Providers on the apprenticeships register will be “randomly selected” to reapply in different phases over the next year, the Education and Skills Funding Agency has said.

The agency also confirmed that the register remains closed to new providers unless they offer training for critical workers, with no timeline for opening it up to all.

Officials in the ESFA controversially announced in April that they would require all active apprenticeship providers to reapply to the register of apprenticeship training providers (RoATP) as they unveiled plans for a third refresh since 2017 to introduce “more stringent entry criteria”.

Providers must, for example, for the first time prove their “experience of managing and delivering training to learners and are established within the sectors in which you intend to deliver”.

The agency began a “phased reapplication” process this week but has so far failed to publicly explain the format of this approach.

After FE Week enquired about this, a spokesperson said: “ESFA will randomly select active providers on the register to invite them to reapply in phases, over the next 12 months from May 2021 to March 2022.”

Providers will only be able to access the service if they have received an email notification inviting them to reapply. They will receive an invite six weeks before each one-month application window opens.

The cost of refreshing RoATP was revealed in an impact assessment report for the Skills Bill this week.

It totalled £1.2 million as it involved 19 staff in just under two years, and the assessment of over 3,500 providers.

The agency also confirmed to FE Week that the register is currently closed and only open “by exception to those providers that offer training for critical workers and have an employer endorsement to support their application”.

A spokesperson added that they will keep this approach to targeted entry to the register “under review”.