Government Consults On New Flexi-Job Apprenticeships

The Department for Education (DfE) has announced plans to withdraw its register of apprenticeship training agencies (ATAs), and replace it with a new one for specific sectors.

A GOV.UK press release states that the new scheme was announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his March Budget, and will invoice a £7 million fund to create and test the scheme ahead of a formal launch in January 2022.

A consultation was launched on 20 April and will run for six weeks to 1 June, to seek views on how the ‘flexi-job apprenticeships’ should be run.

The concept behind the scheme is to set up new agencies which employ apprentices and then place them with multiple employers. The agencies will be targeted at industries where project-based employment is the norm and businesses struggle to comply with the 12-month minimum apprenticeship rule, such as in the creative, agriculture and construction sectors.

The DfE says the flexi-job scheme will ‘reshape’ ATAs, which have been running for the past decade fulfilling a similar role but have become neglected.

As part of the plans outlined in its consultation document, the department wants to “close and withdraw the dormant register of ATAs and replace it with a new register of approved flexi-job apprenticeship schemes”.

There has been a register of ATAs since 2012, but it closed to new applications in 2018. Since then, new and existing ATAs ‘are operating without any distinct monitoring or oversight arrangements imposed by the ESFA (Education and Skills Funding Agency)’, according to the DfE.

The DfE added that if flexi-job apprenticeships are to gain the support of apprentices and employers, it is vital that it establishes an operating framework that sets clear expectations on the quality, performance, and experiences of the scheme.

Under the proposal, all existing 111 ATAs would need to apply to the new register if they wanted to become a recognised flexi-job apprenticeship scheme. Only successful applicants to the register would be eligible to receive funding from the £7 million pot announced by the chancellor.

Applicants to the new register would be required to set out the apprenticeship standards they intend to offer to recruited apprentices.

According to the DfE’s consultation document, the department would have to consider whether schemes ‘“should have to apply to alter the terms of their entry on the register – e.g. if they wish to offer a wider range of apprenticeship standards’.

“We will also develop a process for monitoring and assuring the compliance of approved flexi-job apprenticeship schemes with the conditions of entry to the register,” it adds.

The department proposes to invite applicants to join the register in July 2021. For the future, it will “consider whether organisations are able to submit applications to the register at any time, or whether we run application exercises for the register at particular intervals”.

The consultation also seeks views on what the £7 million should be spent on. The DfE intends that the funds will be used for the ‘set up or expansion costs; costs for activities that will increase the number of apprenticeships starts; costs for activities that will improve and assure quality; investment costs that will lead to financial sustainability in the medium to long-term’.

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