One of the biggest changes in the government’s overhaul of apprenticeships was the effort to create an open market among apprenticeship training providers - giving employers more freedom to choose a provider that fit their needs.
This freedom also puts employers firmly in the driver’s seat when it comes to switching providers if things aren’t working out and in this guide, we’ll explain how this process works.
The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) recently announced that it had paused its procurement process, suspending decisions over funding allocations in the face of significant oversubscription from apprenticeship training providers in the government’s apprenticeship reforms.
This move led to dire warnings from the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) that many providers would not have sufficient allocations to maintain their current training programmes.
AELP CEO Mark Dawe claimed the decision would result in a ‘slaughter of providers’ - with reduced allocations making it impossible for many providers to work without guarantees of future funding and some potentially running out of money within a matter of weeks.
You’re in control
Whether it’s due to a financial issue affecting your provider, a disparity in the quality of training or any other issue that prompts the decision to switch - employers are firmly in the driving seat when it comes to changing training providers.
Obviously, training contracts are negotiated between providers and employers - and you’ll need to follow the agreed exit process when making the switch, but on the administrative side of things, an employer’s role is clearly set out.
If you’re paying for your apprenticeship training via the Apprenticeship Levy - it’s as easy as logging on to your Apprenticeship Service portal and turning off funding directly.
From there, you’ll need to go through the exit process as set out in your training agreement, as well as finding and appointing a new provider from the government’s register of apprenticeship training providers.
For employers that are using the government’s co-investment scheme to fund their training - things are slightly more complex, however.
Under this method, most of the administrative burden for funding is placed on the provider - who has to notify the government of any changes like this.
As such, it’s important to be agile if you’re looking to make a switch - which will ensure any paperwork is submitted in a timely fashion, prevent over-payment and make transferring apprentices much easier.
Typically, providers will request that most of the co-investment amount is paid up-front, which could lead to implications around pricing if you’re looking to switch.
For instance, the price you have negotiated with your incumbent provider may not be upheld by the provider you’re looking to change to.
There’s also issues around what’s been paid so far and working out what government funding is left to you. In essence, the government doesn’t want to pay for anything twice, so an apprentice’s progression in their training will need to be clearly documented and updated to ensure post-switch funding continues uninterrupted.
When transferring apprentices from one provider to another, there’s mechanisms in place to prevent overlapping funding, so it’s important to be crystal clear on both the training timeframes and ensure the necessary paperwork is submitted in a timely manner.
When taking on 16-to-18-year-olds or 19-24 year olds with an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan or that have been in care of their local authority, the government has provided extra financial incentives to both providers and employers.
For instance, to support learning, employers with apprentices between the ages of 16 to 18 will get a £1,000 incentive, which is triggered in stages at the third and twelfth months of their apprenticeship. Providers will also receive the same sum within the same timeframe.
However, this funding ‘follows’ the apprentice - so if the learner changes either employer or provider then incentives will only be paid once for each apprentice. This means the new employer/provider may only receive half or potentially none of the payments depending on the point at which the change occurs.
The bottom line
While there may seem to be a lot of hoops to jump through, the government is looking to generate value for money with its apprenticeship reforms and create a competitive and responsive market that gives employers the best value for money.
The speed and last-minute nature of the finalised legislation has left many questions that can only be addressed in practice. However, in the absence of concrete guidance, it’s in the best interest of all parties to abide by the spirit of the initiative and not seek to ‘game the system’.
Hopefully, we’ve managed to shed a bit of light on how switching apprenticeship training providers works, but if you’ve got any questions about the topics we’ve covered - be sure to let us know via LinkedIn or Twitter.
And if you’re looking for bespoke advice on this issue - or anything else related to the government’s apprenticeship overhaul - be sure to get in touch with our expert advisors today.