The Education and Skills Funding Agency has announced it will finally launch a market entry exercise to expand the number of providers offering 16 to 18 traineeships “later this month”.
It comes two days after the Treasury revealed the government had missed its target to triple the number of people taking the pre-employment by more than half.
In its weekly update, published today, the ESFA said the opportunity will be open to training organisations “not currently contracted or allocated delivery of 16 to 19 study programme activity or 16 to 18 traineeship provision”.
The agency is “particularly interested” in applications from training providers “ready to deliver traineeships and have the capacity to deliver a high-quality programme to young people”.
To be eligible, providers must be rated by Ofsted as either ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ and hold another ESFA contract for the 2021/22 academic year.
However, the agency said it will “consider existing traineeship providers that have a 19 to 24 traineeship 2021 to 2022 contract without an Ofsted grade one or two”.
Providers must not be in formal intervention, not been issued with a notice to improve, not be subject to an investigation for breach of contract and/or failed audit in the past three years, and not have a financial health grade of ‘inadequate’.
The ESFA has been promising a 16 to 18 traineeship market entry exercise all year but has so far failed to launch one despite running a procurement to expand the 19 to 24 traineeship provider base.
A progress report for the chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Plan for Jobs, which earmarked £111 million for up to 36,700 additional traineeships in 2020/21, was published this week and revealed there were only 17,000 traineeship starts last year – 46 per cent of the target.
There were 14,900 traineeship starts in 2019/20 – so the numbers only increased by 14 per cent last year despite £1,000 incentives being offered to employers and a raft of changes to funding rules to make the programmes more flexible.
Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive Jane Hickie said news of the 16 to 18 exercise was “better late than never”.
“But there is one major proviso – today’s announced procurement must take place quickly and the contract awarding process has to keep to schedule,” she added.
“Otherwise the chancellor’s faith in the programme will not be repaid in the way that it should.”