The training market is in an exciting period of growth and flux. In the last twenty years, the number of people entering apprenticeship schemes has risen from under 100,000 to more than 500,000. The introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy last April means many more customers are coming into the training market, as organisations across England with a payroll greater than £3 million per annum are forced to think about how they are going to offer apprenticeships. The Apprenticeship Levy has made these employers more accountable for the success of their apprenticeships, and many will be feeling a little out of their depth or confused by the rules and regulations. They will be looking to partner with trusted training providers who can help them deliver successful and compliant apprenticeship programmes.
Not only are there more customers entering the training market, but there is increased funding too. Once an organisation has paid their Apprenticeship Levy (0.5% of their payroll) to HMRC each month, the government then pays the funds (the initial Levy plus a 10% top-up incentive) into the organisation’s Apprenticeship Service Account. This money can only be spent on apprenticeship training and assessment with a training provider, not on other costs such as wages. Organisations need to ensure they spend this money with a training provider who can successfully deliver proven programmes that allow their apprentices to develop substantial and demonstrable new knowledge, skills and behaviours to prepare them for their chosen career.
Of course, the new Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP) will be a key tool for organisations looking to choose a provider. The government has stated the Register ‘will give employers an assurance that the providers they are using have the capacity and capability to deliver good quality apprenticeship training.’ From May 2017 onwards, to be eligible to deliver apprenticeship training, organisations must be listed on this register. RoATP has already almost doubled the number of training providers eligible to deliver apprenticeships in the UK from 793 to 1,473 – and the numbers keep on growing with many large providers working on being included in the list.
It’s not enough to simply get on the Register, training providers need to make sure they stay on. In order to remain listed, providers must undergo inspection by Ofsted – and any provider that is rated Grade 4 (Inadequate) for apprenticeship delivery will be removed from RoATP, and no longer allowed to deliver training to Apprenticeship Levy paying employers. Potential customers will certainly look upon those receiving high Ofsted grades more favourably. This additional workload is going to prove a challenge for Ofsted (who ‘inspect and regulate services that care for children and young people, and services providing education and skills for learners of all ages’), but also for the 55% of training providers who have never been inspected by them before.
New providers will normally have their first Ofsted inspection within three years of being funded, and will need to be able to provide evidence and a clear audit trail of how their learners are progressing and how far they have come. Ofsted can carry out unannounced inspections or monitoring visits at any time. It is essential to put in place the processes required and to be able to provide these records from day one. Training providers will need efficient systems that can easily demonstrate the assessment process and show the impact their apprenticeship programmes are having on the learner. Individual Learner Records (ILRs) must consistently describe the training provided for each learner and record details of their learning agreement. Providers must be able to develop plans that not only demonstrate clear learning skills and career paths, but show how these can be monitored and evaluated on an ongoing basis.
If the ILRs are going to be produced in a timely and accurate manner, data management is key. This data will inform the various statistical reports required by Ofsted based on learner delivery and outcomes. It can also help to analyse a training provider’s achievement rates, staff performance, payments, funding and future business planning – essential information when running a successful and efficient business.
Technology is available that can help gather and get the most from this data; it can simplify the processes that need to be in place to meet Ofsted requirements. Solutions such as ProAchieve, which is used by 90% of UK colleges, can be tailored to the individual needs of each training provider. With Ofsted and government requirements changing over time, software is regularly updated to reflect statutory changes and ensure training providers are always working in line with inspection standards. Technology can maximise the value of the information in the ILRs, drilling down into individual programmes and learner profiles to ensure learners are working to expectations and receiving first-class training.
Training providers have some huge opportunities coming their way as employers strive to ensure their Apprenticeship Levy is being spent in the most productive way. In order to stand out from the competition it will be crucial to present a training organisation that is streamlined and innovative, effective and efficient – one that can deliver proven and successful apprenticeship programmes. If you are considering embarking on offering apprenticeship training, here are some questions to ask yourself to make sure you are ready to maximise these opportunities:
- What kind of training do we want to deliver?
- Are we confident this will be profitable? (Funding is complicated and thorough financial planning is vital.)
- What data will we need to collect? How will we go about this?
- Are systems in place to ensure timely and comprehensive reporting?
- Are these systems accessible by all relevant parties?
- How will we track what we are delivering?
- How can we demonstrate this during compliance visits and audits?
- Are we able to monitor our programmes to ensure we are continuously providing what we agreed?