Employers seeking ‘payment for access’ to their apprenticeship levy pot

Large employers are auctioning access to their future apprenticeship levy pot to the highest bidding training provider, the Association for Employment and Learning Providers has claimed.

The revelation came as part of the AELP’s response to the government’s apprenticeship reforms consultations, published this afternoon, in which it called for “negotiated” funding proposed to be shelved.

Their response, which was based on feedback from 100s of its members,  said: “Such a policy encourages inappropriate behaviour and, for example, we are already seeing employers asking providers to pay them to have access to their levy – this has to be wrong.”

Under the current proposals, unveiled mid-August, all apprenticeship frameworks and standards starts from May 2017 will be funded up to one of 15 bands, ranging from £1,500 to £27,000, with employers negotiating the final price with training providers.

“Fundamentally we still believe negotiating a price for education and training is wrong. There is no other part of Department for Education’s education and training system where the rates for delivery are not set. We believe that keeping negotiated funding will lead to a fall in quality of provision and impact the social mobility agenda.”

The AELP response also called for current funding rates for apprenticeship frameworks to be maintained until there is an equivalent replacement standard.

It came after exclusive FE Week analysis revealed that the government’s proposals would see funding for some of the most popular frameworks slashed by up to 50 per cent for the most deprived 16-to-18-year-old apprentices.

The proposed rates for frameworks, which the Skills Funding Agency said are designed to simplify funding arrangements, are based on the current adult funding rates and don’t take into account the different uplifts and discounts that currently exist.

The AELP said it had received a “high volume of concern” from providers about planned funding rates for 16- to 18-year olds, which it said were “not adequate”.

The disappearance of the area uplift and disadvantage uplift from funding rates would mean that “learners with most need will be abandoned and areas such as central London will become apprenticeship deserts,” it warned.

The AELP response also called for a delay to the full introduction of the new Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers as well as the removal of proposed employer cash contributions for level 2 and 3 provision.

AELP has also said the timeframes were “too tight” and called for a phased transition to the new register, with non-levy paying employers being able to use providers from the existing register until August 1.

It said: “Without appropriate transition we believe the whole system will collapse as there will be insufficient time between March 2017’s confirmation of a provider’s ability to deliver apprenticeships and enabling starts from May 1.”

Speaking about the AELP response, chief executive Mark Dawe (pictured) said: “We believe AELP’s concerns about the proposals can be simply resolved as we have suggested in our response and it is right for the government to press ahead with the levy and its apprenticeship policy.

“Some aspects of the reform need to be phased and introduced later than April 2017 to ensure a far less risky transition.

“We are ready to share solutions with ministers and officials to assist in the successful implementation of reforms for a skills programme which is so vital for Britain’s economic future and for promoting social mobility.”

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