ESFA’s apprenticeship service overhaul is welcome news for SMEs

It was recently announced that every apprenticeship employer in England will soon have access to all the benefits of the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s (ESFA) apprenticeship service.

What’s changing?

At the moment, only Levy-paying employers, or those who are in receipt of a transfer of funds, can utilise the full benefits. However, from Summer 2019, more and more employers will begin to have access – regardless of their size and whether or not they pay into the Levy.

What extra features will businesses have access to?

Over the next 12 months, businesses will be able to use the tool to control how they pay for their apprenticeship training, and how they recruit and assess apprentices. They’ll also be able to utilise a bigger pool of training providers, which in turn gives them more options in terms of sourcing the most relevant standards for their organisation.

The apprenticeship service will also give employers the opportunity to do the following:

  • Advertise an apprenticeship and choose a suitable provider to deliver their apprenticeship training
  • Provide real-time feedback on the quality of the training provision that they receive
  • Gain control over the amount of apprenticeship funding paid to their training provider on their behalf – giving them more intelligence to help them make the most of their Levy funds 
  • Feedback to Government with data to ensure that apprenticeships are adding value to organisations

Welcome news for smaller organisations

The changes will be welcome news for smaller, non-Levy paying organisations. SMEs will be empowered to engage with apprenticeships and make more informed choices around how apprenticeships can work for them.

After all, employers understand the needs of their sector better than anyone, and it’s great that they will get better oversight of how apprenticeships can boost productivity and help them to fill any skills gaps.

However, the changes won’t just benefit SMEs – they will also benefit the ESFA, as they will gain insight into business needs which will help them to shape the apprenticeship provision going forward. It’s a win-win situation that will help to break down the barriers that employers face when trying to recruit the right apprentices for their business.

What happens next?

A transition period will be introduced to give employers and training providers enough time to prepare.

During the transition period, the ESFA will invite non-Levy employers to the Apprenticeship Service for user testing. The ESFA will test the service with a selection of employers and partnered providers through an Expressions of Interest (EOI) phase – and they will be releasing more information in due course.

Over to you

At the Growth Company Education & Skills, we can help you with any questions you may have around the ESFA’s apprenticeship service, or how apprenticeships can boost skills and productivity in your organisation. If you’d like to find out more, get in touch with our team today.