As Nick Linford is right to point out in his recent blog , the non-levy tendering process has been fraught with own goals and confusion in setting out how a large amount of apprenticeship provision could be delivered. If the government is serious about its manifesto commitment to grow apprenticeships, then it’s going the right way to significantly damage the provider base that will deliver these.
As the (revised) deadline for tender submissions has passed, we now enter a nervous waiting period as we see who has been successful in receiving their allocations, and indeed, if the allocations received meet the amounts tendered for.
What motivation has driven this tender exercise? Aside from the requirement to adhere to EU procurement rules, and for a desire from the ESFA “to better meet their objectives to deliver high-quality apprenticeship training to support the growth and success of the small and medium sized enterprises that play such a vital role in our economy”.
The most distressing thing is that it didn’t have to be like this. The tendering process that has been launched (as the previous process had been oversubscribed), could have taken into consideration previous delivery of apprenticeship volumes and growth requests as part of its assessment of the suitability of providers. The tender document, and the large number of changes, amendments and clarifications that have been issued as a result of this second process, frankly does not.
At the very least, we can expect this process not to be repeated – by April 2019, the DfE “aim to bring all employers onto the apprenticeship service enabling all employers to able to choose any provider from the register of apprenticeship training providers directly to deliver their apprenticeship training”. By this point, all providers will be listed together for an employer to choose (ideally what should have been the case from the outset). I would be cautious of this commitment, as we have seen that the Department for Education is significantly under resourced, and they may have difficulty meeting this deadline.