Growth requests offered for any apprenticeship standards

Growth requests are being offered for the delivery of any of the new apprenticeship standards, FE Week can reveal.

The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) announced this today as part of a “targeted growth exercise” to increase 16 to 18 and 19+ apprenticeship delivery.

An initial statement uploaded onto by the agency said the offer would apply to standards — not existing apprenticeship frameworks — but did not specify which ones.

But when asked by FE Week if this meant providers needing more funding could lodge growth requests for “any of the new standards”, an SFA spokesperson said: “Yes, on standards, we have not been specific on sector areas”.

“Requests are subject to affordability and our normal credibility checks,” she added.

So far 96 new standards have been approved by the government for delivery, with more than 160 still in development.

The SFA also said on that its “targeted growth exercise” would apply to other apprenticeship delivery — covering higher and /or degree level, food, farming and agritech, and those that are science, and technology, engineering and maths (STEM)-based.

A spokesperson said: “We will also fund credible growth cases on 16-18 traineeships and 19-24 traineeships.”

She said the SFA would consider providers’ final 2014/15 apprenticeship and traineeship delivery, along with 2015/16 delivery against year-to-date profiles, when reviewing growth requests.

The review process will also take on board whether they can prove there is immediate demand from employers or learners that providers “cannot meet from your current contract value”.

Providers must also “provide details of the frameworks /standards you will deliver on food, farming and agritech apprenticeships and/or other STEM based apprenticeships or a specific commitment from an employer confirming an agreed volume of starts,” she added.

Providers have been asked to submit growth request forms relating to today’s announcement, via by 5pm on May 20, which will be viewed by many as a rushed turnaround.

The funding will be added to 2016/17 allocations.

The SFA spokesperson added: “We will also review the baseline data used in calculating 2016/17 allocations and where more recent data shows evidence of increased performance, we may increase your allocation accordingly.

“You do not need to include reference to this within your growth request.”

It comes three months after training providers branded “ridiculous” the overdue news that many of their 16 to 18 apprenticeship and traineeship growth requests had not been funded in full by the SFA.

The SFA announced in early February that it had awarded an additional £25m to colleges and training providers to deliver 16 to 18 apprenticeships — but there was no extra cash for 16 to 18 traineeships.

The announcement, which should have been made on January 8, was in response to growth requests submitted by providers to help fund apprenticeships and traineeships in 2015/16.

It came just a week after FE Week exclusively revealed that the delay in confirming the growth requests was due to an overspend by the Department for Education.

The SFA was unable to say ahead of publication how much growth funding it has to distribute relating to today’s growth request announcement.

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