Latest apprenticeship funding review uprates 35 standards

Plumbing, church minister and healthcare science apprenticeships get funding boost

Plumbing, church minister and healthcare science apprenticeships get funding boost

18 Jan 2024, 20:28

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Funding bands for a further 35 apprenticeships have been increased following the government’s review of the 100 supposedly “most-used” apprenticeship standards.

However, some apprenticeships that received the largest increase had low, or even no starts in 2022/23.

The Department for Education tasked the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education with reviewing and updating 100 apprenticeship standards as part of its “crackdown on rip-off university degrees” media push over the summer.

IfATE then told the sector it would “review the content of 100 of the most-used standards so they reflect the latest technological advancements and work better for employers and apprentices”.

FE Week revealed in September that just 59 apprenticeships had so far been reviewed. IfATE confirmed this week that the process has now been completed, and 127 apprenticeships have now been reviewed, exceeding its target.

The biggest winner from this week’s update was the level 6 church minister degree apprenticeship which received a £9,000 funding increase and now attracts £22,000. Government data on apprenticeships starts though show that 10 apprentices took that standard in 2020/21, with none since.

Click here to see the full list of reviewed apprenticeship standards

Analysis by FE Week shows 21 of the 127 reviewed standards, which excludes new apprenticeships, had no starts in 2022/23. However, of those, 14 have been either retired or replaced as a result of the review.

Forty-one standards chosen for the review had fewer than 20 starts in 2022/23.

The most popular apprenticeship deemed worthy of a funding increase as part of this review was the level 3 early years educator, as reported by FE Week last week, moving up from £6,000 to £7,000.

Level 3 plumbing and heating technicians can now attract £22,000, up from £21,000, and funding for the level 2 supply chain warehouse operative apprenticeship has been increased from £3,000 to £5,000.

Three standards have seen their funding reduced. The level 2 arborist, now £12,000; the level 3 battery manufacturing technician, now £24,000; and the level 3 process industry manufacturing technician, now £24,000. They were each reduced by £3,000.

IfATE said the 127 reviewed apprenticeships were taken by over 60,000 apprentices each year.

Ben Rowland, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: “Employers and providers need to see this momentum continue as regularly reviewed standards are central to a high quality and sustainable provider market which helps meet the needs of employers.”

“There are also aspects of the funding model which still need attention – including the list of eligible costs and the data which feeds into the model on fixed inputs (such as initial assessment, formative assessment and administration). We also need to fairly fund providers for every aspects that they’re expected to deliver such as Prevent and British values,” Rowland said. 

Robert Halfon, minister for skills and apprenticeships, said it was “fantastic news” that IfATE exceeded its target.

“It’s vital that we ensure all apprenticeships remain up to date and offer high-quality training so more people and businesses can benefit, and we can grow the economy.”

Halfon also hailed “almost 80 per cent of the standards revised received a funding boost, including those in key sectors such as social care, transport and logistics and engineering”.

However, FE Week analysis of previous and current funding bands shows that only 45, or 60 per cent, of the 76 apprenticeships that were not new, retired or replaced received a funding increase.

As previously announced, the apprenticeship which received the largest funding increase in IfATE’s review was the level 6 chartered legal executive, which increased in September from £12,000 to £27,000. Forty apprentices started that standard in 2022/23.

The review resulted in 26 apprenticeship standards being retired, most of which had low or no starts recorded.

Alongside church ministers, level 4 healthcare science associate apprentices now also attract more funding, with their funding band increasing from £9,000 to £16,000. The level 3 spectacle maker standard, which was taken by 60 apprentices in 2022/23, had seen its funding doubled to £8,000.

Others, like the level 7 solicitor and level 6 civil engineering degree apprenticeships were reviewed but did not receive a funding increase.

Jennifer Coupland, chief executive of IfATE, said: “This has put us in a fantastic position starting the new year with apprenticeships bang up to date with the latest industry requirements. I’m absolutely delighted to have exceeded this target. 

“Achieving it required everyone at IfATE to maintain laser focus and I would like to say a huge thanks to all the large and small businesses across the country who advised on what was needed.”

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  1. Wild West

    Regarding the application of the funding model: Still currently described on the IfATE website as:

    “Where the model is being used for changes to an apprenticeship, a stability mechanism will apply. It means that funding band recommendations will not be reduced or increased by more than two funding bands.”

    It was a bad mechanism, but shouldn’t they at least follow their own rules?

  2. Albert Wright

    Some interesting changes, as mentioned in the main article.

    It would have been helpful if the spreadsheet had included a column with the Level for each qualification and a column with the number of people who undertook each apprenticeship in the last 12 months. Although apprenticeships with no starts are now eliminated fairly quickly, perhaps there should also be compulsory eliminations for existing apprenticeships for those with very low starts over 3 consecutive years.

    Another concern about the spreadsheet is that there is no column relating to the length of time expected to deliver the qualification for the costs shown. In some cases it is 12 months for a level 2 at £5k and others an expected 36 months for a level 6 for £27k.

    When it comes to the £27k cohort for 3 years at level 5 and above, we are into University undergraduate territory where the comparison is £9250 a year. However, the number of months involved would seem to be higher at University if we try and look at value for money between institutions.

    Perhaps more attention should be given in Universities to providing data about Guided Learning Hours to help with comparisons, so tax payers have a better understanding.

  3. Scrooged

    What would be really helpful is some assessment of whether the funding model and rules are designed to underfund. Such as;

    The model is based on costs and lets assume it recognises all costs and averages out across the sector (which it doesn’t).

    So lets say a funding band is set at 10k, exactly matching the cost of delivery.

    Now lets say that the achievement rate is 60% (generous I know, but it’s Friday). For the 40% who do not achieve, most will be withdrawals before planned end, they will attract funding for their time on programme. However, the on programme portion is only 80% of the funding, as 20% is paid on completion.

    Obviously the EPA cost will be avoided for those who withdraw, but you’d hope that is rarely 20% of a funding band. Perhaps publishing EPA cost for each standard would be helpful to see which standards might be structurally underfunded because of the 20% pegged to completion.

    Then we can start getting into the fixed rates within the model (based on ‘independent’ research from 2019). Hourly rates, admin etc are all set at below 2019 costs (pre-covid and before the word inflation became fashionable again).

    (back of an envelope calculations – if the apprenticeship achievement rate was 99%, the budget would need another c£800m a year based on current volumes and current achievement. Arguably, there is a perverse incentive for the treasury that achievement rates are low)

  4. The elephant in the room is the fact that apprenticeship funding bands are not been linked to annual inflationary increases.

    In real terms, Standards approved in 2018 are now having to deliver the the same high quality provision for effectively 20 less funding!

    How are providers supposed to deliver world class provision, and have credibility with employers, applicants and parents, if Government policy is so shortsighted that it would rather watch the inevitable decline and closure of excellent Training Providers?

    Once they are gone, the infrastructure, knowledge and skills base is lost forever!

    The Government has a short window of opportunity to apply a good common sense funding strategy to support the apprenticeship sector before it is too late.

    Let’s hope someone in Government is listening.

    • It’s worse than that.

      Standards being reviewed NOW have many elements set a fixed cost. The rate of those fixed costs were determined on 2019 prices and rates set below those figures.

      It’s described as a cost based model, but ignores the existence and consequence of time.