Three in ten training providers will flag as “at risk” as new figures reveal tumbling apprenticeship achievement rates.
Combined with 25 per cent falling in the “needs improvement” category of the government’s apprenticeship accountability framework, 54 per cent of training providers fall in scope for some form of intervention.
This has prompted calls from the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, which represents apprenticeship training providers, to call for an “overhaul” of the “out of date” achievement rate model of measuring apprenticeship quality.
Overall apprenticeship achievement rates dropped last year, new figures reveal, leaving the sector even further away from the government’s 67 per cent target.
National statistics for 2021/22 show that the overall achievement rate for apprenticeships fell to 53.4 per cent, a drop of 4.3 percentage points on the year before and eleven percentage points lower than pre-Covid levels in 2018/19.
There were 263,550 leavers in 2021/22, which is just under 12,000 below 2020/21. Of those, 85 per cent were training towards apprenticeship standards. Only 39,450 apprentice leavers were on frameworks, which are being phased out.
The achievement rate for standards in 2021/22 was 51.4 per cent, down 0.4 percentage points on the year before, and for frameworks the rate was 64.9 per cent, down 4 percentage points.
Skills minister Robert Halfon, in a letter to the apprenticeships sector, said: “I know that there is much more for us to do collectively to raise the annual apprenticeship achievement rate, currently standing at 51 per cent for apprenticeship standards.
“While not all the reasons for non-achievement are within the gift of providers or employers, I know that, like me, you want to see this figure improve.”
The letter stated a range of government initiatives aimed at improving quality, including the ETF workforce development programme and the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education’s consultation on mandatory qualifications and end point assessments.
This is the first time data on individual providers has been published since 2018/19. Ministers cancelled the publication of provider level performance data for 2019/20 and 2020/21 due to the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic and lockdown measures.
Under the government’s apprenticeship accountability framework, training providers are considered “at risk” if their overall apprenticeship achievement rate is less than 50 per cent and “needs improvement” if it is between 50 per cent and 60 per cent.
Achievement rates are one of a number of measures used by the Department for Education to hold apprenticeship training providers to account.
Today’s data shows that 309 training providers, 29 per cent of the total, flag as “at risk” and 267 (25 per cent) as “needs improvement”. This means, combined, over half of all apprenticeship training providers, 54 per cent, could be in line for “management conversations” with DfE managers and enhanced performance monitoring.
According to the statistics, 85,250 apprentices trained with providers that scored an overall achievement rate of below 50 per cent, which represents around a third of the total.
And 789 providers, three quarters, are currently below the government’s target of 67 per cent by 2025.
Skills minister Robert Halfon recently confirmed to FE Week that the 67 per cent achievement rate target introduced by one of his predecessors, Alex Burghart, was still in place and that he is “working very hard to try and improve that”.
Providers in scope for additional monitoring can face new contract conditions, restrictions on subcontracting and, ultimately, contract termination.
Training body wants change
Training provider body AELP has said measuring apprenticeship quality using achievement rates is no longer fit for purpose.
It pointed out that the reduced overall achievement rate reflects “the residual impact of the Covid 19 pandemic” on the labour market, and said the “methodology still counts learners who left years ago based on their planned end dates alongside the impact breaks-in-learning has had.”
Chief executive Jane Hickie said: “The way in which apprenticeship achievement rates are calculated is out of date, and represents a regime prior to the introduction of an employer led system.
“We should be far more focused on outcomes, not outputs, including for those who don’t complete their apprenticeship.”
Hickie suggests “tracking learner progression and earnings following an apprenticeship” as a more effective measure of apprenticeship quality.