'Training providers and subcontractors have important roles to play'

4th July 2016 at 17:30
Training providers should be better recognised and acknowledged, argues Angela Middleston, CEO of training provider MiddletonMurray

Recent data by the Association of Employers and Learning Providers suggests that, through subcontracting, three-quarters of apprenticeships are delivered by training providers. With this in mind I would make a number of points.

Firstly, as the CEO of a training provider myself, I'd argue that subcontracting plays an important role. It is a great entry method for new, specialist training providers and it is how we at MiddletonMurray entered the market and built our experience. Since then we’ve gone on to successfully place over 3,500 young people into their first jobs. Everyone has been a winner in the process.

If you are a new subcontractor and have a supportive prime contractor, it can really help you find your feet before applying for a direct contract and, accordingly, the market benefits from those new entrants.

The issue comes where ‘primes’ rely on subcontracting to spend their funding, then charge a management fee to the ‘sub’ but provide them with little or no support, meaning that funding is top-sliced rather than going to the point where delivery takes place. It is currently unclear how this will be addressed via the upcoming apprenticeship levy. 

Training providers are absolutely vital to the future of apprenticeships and the government would not be able to meet its target of 3 million apprenticeships by 2020 without them. Why? Simply because colleges are not delivering the level of apprenticeships that is expected of them, and the reality is that training providers are instead providing the support needed to fulfil the requirement. As such, providers need to be given wider recognition for the services that they deliver and the fact that they currently facilitate over 75 per cent of all apprenticeships. 

In addition to this, training providers offer a far greater degree of flexibility to young people, thanks to "roll on, roll off" programmes. This means that from first contact, a young person can start a pre-apprenticeship programme, for example, within two to three weeks, which is in direct contrast to most colleges who only have twice-yearly intakes – one in September and one in January. 

'More communication needed'

There are so many benefits that training providers offer, but these need to be communicated more effectively to schools. Many schools still think that colleges are the only institutions which offer apprenticeships. What's more, there’s sometimes the perception that colleges are somehow better than training providers, but this is simply not the case. 

Training providers tailor their programmes carefully to suit the needs of young people by creating courses which thoroughly prepare attendees for the world of work. Whilst this is not the case in every situation, many colleges place apprentices on a two day per week BTEC course, rather than a pre-apprenticeship, which does not prepare the young person for work and makes them ineligible for a pre-apprenticeship. This approach might make up the numbers of young people required by the college to receive funding, but a couple of days a week simply does not meet the primary aim of preparing that young person for work. 

Continuing to award colleges funding perpetuates this type of situation. It is apparent that over the past few years, colleges have been awarded funding by the government without much scrutiny being given to their processes and the way in which the money is spent. 

Training providers are commercial entities and therefore have a need – not just a desire – to place young people into apprenticeships and to keep them there. As well as striving for quality, if we want our bills to be paid we have to deliver results, and colleges don’t have this incentive to drive them forward to the same extent.

This is of course not to say that every college does a bad job and every training provider does a good job; but the fact remains that if three quarters of all apprenticeships are being delivered in this way, it should be looked on with more positivity and the good work that training providers do should be better recognised and acknowledged.

Angela Middleton is CEO and founder of recruitment and training provider MiddletonMurray. She tweets at @MiddletonMurray

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