Talks underway to extend apprenticeship frameworks cut-off date

The cut-off date for starts on old-style apprenticeships, known as frameworks, could be extended, the chief operating officer of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education has said.

In a webinar hosted by the Association of Colleges this afternoon, Rob Nitsch revealed that work on prolonging the switch beyond 31 July is already underway.

“Yes, in a nutshell”, he said when asked whether it would “make sense” to extend the date.

“We have done a bit of work on this. It is interesting across different sectors – some are very well set up, they have left frameworks behind but there are a couple of other sectors where that conversion hasn’t fully happened.

“There is a discussion to be had and I know there is consideration of what is the best thing to do in that space.

“That is where it sits at the moment, voices are being heard and it is currently being weighed as an issue.”

Nitsch added that the government is “absolutely committed” to the turn off of frameworks as their employer-designed replacement, known as standards, are “widely acknowledged as the better product, they are where the future is”.

The process of closing old-style apprenticeship frameworks to new starts began in March 2016, and the original intention was to switch them all off by August 2017.

But this cut-off was dropped at the end of 2015, and replaced with a “migration from apprenticeship frameworks to standards over the course of the parliament”.

The government’s current plan is for all apprenticeship starts to be on standards from 1 August 2020.

Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief policy officer, Simon Ashworth, said a postponement on this is a “no-brainer”.

“The IfATE position makes a great deal of sense to us and in our view, we should be seeking a delay in the switch-off until March next year,” he told FE Week.

“When the pandemic is over, employers and providers are going to have more than enough on their plate to support a recovery than to be worrying about this.”

A spokesperson for the IfATE said any decision “regarding possible change to the turnoff date for frameworks” is “for the Department for Education to make, taking into consideration a wide range of factors”.