Training providers are calling on the government to take a closer look at the so called fast-track apprenticeships  that offer to train people in as little as 12 weeks.

The Association of Learning Providers  (ALP) has begun lobbying bodies such as the Skills Funding Agency after some of its members complained about short apprenticeship programmes made available and marketed in their areas.

Paul Warner, the ALP’s director of employment and skills, said it was vital that all apprenticeship programmes offer high quality training and do not cut corners solely to allow trainees to gain qualifications faster.

“Over the last few years, the government has actively encouraged work-based learning courses that are intense and work related, but there is a balance to be had,” said Warner.

“We are aware of instances with these 12 week apprenticeships where other providers in the area are questioning the value of them,” he added. “If it can be shown that compressed apprenticeships are impinging on quality, that would be a concern.”

According to the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) website a typical apprenticeship normally takes between one and four years to complete and includes on-site training with an employer as well as training through a college or independent provider.

“If it can be shown that compressed apprenticeships are impinging on quality, that would be a concern.”

Among the organisations offering fast-track apprenticeships is Synapse, a call centre provider, which works closely with Elmfield Training Ltd, based in the Midlands. Synapse’s website offers to ‘fast track your career in just 13 weeks’ by providing the skills, experience and qualifications needed to start work.

Elmfield describes itself as the ‘the fastest growing vocational training provider in the UK’. It has already received an apprenticeship allocation increase of £21m since the beginning of the 2010/11 academic year, bringing its total allocation to over £40m, as published by the Skills Funding Agency. Also, its published finances show that last year Elmfield’s turnover increased from £12.9m to £33.8m, with an eye-watering pre-tax profit of £12.3m.

Gary Rimmer, a director at Elmfield Training Ltd puts the company’s growth down to it working with “large national employers” and successfully finding work for apprentices. “We have operated programmes at a variety of lengths with different employers,” he added.

Rimmer also said “we are working towards new provision”, and he suggested this was as a result of revised guidance from the Skills Funding Agency that is expected to apply from August.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said there was no maximum or minimum guidance over the duration of apprenticeships but added: ” As guidance, it would be commonplace for a level two apprenticeship to last for around a year.” He was not aware of any plans by the Skills Funding Agency to stop funding providers that offer fast-track apprenticeships in considerably less time.

Government regulations require that apprentices receive a minimum of 280 guided learning hours, but does not stipulate over what period. Providers such as the De Vere Academy of Hospitality say they condense training into 12-16 weeks so that students are ‘more engaged and work ready’ on graduation. Launched last September in Crewe, the academy aims to train 10,000 young people over three years. At the time of going to press nobody from the De Vere Group was available for comment.

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