Minister calls on IfA to ‘collaborate’ and be ‘more responsive to training provider needs’

The government’s apprenticeship quango needs to start viewing training providers as their “clients” and become “far more responsive” to their needs, the skills minister has said.

Speaking to FE Week ahead of today’s Association of Employment and Learning Providers conference, Anne Milton called for a more “collaborative relationship” from the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

FE Week also understands that providers will soon be invited onto review groups to work closer with the institute on areas such as deciding funding rates for apprenticeship standards.

Milton, who has just reached her two-year anniversary as skills minister, explained how apprenticeships “was quite hard work” when she first came into post as she had to deal with businesses who were “still very grumpy about the levy” and a “quite clunky” IfA.

“So it was quite difficult in that first year, making clear to business that the levy wasn’t going to change, that this is it, and working with the institute to make sure they got up and running,” she said.

“And I think in two years it got into quite a good place. I can’t remember how many standards we had two years ago and now there are over 400 and employers are much happier.”

Milton added that the institute has now got to the “next phase of work”, which is about “making themselves far more responsive to training and provider needs”.

“In the beginning they were a regulator” and while “maintaining the regulating role, they have got to become a facilitator”.

“I think it’s seeing training providers and employers as their clients,” she said.

“That’s not to say they have to do everything it’s asked of them. But has to become much more: how can we help you?”

Asked what the IfA can do to help training providers more, Milton said: “I think starting working closer, understanding their market is the start of it.

“It’s a terribly diverse market. They’ve got to be receptive. They have been quite defensive. Now it has got to be: well this is our decision, we will review it, and we will look at it. A much more collaborative relationship.”

The institute has come under a lot of fire from providers and employers for being secretive in its decision making, especially in their reviews of apprenticeship standard funding bands.

The institute has since pledged to become more transparent.

Milton will be delivering a keynote speech on day two of the AELP’s annual conference tomorrow. FE Week is media partner, follow us on Twitter for live updates, using the hashtag #AELPAnnual19.