The rollout of the government’s online apprenticeship service to all employers has been pushed back by a year.
The date by which all employers were to be able to use the apprenticeship service to access apprenticeship funding was set for April 2019, but it has now been delayed.
In a post on the Education and Skills Funding Agency website, a spokesperson wrote: “Having listened to feedback about the scale and pace of the apprenticeship reforms that we have introduced since May 2017, we want to make sure that future changes are introduced in a gradual, well-managed way.
“This is to give time for employers and training providers to prepare to take full advantage of the new approach and to keep stability in the marketplace.
'A more gradual transition'
“To ensure a more gradual transition, we will extend current contracts for training providers delivering training for employers that do not pay the apprenticeship levy for 12 months, from April 2019 to March 2020.”
The ESFA said that over the summer it would work closely with employers and training providers to plan what a gradual transition should look like.
A spokesperson added: “We will provide further details in the autumn, including what this will mean for providers with existing contracts and plans to develop the apprenticeship service for all employers.”
Simon Ashworth, chief policy officer of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: "On balance, this is probably a sensible decision in the sense that we don’t want the government to move to a new funding system in April 2019 which hasn’t been properly thought through and might lead to further instability.
"At the same time, we are acutely aware that this is not going to go down well at all with those good quality providers who weren’t awarded a non-levy contract at the end of 2017 and therefore we are keen to work with the ESFA to try and find a way to get these providers back into the non-levy market as soon as possible. Many of these providers are currently having to unnecessarily subcontract and we have already highlighted how some prime [providers] are taking advantage of this through inappropriately high fees, meaning less funding is making it to the front line."