Training providers spend thousands on consultants to get on new apprenticeship register

Consultants are raking in thousands of pounds writing bids for training providers desperate to make it onto the new register at the second time of asking.

Numerous major apprenticeships providers, including at least 21 colleges with a combined current allocation of £44 million, found themselves left off the register of apprenticeship training providers when it was published on March 14.

Such was the outcry, the Skills Funding Agency has agreed to a second round of applications, to close on April 7.

In total, the SFA approved 1,708 bodies, from a total of 2,327 applications. Since then, a number of third-party organisations have emerged, claiming a high success rate at helping providers write bids, and charging high fees for their second-chance services.

East Essex Vocational Training, an established education management company, boasted of a 99 per cent success rate on its RoATP applications in its March 19 newsletter.

We’ve heard back from about 100 cases we helped, and 99 per cent of those were successful

“The work required for RoATP differed – some providers just wanted us to check through their bid,” said managing director Steve Lawrence. “Others asked us to write the basis of their bid and finished it themselves, and we did the whole thing for others.”

He told FE Week that the cost of the service “varied from as low as £150 to £1,800 depending on the amount of time it took”.

He added: “We’ve heard back from about 100 cases we helped, and 99 per cent of those were successful.”

In October, the Yorkshire-based Education and Skills Consultancy sold its services with a message on its website, that warned: “If you want to continue to deliver after May 2017, you need to get on RoATP. We’ll be supporting organisations through the application process”.

Its managing director James Hart told FE Week that his company’s bid writers worked on around 40 applications during the window for RoATP entries from October 24 and November 25, claiming that only two had failed.

Mr Hart said the flat rate charged for applications was £1,000 plus VAT, although “there might be additional costs”.

He suggested that, particularly for smaller training providers, his experience could be useful.

“Over the last five years, the SFA hasn’t asked them to put pen to paper on a tender, and now all of a sudden they are expecting them to have the capability and capacity themselves to write something that they never had experience of doing,” he said.

Sally-Ann Baker, managing director of London-based Bidright UK, said she found it “incredible” how many “silly mistakes” providers had made with applications.

Her company was approached by 25 to 30 providers on RoATP and took on 12 cases, all of which were successful. Its fixed rate is £2,000 plus VAT.

Laura Shepherd, senior consultant at Yorkshire-based Carley Consult, said her firm worked with nine providers, eight of which made it onto RoATP.

“We work on a rate of £495 a day, but it would depend on if we know the provider or not,” she said. “It ranged between a couple of days and a week.”

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  1. swivvel eyed looney

    It is early game playing that does nothing to guarantee the quality of apprenticeship delivery – in fact, I would argue it detracts from the quality as it is funding that is being siphoned away from front line delivery.

  2. Joe Rutherford

    How much do colleges spend on full time bid writers because their core staff are doing their day job? What’s the difference?

    I know an excellent training company who used a bid writer to add professionalism to their work!