager also do not comply with the statutory requirements of ‘Prevent’ and inspectors considered apprentices to have a poor understanding of safeguarding.

WDR has and will continue to take significant actions in response to the findings

Ofsted did however praise WDR for establishing “good working relationships with employers”, and for recently recruiting “new senior managers to strengthen the management of the apprenticeship provision” who have started making “improvements”.

A WDR spokesperson said: “As a learning provider with 50 years’ experience, we are extremely disappointed with the outcomes of our first Ofsted monitoring report.

“We are a new apprenticeship training provider and we take this feedback very seriously.

“WDR has and will continue to take significant actions in response to the findings of the report and has every confidence we will achieve a successful outcome at full inspection in the coming months.”

WDR is the tenth provider out of 158 to be rated ‘insufficient’ across the board since Ofsted started monitoring new apprenticeship providers in August 2018.