Almost every apprenticeship provider has an average employer feedback rating of ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, FE Week can reveal.
A total of 97 per cent of the 1,609 providers in England have the top employer grades, while 96 per cent of those with an early rating from apprentice feedback have the same.
The government launched a Trip Advisor-style review tool in 2018 to let employers rate specific aspects of the service they receive from apprenticeship providers, such as communication, initial assessments, apprentice progress and facilities.
Providers are rated by each employer on a four-point scale, ranging from ‘excellent’ (four stars) to ‘very poor’ (one star).
An overall star rating is generated on the government’s apprenticeship training website.
The former skills minister Anne Milton believed that allowing employers to leave reviews of training providers would be a better indicator of quality than “tick box” inspections, which she said “often miss the point”.
Following a Freedom of Information request from the Apprenticeships Data Insights service, operated by the FE Week publisher LSECT Ltd, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has shared the full list of ratings for the first time (see end of article).
It shows that there are 1,609 providers with a rating, of which 44 have a ‘poor’ rating.
Providers receive a ‘good’ or above rating for employer feedback if they achieve an average of 2.3 stars.
The ESFA explained that agency officials average the overall score up or down at .3 rather than .5 as would be the case in a simple average. This was in response to provider concerns when the service was launched that a simple average could disadvantage them when feedback volumes were lower and a single or small number of negative reviews could have a disproportionate impact.
Some of the providers with poor ratings are no longer in business, including MiddletonMurray and 3aaa.
The feedback ratings can also be used as a quality indicator under the ESFA’s apprenticeship accountability framework.
According to the framework, those with scores of less than 2.5 stars are placed in a ‘needs improvement’ category and could become subject to enhanced monitoring, which involves management conversations with government officials, the development of improvement plans, and potential referrals to Ofsted.
Critically, the average feedback rating shown on the government’s apprenticeship training platform is cumulative. The ESFA uses the academic year average rating to determine whether a provider triggers the employer feedback threshold.
Employers give their answers through a section within the digital apprenticeship system called “feedback on training providers”. They are also sent an email invitation to complete the feedback survey every 90 days.
Jane Hickie, the head of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: “Although we aren’t surprised by these results – previous employer feedback surveys have shown similar outcomes – we are really pleased that the ratings paint such a positive picture of training providers.
“This once again shows the benefit of a demand-led system where providers work closely with employers to design and deliver skills provision.”
A similar tool was launched for apprentices last autumn after years of delays. Apprentices are asked for feedback on their training provider’s communication, organisation and support, as well as for an overall rating.
The ratings will also be used as an intervention trigger in the future, but the ESFA will not set a threshold for intervention until the data has “sufficiently matured”.
FE Week has seen data that shows 387 providers have received an overall apprentice rating to date, and of those, 17, or 4 per cent, have a ‘poor’ rating.
The training provider with the highest star rating in 2021/22 was Lifetime Training. The company has received feedback from 1,464 employers and generated a ‘good’ rating of 3.2 stars. It also has 540 reviews from apprentices that generated the same score.
Kaplan Financial Limited has received the most employer feedback with 2,517 submissions, which resulted in a ‘good’ rating of 2.8 stars.
Click here to download the full spreadsheet of feedback ratings for each provider.