Providers are being invited to a series of roadshows to find out more about non-levy paying businesses transitioning to the apprenticeship service and the withdrawal of frameworks.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency is running events across the country in February and March for employers on the register of apprenticeship training providers.

According to this week’s ESFA update, the six roadshows “will focus on the transition of smaller employers that do not pay the apprenticeships levy to the apprenticeship service”.

The ESFA announced earlier this month that small employers would be invited to use the digital apprenticeship service, which had previously been reserved for levy-paying employers only.

Small employers will be capped at reserving apprenticeship funding for just three apprentices to start off with, to allow the agency to manage the transition and help keep the apprenticeship programme affordable.

The move has been seen as an attempt by the government to help small-to-medium enterprises access apprenticeships, after it was found that two-fifths of providers are having to reject up to 40,000 of those firms looking to recruit apprentices.

The need for affordability comes after the Institute of Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) warned that the apprenticeship budget would be overspent, and the  National Audit Office sounded the alarm over the financial sustainability of the programme.

Employers on the digital service will also be restricted to reserving funding for apprenticeships standards, instead of frameworks.

The imminent withdrawal of apprenticeships frameworks, which is due to happen by the start of the 2020-21 academic year in September, will also be addressed at the collaborative and consultative” roadshows.

The process of withdrawing standards has been running since March 2016, but has been rocked by criticism.

Sector leaders have called for a replacement standard for the Level 2 business administration framework, but proposals have been rejected by IfATE due to concerns it would overlap with a Level 3 business administrator standard.

The institute and ministers were also worried that the standard would not meet the 20 per cent off-the-job training requirement.

But the government’s case was not helped by the Department for Education launching a recruitment drive for Level 2 business administration apprentices on frameworks in May.

The ESFA update says the roadshows “will provide you with opportunities to network with other providers, and to feedback around key themes, so we all have a chance to share good practice and learn from experiences of others”.

Main providers were previously invited to a set of roadshows which ran last September and also covered the transition of small employers to the apprenticeship service.

This latest series “builds on your feedback from our last events,” the ESFA said, adding: “The insight and information we collected has informed our planning to help make sure we bring you – our providers – on this change journey with us and we want to share this with you.”

More details about the agenda will be sent to providers next month.

Anyone with any questions has been asked to contact

The full list of roadshows is below:

  • Tuesday 25 February – North East – East Durham College
  • Tuesday 3 March – North West – Haydock Park Racecourse
  • Thursday 5 March – London – Holiday Inn, Wembley
  • Tuesday 24 March – Midlands – The Citrus Hotel, Coventry
  • Thursday 26 March – South Central – Farnborough College of Technology
  • Tuesday 31 March – South West – Taunton Conference Centre at Taunton RFC

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