ESFA announce date for full rollout of digital apprenticeship system

All apprenticeship starts will be managed through the government’s digital apprenticeship service from 1 November 2020, the Education and Skills Funding Agency announced today.

The transition will bring an end to provider funding allocations, secured through a procurement process, being used to train apprentices with small non-levy paying businesses.

Contract extensions for the allocations will however be issued at the end of this month to cover them until the full rollout of the digital service commences.

Only larger employers with an annual total pay bill of over £3 million who pay the apprenticeship levy can draw down funding for an unlimited number of starts from the online service.

Small employers were originally expected to have access to the service in April 2019, but this was delayed for another year to “ensure a more gradual transition”.

The long-awaited transition began last month, but small employers have been capped initially and can only make reservations for up to three apprenticeship starts.

So a dual running system remains in place until November, meaning employers who do not pay the apprenticeship levy are able to access training either through a limited number of providers with an unspent funding allocation or from any of the registered providers via the online apprenticeship service.

Confirming the date for when non-levy payers will be given full access to the apprenticeship service, the ESFA said today: “It is our intention that all new apprenticeship starts, for employers of all sizes, will be managed through the apprenticeship service from 1 November 2020.

“Until 31 October 2020 smaller employers will continue to be able to access apprenticeships through the apprenticeship service or via existing procured contracts held by training providers (as well as via transferred funds from employers who pay the apprenticeship levy).”

They added: “Training providers with an existing procured contract will receive an extension to their existing contracts to cover the new financial year. The extensions will fund carry over costs for existing apprentices as well as new apprenticeship starts.

“However, to align with our intention for all starts to be through the apprenticeship service from 1 November 2020, the funding for new starts using the extended contracts will only be available up to and including 31 October 2020.”

Training providers have been told they must ensure they have signed the contract extension before the current contract expires on 31 March 2020.