A fresh wave of 16 organisations have joined the government’s register of flexi-job apprenticeship agencies following the latest round of applications where only half of bids were successful.
The register was launched in February last year, with those organisations effectively acting as employers for apprentices in industries such as construction and creative arts where they cannot be placed for a year because of the short-term nature of projects.
The organisations provide an anchor for the administration and support of apprentices, who work for several different companies over the duration of their course.
Fifteen organisations were included on the register at the launch, but two dropped off by October and another one joined.
The Department for Education opened applications in the autumn for new additions, confirming it had received 30 applications. At the time, it said it hoped to test the approach in new sectors.
The updated list published last week included 16 fresh names, while no more have quit the register.
The new names include those in industries such as pharmaceutical, sports and life sciences, along with more names in already represented sectors such as construction and engineering. His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) has also made the list.
According to the DfE, HMPPS’s inclusion on the list is to facilitate flexi-job apprenticeships for prisoners once a programme has been developed.
It comes following a change in legislation which allowed prisoners to start work as apprentices in October.
Up to 300 prisoners are expected to be recruited onto apprenticeships by 2025.
The DfE said that the 16 new additions had all identified barriers that had prevented employers taking up apprentices.
However, all 16 have joined the register only, and not been given any grant funding. It raises questions as to whether any more grant funding will be forthcoming for future additions.
According to the DfE, around £5 million in grant funding has been given to 11 organisations on the register since its launch.
It said that it currently had no plans for further grant funding for flexi-jobs.
For the existing agencies on the register, the DfE said five have opted to expand the sectors or regions they deliver in: Evolve Apprenticeships Ltd, Inspire ATA Ltd, Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, TrAC, and En:Able Futures.
In October, FE Week reported that two organisations – HR Provider Ltd and Nottingham College Services – were no longer on the register.
HR Provider did not comment on its reasons, but Nottingham College Services said it withdrew from the scheme due to low demand.
ScreenSkills had previously raised concerns over future funding uncertainty, explaining that film and TV industry firms already pay the apprenticeship levy, apprentice wages and associated on-costs, and would not be realistic to expect them to fund a support service like ScreenSkills once government grant funding dries up.
Sara Whybrew, apprenticeship and policy consultant said its grant funding arrangement runs until the end of March with no further grant funding beyond that, meaning its “current FJAA model may be wound down, but we’re still exploring options”.
It has reiterated its position that it would like to see some of the levy ringfenced to fund intermediary body services to aid employers and manage apprenticeship opportunities.