Freeze on growth for Government’s priority skills programmes
The Skills Funding Agency has written to training providers informing them that the Agency cannot meet any skills programme growth requests until after the Budget on 8 July.
As well as applying to the government’s priority skills programmes, i.e. Apprenticeships and Traineeships, the freeze on providers’ contract values includes 16-18 apprenticeships where normally no caps on growth are applied if the provider can evidence demand from young people. The SFA’s letter states that when growth requests are eventually granted, apprenticeships and traineeships will remain the priority.
The development has come only days after it was announced in the Queen’s Speech that new legislation will require ministers to report annually on progress towards meeting the government’s key manifesto commitment that 3 million more apprenticeships should be created in this Parliament.
Commenting on the SFA’s letter, AELP CEO Stewart Segal said:
“We are disappointed that the responses to growth cases have been delayed. This is very late notice for providers that have responded positively to the government’s priorities. The delay will cause problems for prospective apprentices and employers who have made the commitment to the programme but will now not be funded.
“Training providers have to make commitments to employers before they get confirmation of contracts. They take calculated risks which are based on previous experience and short notice changes like this will cause major issues. Even if notification is given soon after the 8 July Budget, there will not be time to deliver the growth by the end of the year. This is the first time for many years where funding for 16 to 19 apprentices has been restricted.
“This delay has also come at a time when many providers were planning to increase the numbers of Traineeships and many young people and employers will not be able to delay the start of their programmes.
“We have also talked to the SFA about needing a very flexible approach to managing any extensions to contracts after 8 July because many providers will not be able to deliver the growth they predicted because of the delay.
“This decision is a good example of the AELP view that constant changes to contracts with little or no notice are the major barrier to expanding the apprenticeship programme. Attempts to engage more employers will be affected by these short-term decisions. If training providers were given a more secure contracting process, we would be able to engage more employers and deliver the growth we need. “