Apprenticeships: more following the October guidance

Having continued to reflect since my last post on this topic as well as taking in the October guidance (both through reading and a couple of related events).  It’s starting to look a lot clearer now…my current view on the three main options for employers:

Ignore it all together…

A lot of companies will continue to ignore apprenticeships as the 20% off-the-job and new division between providers and assessment organisations will not be as efficient as what can be done via other development approaches.

It’s not just about the levy – company’s existing training will have some level of value and quality.  I’ve always felt workplace learning, FE and HE need to be much more joined up and its good that the levy is starting to make people look wider than their existing silo, for example the OU working with people consultants from KPMG for a wider solution.

There remains though a lot of snobbery in learning, including:

  • from apprenticeship providers about the quality of non-accredited workplace learning
  • about the lack of skills in HE from FE and employers
  • the HE snobbery around degrees being of most value.

That the levy seems to be breaking down at least the last of these, via degree apprenticeships, and getting some cross-sector conversations going can only be a good thing.  However, as mentioned in this article, if the model is to be employer led why force funding for apprenticeships only?  And will degree apprenticeships get very far if even the BBC refers to them as ‘degree apprenticeships‘ as if a non-recognized qualification.

…or sub-contract…

There’s a logic in presuming subcontracting will be the most popular route with companies who have existing L&D teams but little/no experience of apprenticeships.

You would expect few will have met the short Skills Funding Agency deadlines at this enrollment window and even fewer will attempt the full employer-provider model this time around.  The October guidance suggests sub-contracting is a valuable (upto £500k per annum) way for L&D teams to save their companies from some of the levy ‘hit’ whilst putting existing learning into more formal structures. Indeed its also become clearer in October that the SFA sees investment in management information systems as essential for employer-providers.  This and other logistics may be a big ask for all but the biggest employers and you suspect sub-contracting well allow many employers to deliver the training they deem appropriate but leverage a provider’s economies of scale for systems, standards management, Ofsted requirements, etc.

…or wait and see.

The deadlines of late November for registrations were challenging (when SFA employer engagement events were fully booked in the run up) so the ‘big bang’ of the levy introduction (the event I went to said 500 companies had attended/booked nationwide) may well become a whimper for a year or two.

That the SFA needed to send the below note out on the day of the registration deadlines shows that there’s interest – even if organisations have failed to be totally clear on who is responsible for what in this new world!

The SFA has noticed that some organisations have submitted multiple PQQs despite clear guidance.

Organisations are reminded that only one PQQ route must be submitted. Please check that this is the case.


Author: iangardnergb

My name is Ian Gardner and I am interested in various topics that can be seen as related to learning, technology and information. To see what I am reading elsewhere, follow me on The Old Reader ( and/or Twitter (@iangardnergb).

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