£100m NHS apprenticeship tender for level 2 administrators despite framework switch off

The NHS is to spend up to £100 million on delivering a tailored level 2 apprenticeship for administrators.

From July 31, all starts on old-style apprenticeships known as frameworks will be switched off to make way for the final transfer onto new employer-led standards.

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education has repeatedly and controversially rejected requests from more than 100 employers, including from the NHS, for a level 2 business admin standard to be created despite the popularity of its framework equivalent.

FE Week reported in March that some NHS trusts had found that the level 2 customer service practitioner standard could be used instead, which was backed by the Education and Skills Funding Agency. But HEE warned at the time that it could only work for a “limited number of job roles”.

HEE has now launched a tender for a training provider to adapt the level 2 customer service standard and then deliver the “bespoke” programme for NHS apprentices from August 1.

It is aniticipated that NHS employers will spend up to a combined £100 million of their apprenticeship levy funds on the programme over the next four years.

The procurement says: “The level 2 business administration apprenticeship framework has been a vital entry level route into the NHS for many years. With the removal of this framework from 31st July 2020 and no direct replacement apprenticeship standard HEE want to ensure that the NHS can still offer a level 2 programme to attract new talent into the NHS and also offer existing staff the opportunity to move into administration roles.

“HEE are therefore launching a national procurement for a NHS specific level 2 customer service practitioner apprenticeship standard and welcome bids from national and regional providers to deliver a bespoke programme that will cover the wide range of administration and patient facing roles in the NHS from 1st August 2020.”

The tender continues: “HEE, on behalf of NHS (and other public sector) employers nationally are looking for suitably qualified apprenticeship training organisations to adapt the customer service practitioner (level 2) standard to reflect the business and operational needs of health and social care, whilst fulfilling all the requirements of the standard.

“This may be either national providers, or a mix of national and regional (including some NHS main providers), and could be either fully delivered by the training provider, or delivered in partnership with the employers where that capability and wish to do so exists.”

HEE, which is an executive non-departmental public body of the Department of Health, added that it will be willing to work with the successful provider to develop and adapt content, but the majority of that work will be expected to be carried out by the provider.

The latest proposal for a business admin level 2 standard was submitted by employers in February but was rejected outright by the IfATE.

The institute claimed the proposal did not meet the required length or quality of an apprenticeship standard and its chief executive Jennifer Coupland told FE Week’s Annual Apprenticeship Conference the next month that signing off on the standard would “undermine” efforts to create a “well regarded” programme.

During an FE Week webcast last week, she added that she did not regret the decision.

HEE’s tender has a closing date of July 10. Providers can bid for the four-year contract here.