Ofsted finds learners unaware they are on an apprenticeship programme

An experienced commercial training provider has been heavily criticised by Ofsted after it found a “high proportion” of learners not knowing they are on an apprenticeship programme.

Manatec Limited, which had 550 apprentices at the time of inspection and is based in Grimsby, received two ‘insufficient’ ratings in its first monitoring visit since it started receiving public funding to train apprentices in May 2017.

Inspectors found that leaders have “not ensured that the apprenticeships they offer meet the requirements of apprentices or of their employers”.

Ofsted’s report details how the majority of apprentices “have a poor learning experience, do not gain new knowledge, skills or behaviours” or are, most worryingly, “unaware that they are completing an apprenticeship programme”.

Moreover, leaders and employers do not ensure that all apprentices are suitable for an apprenticeship, Ofsted said, and some are simply existing members of staff.

Manatec has been delivering commercial training for over 30 years, and became a subcontractor to deliver apprenticeships in 2011.

It currently trains 670 apprentices across a range of standards, including care workers, customer service practitioners and team leader/supervisors, all of whom are trained in care home settings.

Roger Dixon, managing director of the provider, told FE Week that despite the “disappointment expressed by our staff at the review findings”, Manatec will not challenge the report.

“Instead Manatec sees it as a development opportunity and is determined to respond positively to the review findings to ensure a true reflection is gained on the next Ofsted Inspection,” he said.

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.

Dixon said Manatec will “continue to support the learning of our apprentices” and “look forward to the impending ESFA hold on starts being lifted”.

The provider was found not to be giving learners their entitlement to off-the-job training, meaning that, for “too many of them”, the provider does not meet the principles of an apprenticeship.

In fact, most apprentices are unaware of how they will be assessed at the end of their programmes and are unaware of this entitlement, and they end up completing their training in their own time due to “high workloads”.

While leaders and managers have determined a number of strengths and weaknesses as part of their evaluation and self-assessment, they were found to “underestimate the severity of many of the weaknesses”.

As a result, they have been “too slow” to ensure that employers and apprentices have good information about the programmes and the quality of the training that apprentices receive.

Moreover, leaders do not have a strong enough relationship with employers, and most employers and their staff do not participate in the planning of apprentices’ programmes or in reviewing the progress that apprentices make.

However, Ofsted said learning consultants are “well qualified for, and experienced in, the care sector”, and that leaders and managers have ensured that effective safeguarding arrangements are in place.