A large apprenticeship provider for the engineering, nuclear and manufacturing sectors has been downgraded by Ofsted from ‘outstanding’ to ‘requires improvement’ after going more than a decade without inspection.
Gen2 Engineering and Technology Training Ltd, which was bought by the City & Guilds Group in 2017, received the judgment in a critical report published this week that found too many learners were “dissatisfied with their training”.
The provider’s board was criticised for being primarily focused on financial outcomes instead of holding leaders to account and improving the quality of education.
Gen2 is based in West Cumbria and was established in June 2000 by five international companies, for which it now provides training as well as for the wider Cumbrian business community.
At the time of the inspection, there were 1,265 apprentices studying levels 2 to 6 apprenticeship standards. There were also 11 adults on level 2 traineeship programmes studying teaching assistant and business administration specialisms.
The provider was last inspected in 2011 and achieved a grade one at the time. Ofsted this year began inspection of ‘outstanding’ providers for the first time since 2010 after an exemption was lifted.
Inspectors found that quality has worsened for Gen2. “Half of the young people on access to apprenticeship programmes told inspectors that they feel their course was disorganised,” the inspection report said.
“They do not know when they will complete the work experience part of the programme, know what progress they are making or if they are on target to achieve their qualification on time.”
Apprentices, who demonstrate positive attitudes to their learning, are unhappy with “frequent changes” of teachers, and those who know they are behind on their learning feel tutors have not supported them to catch up.
Senior leaders were praised by Ofsted for developing a “clear strategy to meet the skills requirements of the employers they serve and those needed in the region” and for designing a curriculum that “allows most learners and apprentices to progressively develop new knowledge, skills and behaviours”.
But inspectors found that leaders and managers have ultimately not ensured that all learners and apprentices receive “consistently high-quality training”. This is because leaders “do not have sufficient oversight of the quality of education for most learning programmes”.
Staff do have appropriate skills and experience to carry out their roles but leaders do not focus enough on the development of teachers’ teaching skills, Ofsted warned.
The watchdog also found that information on Gen2’s e-portfolio system “is inaccurate” and leaders do not ensure “effective assessments” are carried out at the start of their programme to determine their level of prior learning.
Inspectors also reported that assessors do not sufficiently plan and coordinate on- and off-the-job training for apprentices.
Additionally, governance arrangements are “not effective” as leaders are “not held to account for the quality of education they provide”. The board’s focus “has been primarily on finance as opposed to improving the quality of education for learners and apprentices”.
Leaders have now put in place a new governance board.
Amanda Towers, Gen2’s managing director, said her provider is working “swiftly to address the areas for improvement identified” by Ofsted.
She claimed that Gen2 has “very high success rates”, with an apprenticeship achievement rate of 79.1 per cent and over 90 per cent of learners progressing directly into employment or further/higher education. These results “buck the national trend, with Gen2’s achievement and progression rates rising during the pandemic, in the face of a substantial fall nationally ̶ something we are extremely proud of”.
Towers added: “Our customers and learners, and their families, can rest assured that we continue to be committed to delivering excellence in everything that we do and that we will work swiftly to address the areas for improvement identified by Ofsted.”