Tripling traineeships: Tender to launch next week as clock ticks on £111m boost

A hotly-anticipated application process to widen the provider-base for 19 to 24 traineeships will finally be launched next week.

Details for how businesses can claim new £1,000 incentives for taking on new traineeship learners will also be published “in the coming weeks”, but it is expected that employers will be able to apply for them in late autumn and only once the learner has completed the work placement.

The news was revealed by the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s traineeships policy lead and head of traineeships during an Association of Employment and Learning Providers webinar today.

It follows chancellor Rishi Sunak’s summer statement announcement that the government is to invest £111 million to triple the number of people taking part in the pre-employment programme as part of the country’s economic recovery from Covid-19.

The procurement to deliver 19 to 24 traineeships, which are funded through the adult education budget, was supposed to run over the summer but was delayed owing to a “significant amount of due diligence” that needed to be taken, the ESFA previously said.

The notification of the tender is now due to launch on Monday 5 October with documents inviting providers to apply released 48 hours later, but the ESFA’s officials would not be drawn on how long it would be open for during today’s AELP webcast.

ESFA slide from AELP’s traineeship webinar about the upcoming procurement

For 16 to 18 traineeships, the civil servants said the agency has published guidance for in-year growth for 2020/21, and they are planning to launch a “market entry exercise” for other 16 to 18 study programme providers to start delivering traineeships.

The ESFA officials said there is concern about demand from employers for traineeships considering the various other skills programmes now available to them, such as the new cash incentives for apprentices and the kickstart programme.

To combat this, the agency has developed a “robust communications plan to engage with employers during October – December to raise their awareness and understanding of traineeships”.

Included in Sunak’s £111 million traineeships investment are £1,000 cash incentives for each trainee the employer takes on, with a cap of 10 incentive payments per employer.

The ESFA’s officials said it is “important” that the employers see the wider benefits of traineeships and not just offer work placements to receive the incentive payment. 

An overview of the incentive payment process will be published in a “Traineeships Framework for Delivery” in the “coming weeks for employers and providers”, which will detail how the agency will be paying employers directly, once it has been agreed with the Treasury.

The ESFA expects employers to be able to apply for the incentive from “late autumn” and the employer can apply for the funding “once they have completed the work placement”.

ESFA slide from AELP’s traineeship webinar about the £1k employer incentives

AELP managing director Jane Hickie said: “It was good to hear at last that the procurement is going ahead because there is certainly an appetite, as last week’s FE Week story showed, among independent training providers to use traineeships to help young people affected by the pandemic’s impact to move on to apprenticeships and into employment.

“If the procurement is well designed, there is no reason why the chancellor’s £111 million support for the programme should not be fully utlised by the end of next July.  In fact AELP has called for sustained funding of the programme beyond then as part of the comprehensive spending review outcome.”

In August, the ESFA introduced a number of flexibilities into the traineeship programme to make them more accessible for employers and providers, which you can read here.