The register of apprenticeship training providers will be opened to all corners this month, but new applicants will only be successful if they can prove they “fulfil unmet employer demand”.

Yesterday’s Education and Skills Funding Agency Update reveals the register (RoATP) will be opened for applications more widely than for just those training critical workers, which are the only new applicants currently allowed.

“As Covid-19 restrictions have now been lifted, the market entry exceptions process for critical worker – linked provisions will cease on 15 August 2021.

“From 16 August 2021, the register will only be open for new providers that are able to fulfil an unmet employer demand. Full details on this new process will be shared on GOV.UK on 16 August 2021,” the update reads.

RoATP has been closed to new applicants since April 2020, with the only exemption being for levy-paying employers delivering critical services during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The ESFA announced in April 2021 a complete refresh of RoATP, which organisations need to be on to receive funding for training apprentices.

Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief policy officer Simon Ashworth criticised the government from “bouncing from one extreme to the other”.

He said the AELP “understood” the government “may feel that there are now too many apprenticeship providers in the market after it invited so many new ones into it when the register was first set up”.

But there ought to be “some transparency about how the government will go about defining, identifying and measuring unmet employer demand, given that it has set up a digital apprenticeship service for employers that meets demand in real time”.

“New providers are often specialists offering niche provision or they serve areas out of easy reach of a local college. 

“Having a responsive system to meet the needs of employers is critical and the government needs to keep this under regular review instead of opting for a black or white solution,” Ashworth argued.

There are currently 2,123 providers on RoATP; made up of 1,464 main providers, 482 supporting providers, and 177 employer providers.

Providers, the agency previously said, will be randomly selected to apply to RoATP in phases between May 2021 to March 2022.

Under this new application process, providers must, for example, prove their “experience of managing and delivering training to learners and are established within the sectors in which you intend to deliver”.

This is the third RoATP refresh since 2017, with refreshes costing about £1.2 million a turn.

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