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In the News

Local authority sets up rival apprenticeship provider register – but will charge

A local authority is planning to make hundreds of thousands in management fees by offering access to its own apprenticeship provider list, FE Week can reveal. Nottingham City Council is currently tendering for apprenticeship providers to join its “directory” – a list that it intends to share with other public sector employers across England. The list, it says, will include other local authorities, the emergency services and the NHS. All business “transacted” through the directory, which claims to have stricter quality criteria than the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s free register of apprenticeship training providers, will be subject to a one-per-cent management fee. The council estimates a “potential value of spend” of £31.5 million per year, which would net the council a cool £315,000 a year. But these figures are based on just 10 per cent of apprenticeships “in relevant employers across England” – so by the council’s own admission, management fee income could exceed £3 million per year. A spokesperson for the council defended the charge, insisting that it had “an obligation to recover costs incurred in the management” of the directory “in line with well-established methods in the public sector”. “This fee is intended to solely meet management...

AEB tender results pushed back AGAIN, now into August

Training providers are being are being told they will learn the results of their long delayed adult education budget bids in August, even though the Education and Skills Funding Agency claimed the announcement would be made “at the end of July”. This is far from the first time this news has been held back – the tender took place between January and February of this year, with the results promised on May 19.  After missing that deadline, the ESFA told the relevant providers in June that they would have to wait until the end of July. And now, providers have been let down again. They were told today that their results would be published on August 4, in a message sent via the ESFA’s e-tendering portal. “Following the earlier message issued on June 28, the ESFA can now confirm that the award notification as a result of the invitation to tender for education and training services – adult education budget 2017 to 2018, will be made on the August 4,” it said. “Contract awards resulting from the tender exercise will be for a nine-month period running from November 1 2017 to July 31 2018.” The delay was a hot topic...

Assessment organisation claims ESFA approval for subcontracting model

An end-point assessment organisation claims that the Education and Skills Funding Agency will allow it to subcontract apprenticeship exams – even though the agency is in the middle of a significant crackdown on similar arrangements. SSL Assessment Services Partnerships is currently approved to deliver EPA for the level three team leader standard, and is listed on the register of apprentice assessment organisations. The arrangement involves two separate entities – SSL working as a consultancy, responsible for quality and process, and a training provider looking after occupational competence. And while the bulk of any fee is to go to the training provider for carrying out the actual assessment, SSL intends to retain a portion of it for its services. Nigel Sweeney, the firm’s managing director, accepted that “perhaps this is subcontracting in its broadest sense”, but said he preferred the term “partnership”. “We are a partnership in which the lead partner [SSL] has the ability to pick the very best occupational lead partner for each specific standard,” he insisted. He added that the “occupational lead partner is a partner in their own right”. The ESFA, which manages the AAO register, has been hammering subcontracting arrangements like this amid widespread concerns over...

Yorkshire colleges first to publish targets in £56m AEB pre-devolution deal

Colleges in West Yorkshire have agreed a “landmark” partnership with the combined authority to align their annual £56 million adult education budget provision while it waits for an official devolution deal to happen. The authority – made up of Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, Wakefield and York councils, and Leeds city region enterprise partnership – has the region’s seven colleges on board with the scheme, which aims to address “acute skills shortages” faced by the area. Each college has its own targets it needs to reach as part of the partnership, including increasing starts on higher-level apprenticeship courses, improving the proportion of full-time courses with a work experience element, and increasing its income from apprenticeships. It is hoped that by reaching these targets, the colleges will help to narrow the skills gap in Leeds’ major sectors of manufacturing and engineering, health and care, infrastructure and digital. The partnership has been created while the combined authority progresses with plans for a full devolution deal, which FE Week understands is in its very early stages. Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, skills lead for the West Yorkshire’s combined authority and leader of Bradford council, said she was “immensely pleased” with the new partnership. “It is paramount...