adult education budget

Applications to the government’s register of apprenticeship training providers will not reopen until at least April 2021.

And when it does restart, there will be a “new service” for firms to apply through.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency closed the register to new bids on April 15 to “review our future approach”.

Officials have since remained tight-lipped about when it would reopen but tweeted out a digital apprenticeship service “road map” on Thursday which revealed their current timeline.

Under a column for April to June 2021, the road map says there will be a “new service for providers to apply to join the register online”.

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers told FE Week that they receive an “enquiry every other week” about when the register will reopen so it is a “significant issue”.

“The register has been shut since April and so we are now looking at it being closed for a year, which is way too long, bearing in mind that these days all subcontractors need to be registered as well,” AELP chief policy officer Simon Ashworth said.

Before the ESFA closed the register, applications were made through the agency’s e-tendering portal Bravo, which was shut earlier this year. The agency did not respond to requests for comment about the “new service” at the time of going to press.

The ESFA’s review of the register is likely to include plans to require providers to be “accredited” for the apprenticeship standards they offer, as former apprenticeships director Keith Smith told FE Week’s Annual Apprenticeship Conference in March.

Any restrictions would form the second phase of the ESFA’s attempts to strengthen its register of apprenticeship training providers, which was relaunched in 2019 following a host of problems with the original application process.

One-man bands with no delivery experience were, for example, being given access to millions of pounds of apprenticeships funding.