SFA apprenticeship tender for small employers rejected by quarter of providers


A quarter of apprenticeship providers have declined the opportunity compete for an SFA contract to deliver training to small and medium sized businesses from next May.

The new Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers, which providers have to be on if they want to deliver apprenticeship starts from May 1 next year, closed for applications at 5pm Friday (November 25).

FE Week can exclusively reveal that 1,753 providers applied to the register to be able to deliver training directly or as a sub-contractor to large, levy-paying employers.

Of these, just 1,310 – or 75 per cent – also applied to deliver training to smaller, non-levy paying employers.

This means that 25 per cent of providers have turned down the opportunity to receive an allocation to deliver apprenticeships to companies that won’t be subject to the levy – despite them making up the overwhelming majority of businesses in England.

Figures published by the Department for Education in August showed that 19,150 companies – only 1.3 per cent of all employers – will be subject to the levy when it is introduced next April.

And a mere 400 companies will pay around half the total levy, the Skills Funding Agency revealed recently.

Providers were able to apply to be on the register via three routes.

The main route was for all colleges and independent training providers who wanted to deliver training to levy-paying employers, either directly or as a sub-contractor.

The supporting route was an “entry route to the apprenticeship market for organisations that offer a specialism, and providers who only want to deliver as a subcontractor”, according to the SFA’s guidance.

The employer-provider route was for companies that wish to deliver apprenticeship training to their own staff.

In addition, providers that wanted to deliver apprenticeship training to non-levy paying employers could also submit an invitation to tender alongside a main route application.

As reported by FE Week on Friday, the SFA warned just hours before the register deadline that some providers were failing to follow instructions and were applying via more than one route.

It also reminded providers that ITTs should be submitted as well as a main route application – but despite this, FE Week understands that not all providers knew that they needed to submit the separate ITT. 

FE Week understands that some providers only want to deliver training to non-levy paying employers as subcontractors, and therefore do not need to submit an ITT. 

In total there were 2,327 applications to the new register.

In addition to the 1,753 main route applications there were 238 via the employer provider route and 336 via the supporting route.

There are currently 798 prime, or lead, apprenticeship providers on the existing register of training organisations.

There are also 3,815 providers on the current ROTO that can subcontract apprenticeships, but it’s not clear how many of them actually do so.

Peter Lauener, head of the SFA and the Education Funding Agency and shadow chief executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships, told FE Week’s Annual Apprenticeship Conference in March that the new register was being introduced “to make sure that any provider that is available for an employer to use meets the right standards”.

A DfE spokesperson said: “The apprenticeship register is central to the broader reforms being introduced to drive up the quality and quantity of apprenticeships.

“We welcome the strong interest from training providers and are pleased that they are fully engaging with the process.”


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