Appetite for skills bootcamps appears to be dwindling as mayoral combined authorities report slower take-up and revised targets for the latest wave of courses.
Competition with the government’s own £60 million national programme and lack of public awareness has been cited among the reasons.
Wave three of the skills bootcamp programme – short courses up to 16 weeks in areas of skills shortages – is underway, with learners in this cohort needing to enrol by the end of the month.
Some combined authorities have struggled to hit their target numbers. Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority’s latest skills committee report said its forecast learner numbers had been revised down to 840 learners from 1,780.
West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) reported 1,607 enrolments against a target of 3,450. It has a predicted out-turn of 2,500 depending on provider performance.
Both pointed to the digital bootcamps where the predicted shortfall was highest, and highlighted competition from the national programme.
The WMCA said the DfE had funded 5,000 places in the region, and six of the national providers were also awarded contracts by the combined authority, which it said led to capacity issues.
WMCA said it had not been made aware of national allocations until its own contracts had already been awarded.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, which has bid for lower numbers for wave four funding, also found some providers were more inclined to accept the larger national contracts.
The authority is lobbying for longer-term funding to encourage providers to invest in programmes.
A spokesperson said the authority remained “very supportive” of bootcamps because of the “real benefits for employers, people’s career opportunities and for growth”.
North of Tyne Combined Authority, which had a target of 1,700 wave three bootcamp enrolments, has recruited more than 1,000 learners to date. It expected more starts before the end of the month but did not specify how many.
Greater London Authority said it did not know final delivery numbers until learning had been completed, with data expected in the summer.
However, it reported that funding agreements from the DfE were delayed, leaving bootcamp providers with only six months to deliver the courses.
Greater Manchester Combined Authority said its information for wave three will be published by the end of the year.
Combined authorities for the West of England, Liverpool City Region, West Yorkshire and Tees Valley did not respond to requests for comment.
Other reasons behind the shortfalls include a tight labour market where potential earners can secure jobs without attending bootcamps.
Authorities also said more work was needed to build awareness for the courses locally and nationally.
The DfE said the overall target for the national and local programme was 36,000 learners.
A spokesperson said the department was “well on the way to meeting our target for skills bootcamps thanks to both the local and national programmes,” adding: “We are constantly communicating with local authorities and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Despite the take-up issues, West Midlands confirmed it had secured a 97.5 per cent completion rate against a target of 80 per cent and had already recorded 51 per cent positive outcomes within two months of completion – a figure set to rise as providers have six months to submit data.
DfE figures published in December indicated that it had exceeded its target numbers of bootcamp learner starts in 2021/22, reporting 16,120 against a 16,000 target.
Of those, 4,740 were on the HGV bootcamps which attempted to quickly train drivers to address the national haulage driver crisis.
December’s figures did not include completion or outcome data.
DfE funding conditions guidance for wave three of the skills bootcamps programme indicated that milestones one and two – learner start and learner completion – must be achieved by March 31, 2023, and learner outcomes achieved within six months of the end of the final year.
It said that 45 per cent of funding is claimable upon learner start, 35 per cent on learner completion and 20 per cent on learner outcome being reported.