The results of the government’s national skills bootcamp tender have been hit by a “very worrying” delay.
Contracts were supposed to start from this month but training providers who bid for a slice of the £36 million up for grabs are yet to be told whether they have been successful.
The Department for Education said that due to the “high volume” of bids received, the period for “tender evaluation” has “had to be extended”.
“Suppliers have already been informed of this delay and we will announce the successful bids in due course,” a spokesperson added.
A “mobilisation” period had been set to take place over the next month, with commencement of actual course delivery starting by “latest June 2021” – a timeline which is now at risk.
There are growing concerns about the limited time providers will have to spend the funding, considering it must be used by the end of March 2022.
Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive Jane Hickie said: “If it goes on much longer, AELP members would find this delay very worrying in terms of being able to start delivery next month and to deliver the expected outcomes in the projected 12-month contract period.”
She added that given the “recent track-record” on missed procurement outcome deadlines, an “even bigger worry” would be a delay in announcing the adult education budget procured contracts for 2021-22.
“We really can’t afford to see this happen when we are supposed to be supporting adult learners affected by the pandemic’s impact.”
‘Suppliers have already been informed of this delay’
Ramping up of technical skills bootcamps is part of the prime minister’s lifetime skills guarantee.
Paid for from the new National Skills Fund, the DfE launched two tenders for level 3-plus “bootcamp” courses in January.
Courses lead to guaranteed job interviews and are for adults aged 19 and over. They will run for up to 16 weeks and will be free to unemployed people, or where employed, their employer would pay a 30 per cent cash contribution.
The “digital skills bootcamps” tender, known as lot 1, sought bids for courses in IT subjects such as cloud computing, data engineering and software development.
The “technical and cross-digital skills bootcamps” tender, known as lot 2, sought bids for courses in subjects such as electrotechnical, welding, engineering, construction and electronics.
It comes after two waves of bootcamp pilot schemes, both worth £4 million, were commissioned in the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Liverpool City Region, Heart of the South West, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire and Leeds City Region.
They feature training for digital skills as well as industries including welding, engineering and construction.
The DfE said the pilots are still running and will “deliver approximately 1,300 more skills bootcamp places from April”.