A register too far?

At the end of June, it was announced that a new register for apprenticeship providers would be opened in July 2018. Its purpose? To require providers to register before they can bid for apprenticeship training contracts with public sector employers across the UK.

These include local authorities, educational establishments including academies, central government departments and agencies, the police, fire and rescue and coastguard emergency services, and the NHS.

The catch is that any prospective providers must pay ESPO, the contracting group which describes itself as a public sector-owned ‘professional buying organisation’, a ‘rebate’ for any and every contract they win under this banner. This rebate will be charged at 0.5% of the contract value – for example, a contract worth £500k will have a rebate charge of £2500. ESPO claim, however, its streamlined and standardised processes would ultimately save providers money.

This doesn’t seem too bad if only one contract is won. But multiple contract wins will demand multiple rebates and a provider could end up paying a substantial five-figure sum to deliver apprenticeship training to the public sector. At least one of the membership bodies representing FE colleges and independent training providers, AELP, is not pleased.

CEO of AELP, Mark Dawe, is unhappy about the proposed charges to his members but is powerless to prevent it saying, “DfE and ESFA have told us these are acceptable, so we have no option but to tolerate them”.

In total, and in order for providers to access public funding and/or the apprenticeship levy, there are 4 main registers and 2 subsidiary registers that they are advised be listed on namely:

UKRLP – UK Register of Learning Providers

ROTO – Register of Training Organisations

ROATP – Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers

ROEPAO – Register of End Point Assessment Organisations

NHS London Providers Partnership - Apprenticeship Dynamic Purchasing System

Nottingham City Council - Directory of Approved Apprenticeship Training Providers (DAAP)

Not only this but from 2019 we will see the devolution of the Adult Education Budget (AEB) to those regions overseen by an elected Mayor ranging from London to North of Tyne. This could add another 8-10 additional registers that may come into operation by 2020 and on which providers will need to be.

Providers will need to keep the same, if not more, information to satisfy every audit that each register will demand. This may well need to be sliced up in a wide variety of ways, using a different MIS process across a range of programmes and potentially for different areas of the country. What used to be an integral but routine part of a provider’s duty could end up as its sole reason for survival. Multiple resources in place not to deliver training or assessment but to manage the multiple, possibly double figure, audit and returns demands that would need completing every month.

The industry agrees that quality of training delivery and assessment is paramount to increased achievement and provider and employer success. What mustn’t happen is the requirement to be on a register for its own sake to enable this. What we don’t need is a register too far.