The government’s much-anticipated traineeships tender received 370 bids – a fraction of the number that had been anticipated by some in the sector.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency finally launched the bidding process for 19-to-24 traineeship funding on October 7, which was run on an “accelerated” timetable with a deadline for bids set for just three weeks later.

Up for grabs initially is a slice of £65 million to be spent between February and July 31, 2021, which will be split across nine regions in England – ranging from £20.8 million for London providers to just £2.6 million for the south-west.

The bidding window closed on October 28 and the ESFA has now told FE Week that 370 applications were received. The agency could not provide the total value being asked for at this stage.

Jim Carley, a tender specialist in the FE sector, previously said he expected “in excess of 3,000 bidders” based on the fact that the procurement did not have any provider eligibility criteria and the level of interest and oversubscription seen on previous ESFA procurements, such as the controversial non-levy tender.

Many eligible providers might have been put off applying owing to the minimum tender value, which was set at £250,000.

While providers were bidding for an initial £65 million in total to fund around 20,000 starts in the latter half of 2020-21, a further £315 million was made available to support continued delivery through to July 2023.

The traineeships tender is one way the government plans to triple the number of traineeships starts this year – as pledged by chancellor Rishi Sunak over the summer as part of his plan to combat youth unemployment following the coronavirus pandemic.

Employer cash incentives of £1,000 have also been made available, as has growth funding for providers to deliver 16-to-19 traineeships.

The ESFA intends to award contracts from the tender in January 2021.

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  1. Terry Bentley

    I’ll be astonished if any successful bidders are able to deliver £250k of Traineeships in 6 months.
    A) Not many providers are in a position to deliver remote Traineeships.
    B) There is absolutely no demand from employers for work experience at present when they can have a Kickstarter for free.
    C) Young people don’t want to do Traineeships because Apprenticeships, Kickstart and Sector Based Work Academies offer much faster routes into employment.

  2. bob smith

    This isn’t a surprise at all given most providers wouldn’t have been able to meet the turnover threshold.

    It just goes to show how fragmented the market place is with few large providers.

    We will be heading for a major underspend against the budget given there will be none compliant bids. Just look at the mathematics