Final calls have been issued for applications to join the register of flexi-job apprenticeship agencies, as education chiefs signal their intent to close the scheme to fresh bids in the future.
The Department for Education said that applications for the latest window of opportunity are open until 10am on May 31, and follows the latest round in the autumn.
Flexi-job apprenticeship agencies are designed to operate in industries where it is tricky for apprentices to operate for 12 months with a single employer, such as in the screen or creative industries.
The organisations act as the official employer for apprentices, covering administration and other tasks, with the learners moving around a series of businesses through the duration of their apprenticeship.
However, announcing the opening of the latest application window this week, the DfE said: “We have no plans to open another application window after this period. Therefore, any organisation who wants to deliver apprenticeships via a model where they place apprentices with host employers for the majority of their apprenticeship, must apply before May 31, 2023.”
It warned that only organisations on the register will be able to start new flexi-job apprenticeships after January 1, 2024, and any who facilitates that type of apprenticeship who is not on the register after that date will be in breach of the funding rules.
The register launched in February last year with 15 names, 11 of which shared £5 million of grant funding.
Two names dropped off the register with another joining before the second wave of applications last autumn.
That resulted in 16 new additions joining in January, all without grant funding.
The DfE confirmed that a number which had failed in that window on financial grounds only would be reassessed against a new sustainability criteria, resulting in five successful additions over Easter.
It means there are now 35 on the register.
The DfE confirmed that the sustainability criteria, which featured an assessment of the organisations’ trading history, sources of funding and current financial position, will remain a consideration for the future round, alongside pre-existing financial checks such as full accounts, balance sheet and profit and loss accounts.
The government had set a target of 1,500 to 2,000 learners on flexi-job apprenticeships by 2023. FE Week asked the DfE how many it has hit to date but did not receive a response at the time of going to press.
A report by the education select committee published today on the future of post-16 education said the department must expand its flexi-job uptake to 5,000 learners by 2025.