The new chief executive at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), Mark Dawe, is keen to portray his members as the apprenticeship ‘experts’ that colleges go to for help.

The scale of college subcontracting should come as no surprise to the Skills Minister and readers of FE Week, which has regularly reported on the issue since our first edition in 2011.

However, what is as welcome as it is surprising, is Mr Dawe’s decision to criticise the continued growth in subcontracting.

Readers of my previous editorials on subcontracting will be familiar with my concern over top-slicing arrangements.

But what’s surprising is that the membership body for so many of the subcontractors has criticised the growth in their use.

Many subcontractors I speak to are happiest out of the spotlight of a direct Skills Funding Agency (SFA) contract.

It’s an important intervention, although with increasingly diminished resources at the SFA it seems unlikely they will rush to issue new direct contracts.

It also leaves the Association of Colleges exposed and alone in failing to face up to the truth.

There continues to be too much subcontracting, and the SFA should step in to reverse the trend.

Will the apprenticeship levy be a subcontracting game-changer alone?

That, like so much of the levy plans, remains unclear, untested and uncertain.



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  1. Jon Allen

    From a personal point of view, I would have to disagree, as a private training provider we had trained over 300 construction apprentices over the past 8 years by sub-contracting to local FE colleges as we do not hold a SFA contract.

    If we weren’t around and carrying out sub- contracting there would be 300 less apprentices. That is a fact, as our typical learner and their employer have had bad experiences in education. The gulf between education and industry is forever expanding, without specialist industy training companies our industry would struggle and may well do if the changes are brought in which will certainly not be in the best interest of the learner, help industy or allow the economy to developing & prosper.