DfE publishes list of ‘expert’ apprenticeship providers

See who made the cut for the 12-month pilot below

See who made the cut for the 12-month pilot below

The names of the 13 training organisations chosen by the Department for Education to be “expert” apprenticeship providers for a 12-month pilot have been published.

But it appears the DfE had to bend some of its strict criteria to get enough universities on board. Officials have also opted to enlist one independent provider that was briefly rated ‘inadequate’ a year ago.

Plans to award a “mark of excellence” to a select few providers were unveiled last month. Under the trial, those chosen would “act as ambassadors for the apprenticeship programme” and be given “more access” to DfE systems in a bid to reduce the time, resource and cost that providers commit to coaching non-levy paying employers through the digital apprenticeship system.

The entry application involved strict criteria that wiped out most providers from applying. These included a requirement for a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, an apprenticeship achievement rate of at least 51 per cent in 2021/22, as well as a four-star “excellent” employer feedback rating.

Budding apprenticeship ambassadors also had to be in “good” financial health and have been delivering apprenticeships for at least five years for FE colleges and ITPs.

Providers also must deliver at least 30 per cent, and a minimum of 50 annual starts, of its overall apprenticeships provision to non-levy paying employers, according to the criteria.

The list, published today, comprises six independent training providers, five FE colleges and two higher education providers. DfE was searching for a maximum of 15 providers, made up of seven ITPs, three HE institutions and five colleges.

The stringent rules appear to have been relaxed slightly to allow the two universities onto the pilot.

The University of Sheffield and Manchester Metropolitan University both deliver less than 30 per cent of their overall apprenticeships provision to non-levy paying employers, according to latest full-year published government data for 2021/22. Both providers do, however, have at least 50 starts annually with SMEs.

Elsewhere, one independent training provider – Avant Partnerships – made the list despite being rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in November 2022 after inspectors found the provider had “limited oversight” of safeguarding at a subcontractor after female construction apprentices reported experiencing harassment whilst studying.

Avant had a follow up full inspection in the summer of 2023 which returned the provider to its previous ‘good’ rating.  

The expert provider scheme will begin from October 31 and providers will participate in a virtual introductory meeting on 8 November.

Here’s the full list:

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  1. The rules weren’t bent they were broken.

    Plenty of providers didn’t apply because they didn’t meet one of the criteria, which were directly stated as pass/fail judgements. There was no ambiguity.

    On that basis, why would those two universities have applied in the first place, in the knowledge that they couldn’t have passed the entry criteria?

    It stinks and there is more than a whiff of intent.

    There are now 13 ‘expert’ providers and many hundreds of alienated ones.

  2. What I would like to know is why would these organisations apply when they didn’t meet the criteria? or did they just ignore that? or did they know someone who could waver the criteria for them?