“Applying to become an apprenticeship training provider is the easy part! The hard work starts once a provider begins to deliver apprenticeship training and there are certain things a provider should do and understand before, during and after the application process, that are absolutely critical.”
- Paul Butler
Rubitek Founder and CEO Kerry Linley recently had the pleasure of talking to apprenticeships expert Paul Butler about what makes a good training provider. In this series, we will be calling on Paul’s wisdom to discuss what it takes to be an exceptional training provider and what a new provider, thinking of delivering apprenticeships for the first time, must consider.
During our discussion with Paul we talked about the three key stages - before delivery, during delivery and after delivery. We start today by talking about what training providers must consider before they begin to deliver any apprenticeships.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
A new apprenticeship training provider really needs to think about how it plans to deliver excellence. In this section we talk about the RoATP application, research, finances, funding and compliance.
Delivering apprenticeships for the first time is very different to delivering other types of training. When composing a RoATP application, a new provider must ask themselves the following question: What exactly is an apprenticeship?
To quote Paul, “An apprenticeship is not just a program that you can take off the shelf and deliver…. Now, an apprenticeship standard includes a long list of knowledge, skills and behaviours and it has to be delivered in conjunction and agreed with the employer.”
If you're composing a RoATP application, understanding what an apprenticeship is today, and what it means, is absolutely critical, and this carries through into the post-application period. As part of the application process it’s also vital that your policies and procedures are fit for purpose, reflect your organisation and are suitable for apprenticeships. Don’t just accept policies and procedures that you’ve been provided with off the shelf.
When the ESFA (Education Skills Funding Agency) receives a RoATP application, in simple terms it wants to know that it is investing its money in training that will offer a worthwhile experience to learners and employers, that it is safe, and it represents value for money.
Considering the Financials – Compliance and Organisation
When opening yourself up to this new world of apprenticeship training provision, you must be sure that your financials stack up to the ESFA's financial health check and the scrutiny that comes with this. This is not something to take lightly. Make sure you've got proper accountants, that your financial information is up to date, and that you fully understand the impact of delivering apprenticeships and the process of drawing down funding.
It’s vital to consider compliance at every stage. If your organisation is drawing down public funding to deliver apprenticeship training, and you haven't got the systems in place to evidence the training took place in the first place, you may face funding claw backs. As Paul rightly points out, there's nothing worse for your finances than being paid for something you’ve delivered and incurred costs for, only to have that money clawed back a few months later because you couldn’t provide the right evidence.
Rubitek also knows, from working with training providers, that your finances must be robust. For example, we have seen providers who have failed to submit their ILR claims on time and therefore not received payment of the relevant funding for that period. It is vital that your finances can cope with the impact of something like this going wrong; you still need to be able to pay the wages of your tutors, your staff and your delivery teams. The best result is to obviously make sure you submit your ILR claim on time, but should the unexpected happen, you will want to ensure there is no negative impact on apprentices and their employers, or your own staff.
Making Sure There Are No Surprises
Something that Paul really stresses is the importance of research. By that, we mean knowing and understanding before you even begin to deliver apprenticeships every possible aspect of the apprenticeship journey, so you know what to expect and are never caught off guard.
As well as the things we’ve already talked about, this might also include:
Engaging with the employer (even before delivery begins)
Conducting initial learner assessments (to identify prior learning so you can agree the price for training and avoid funding claw backs)
Understanding the 20% off-the-job learning requirements (what it is and how to evidence it)
Producing and submitting ILRs (and doing so on time)
Complying with Ofsted and ESFA requirements (and knowing the difference)
Encountering surprises along the way can rock the entire process for providers, apprentices and employers alike. In the worst case, this could lead to loss of trust. As Paul rightly states, “As soon as you've got a loss of trust, you get disengaged learners, disengaged employers, and the whole thing falls apart and, ultimately, everybody loses out.”
“I've said all these things and I don't say all of these things to scare people off, but they need to be understood before providers go on to the (RoATP) register.”
In conclusion, none of what we’ve talked about in this article should scare new training providers or deter them from applying, but we can’t stress enough how important they are. With that said, any new provider who keeps these things in mind throughout, digs down to the very core of just what an apprenticeship is and what they are offering, keeps on top of planning, finances and compliance, and keeps the learners’ best interests at heart, is well on the way to becoming a great training provider.
In the next instalment of this series, we will be talking about what makes a great training provider during the delivery phase of an apprenticeship. Until then, if you’d like to listen to our full interview with Paul himself, you can do so here.