Frustration as ESFA’s course directory crashes and delays crucial apprenticeship provider updates

Providers have been blocked from updating their apprenticeship offer to prospective employers for a month after the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s course directory crashed.   

Leaders have described the situation as “incredibly frustrating”, especially after the agency reminded providers of their contractual requirement to keep their information on Find Apprenticeship Training “up to date” two weeks after the back-end of the website went down.  

It comes at a time when the government is desperate to increase apprenticeship starts in the aftermath of the pandemic and during a busy recruitment period ahead of the new academic year.   

The ESFA has apologised to providers for the inconvenience and assured them they are working to resolve the issue but could not offer an estimated date for when the site will be fixed.   

Course directory data and information is shared with employers when they use the ESFA’s Find Apprenticeship Training website, which provides information about a training provider’s organisation and their apprenticeship offer, such as the geographical areas they cover and delivery model.   

In an update to the sector on June 22, the ESFA told providers that it is “important that this information is up to date so that employers and ESFA have an accurate view of coverage of apprenticeship provision across all apprenticeships”.   

The agency added: “To ensure compliance with your apprenticeship agreement, we are asking all providers to ensure their information is up to date and complete.”   

Adam Barnes, who runs Roemer Barnes Consultancy and works with multiple training providers, said training firms are “incredibly frustrated that they’re being asked by the ESFA to update their offering on the course directory when the course directory isn’t available”.   

He told FE Week this is having a knock-on effect on employer engagement and providers’ ability to encourage employers to re-engage with apprenticeships after Covid.   

“Providers are facing an uphill battle to raise the number of apprenticeship starts in line with ESFA expectations because they can’t actually advertise what their current offer is,” Barnes added.   

The ESFA did not respond to FE Week requests for an update to the course directory’s status at the time of going to press. 

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