Apprenticeship Levy

What price is quality in apprenticeship levy?

Over recent months I have seen a number of training providers offering a free service to manage employers’ Apprenticeship Levy.  Almost all of these service offerings are offered free of charge.  Not only are these services offered free, but they are also tailored!!

Forgive my cynicism, but is there really such a thing as a free tailored service?  Please do not misunderstand me.  What these providers are doing is simply marketing their business and trying to retain or get a piece of the apprenticeship levy pie.

In my opinion, the strategy of these providers is clear; it is to engage with employers and direct the apprenticeship levy spend to their own provision and gain revenue and subsequent profit.  Please do not think for one minute that I object to businesses making money – quite the opposite in fact.  It does however, make me wonder if this is really a free service or whether it’s a manipulative approach to an engagement service?  Is this truly in the best interests of apprenticeship levy-paying employers?

I see the apprenticeship levy as an ideal opportunity for employers to engage with employees more and develop or improve their talent plan.  This opportunity opens up avenues for a collaborative approach.  Employers are clearly best placed to identify talent, learning and development opportunities and indeed their recruitment needs, but may not be structured to deliver an effective and quality focused apprenticeship. 

For employers it is not simply a case of just choosing a training provider with a one size fits all approach.  Employers have to ensure that they adopt a strategic process to select training providers that they will, in essence, contract and spend their money with.  And how will they manage their chosen training partners?  This will also apply to employers who choose to self-deliver their provision.  I am quite sure that a number of self-delivering employers will not have all the expertise within their business to deliver the required identified training.  Whether they choose to go down the route of a partnership with a specialised training provider or indeed engage with a freelance tutor/assessor/IQA to deliver and support their overall provision, they still require to have stringent process and management procedures in place.

Ensuring that the processes and procedures are in place, together with the effective delivery of the training, all takes time, and in any business time is money.  The amount of money is not something that I can quantify as it will undoubtedly depend on each organisation, its size, its needs, its resources, its people.

Adding all this into the mix, employers will have to consider who is not only best placed within the organisation but who has the required appropriate experience, knowledge and understanding?  If utilising an existing staff member there is a clear cost implication albeit an indirect one.

Basically, what I am saying is: there is no such thing as a freebie from a commercial business and employers have to ensure they ask themselves what price they put on the quality of the learning and development of their employees.

When is assessment a personal interest?

I have spent the morning flicking through the Guidance to the General Conditions of Recognition (July 2016) for Awarding Organisations by Ofqual and one thing within it jumped out to me that surely affects every SME training provider and indeed every AO out there!!!

It is listed within the guidance on Condition A4 – Conflict of Interests.  Interests in assessment particularly A4.5 “An awarding organisation must take all reasonable steps to avoid any part of the assessment of a learner (including by way of Moderation) being undertaken by any person who has a personal interest in the result of the assessment”

Surely we all have a personal interest in the result of the assessment, particularly if it is one of quality provision and seeing learners achieve?  We certainly all have a personal interest in financial terms as we all in 99% of cases I am sure get paid for delivering our training and assessment.

For the moment, I will set aside financial gain.  I fully concur the personal interest when it relates to family members and close friends, I for one would avoid being the assessor or IQA for either of these for pretty obvious reasons and would expect a fellow professional to act in similar manner!   Now let’s look more closely at financial gain.  What is financial gain?  In simple lay terms a financial gain is the receipt of payment for something.  In this case then everyone in the so called supply chain connected to the delivery of training and assessment receives a financial gain.  Do we all have a personal interest in the results, simple answer is yes!!

Criteria A4.6 states “Where, having taken all such reasonable steps, an assessment by such a person cannot be avoided, the awarding organisation must make arrangements for the relevant part of the assessment to be subject to scrutiny by another person”

My first thought was this was a stupid criteria, then I got thinking, no it isn’t really it only becomes a stupid criteria when looked at by an idiot! The use of the word reasonable is very much one open for discussion.  Using it in an educational context it is having sound judgement, fair and sensible or as much as is appropriate or fair.

I would really like to hear from my contacts out there in training providers, awarding organisations their thoughts in this.

Definitive Timelines for Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers

The Skills Funding Agency have outlined more definitive timelines for the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP).  They are expecting some 4,000 tender responses to the RoATP.

The register will remain open until 1700 hours on Friday 25th November.  The have also now stated that feedback will be provided to applicants on the 6th March 2017 with the RoATP published on the 7th March 2017.

It must be me, but these timelines seem rather bizarre and indeed can lead to employers and training providers being confused and impinge on planning and preparation for all involved.