The Department for Education has launched the biggest expansion to date of the skills bootcamps scheme – with £60 million up for grabs for training providers.
Skills bootcamps are one part of the National Skills Fund, a £2.5 billion initiative to help adults train and gain skills quickly to improve their job prospects.
The bootcamps offer free, flexible courses of up to 16 weeks for adults aged 19 or over who are either in work, self-employed, recently unemployed or returning to work after a break.
The government initially tested skills bootcamps in a range of digital skills such as digital marketing, software development and cyber security from Autumn 2020 with an £8 million pot. It has since expanded, with an additional £42 million, across England to include a wider range of more technical and specialist courses.
Now, as part of wave 3 of the scheme, the government has invited suppliers to bid for contracts to provide bootcamps for seven lots.
These lots include digital core, digital bespoke, technical core, technical bespoke, construction, pathway to accelerated apprenticeships and green skills.
The funding available for each lot differs, with the most being for lot 1 digital core (£25 million) and the least being for construction (£2 million).
‘Bespoke’ bootcamps in technical or digital can be suggested by providers where they believe there is demand. Some £5 million is available for bidders in those categories.
One new bootcamp the DfE is planning to fund is a “pathway to accelerated apprenticeships”. The DfE suggested that bootcamp subjects could include any of the sector skills specified in all other lots that map to a recognised apprenticeship. A total of £8 million has been set aside for suppliers who can provide these bootcamps.
Five weeks to bid
The government said that lead providers could be a further or higher education organisation, an employer, a training provider or other organisation (other than a local authority, mayoral combined authority, local enterprise partnership). They added that they are also welcoming consortia bids.
As part of the contract, lead providers must clearly state which employers are involved with the bid and how employers will have input into the co-design and approval of the training.
The initial term of any awarded the contract is for 12 months. At the discretion of the government contracts can be extended for a further period of up to 12 months.
Any decisions to continue funding skills bootcamps beyond 2023 will be based on an evaluation of the model’s first three waves.
Tender bids for this latest wave should provide costs for one year and should be submitted by February 28, 2022.
Funding paid based on three milestones
Skills bootcamps are currently subject to funding rules outside of wider adult education budget and ESFA subcontracting rules.
The funding model for the bootcamps will be based on an agreed unit rate per eligible learner. Providers will be paid three consecutive payments if their learners reach defined milestones.
For example, those who provide bootcamps for lots one to five and lot seven will be paid 45 per cent of their overall payment after a learner completes five qualifying days.
They will be paid 35 per cent on a learner’s course completion and offer of an interview and a third payment of 20 per cent if the learner has a “successful outcome”.
The DfE defines a successful outcome as being the offer of a new job (which must be continuous employment for at least 12 weeks), an apprenticeship, a new role or additional responsibilities with an existing employer, or new contracts or new opportunities for the self-employed, utilising the skills acquired in the skills bootcamp, within six months of completing the course.
For providers offering the new ‘pathway to accelerated apprenticeships’ bootcamps, payments will be made under a similar pattern, however, the DfE said they will use a different definition of a “successful outcome” for learners.
Providers will be paid their final payment if they can show learner has been made an offer of an accelerated apprenticeship (which must be continuous employment for at least 12 weeks), with a new or existing employer, utilising the skills acquired in the Skills Bootcamp, within six months of completing the skills bootcamp.
The DfE will monitor providers by getting them to submit data using individualised leaner record and management information data returns.
DfE data published in December showed that skills bootcamps had failed to deliver improved employment outcomes to nearly half if its first cohort of learners.
Contracts for the third wave are due to start in August.