Breaking: SFA unveils ‘mystery shopper’ scheme to test how ready providers are for apprenticeship reforms

The Skills Funding Agency has launched a new “mystery shopper” scheme to find out how prepared providers are for the new apprenticeship reforms.

The announcement was made in the online SFA Update just uploaded onto

It said: “To help us understand how prepared providers are for the new apprenticeship reforms, we are carrying out a ‘mystery shopper’ exercise to test aspects of apprenticeship readiness. This will enable us to identify any further support the sector may need to be ready to meet employer demand for apprenticeships.

“Please contact your provider manager if you have any queries.”

Major apprenticeship reforms are due to come into force following next week’s launch of the new apprenticeship levy, and employers are being given far more influence over the design of apprenticeship programmes and funding for them.

The government will be keen to see how prepared providers are for the changes.

Fresh doubts have also been raised over how ready the government is for the reforms.

It comes after FE Week revealed that a key meeting that the SFA was supposed to hold today, to reach final decisions on which providers will be allocated a non-levy employer funding allocation and how much they will receive, had been cancelled with no alternative date scheduled.

This was supposed to have followed publication of the results of the latest round of applications to the new Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers, which has also not been published.

FE Week employed our own in-house mystery shopper back in November, to test out the government’s directory of apprenticeship training providers, which had been launched the previous month.

Called ‘Find Apprenticeship Training’ and described as the one-stop shop for any employer, large or small, which finds themselves wanting to take on apprentices, it was found to be relatively easy to use. 

We have asked the Department for Education if the mystery shoppers working on this new scheme will be in-house or hired from outside, and await the response. 


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  1. Bob Smith

    It’s a bit rich this isn’t it!?!? I don’t think the SFA are even prepared fully themselves, never mind checking on us.

    I’m expecting a full on disaster scenario once the reforms kick in. I don’t know any College or Training Provider that is fully prepared and there will be a fall out.

  2. Norman

    Hilarious and what a cheek as the reason many aren’t ready is the lack of clarity and guidance from the SFA, IfA and the unceremious rush to get the new reforms in despite common sense and experience saying we need more time!

  3. Ex_SFA_Staffer

    Previous comments are making the mistake of assuming that SFA and DfE senior folk walk the same earth as the rest of us when it comes to Apprenticeship Reform. They are in a self-created vacuum within which there is no concept of cause and effect other than their own hypothetical version which of course is entirely untested. Lets not upset the poor dears by talking of Apprenticeship Reform like a observing multi-vehicle car crash in slow motion. Lets let them live in their fantasy land just a little bit longer and enjoy it while it lasts.