Apprenticeship Training Providers: who to choose and what to look for [Part 1]

This is the first of a two-part article looking at apprenticeship training providers and the selection process for levy paying employers. In Part 2, we will offer some recommendations on providers from our own trusted network.

As we mentioned in our previous levy update article, levied employers will be able to - in fact, must - choose from a new register of apprenticeship training providers (RoATP). Said register has been designed to encourage both diversity and competition in the provider market and support quality and employer choice. This register is a key change and a central to the wider apprenticeship reforms - introduced to create higher quality apprenticeships and more of them. The register of apprenticeship training providers will give employers a level of assurance that the providers they are using have the capacity and capability to deliver good quality apprenticeship training.

Now, let me be the first to say that the majority of that paragraph was borrowed from the Skills Funding Agency press release in October (full version can be found here). What is key for me - and indeed, employers looking for training providers - are these two points:

  • ‘to encourage both diversity and competition in the provider market’ and;
  • ‘to give employers a level of assurance that the providers they are using have the capacity and capability to deliver good quality apprenticeship training’.

Excellent. Yes, I mean that - I think it’s fantastic that there is one place where we can compare the market providers - but will the register be inundated? I did a quick check on the BETA site.

First off, I did a keyword search for ‘Engineering’ and was rewarded with 156 results. Okay, perhaps that was too broad. I retried: ‘Mechanical Engineering’: 131 results. If I’m honest, I wasn’t actually expecting that many results as I had narrowed it down to a specific type of engineering, but it it good to see that the BETA site is simply taking key words and providing all relevant results - you then just have to sift through and determine the exact course and level that you are looking for. I opted for a Level 4 Network Engineer Apprenticeship.

Basically, once you have decided upon what apprenticeship you want to offer - you then can search for your training provider, based on your postcode. After I put in a Leeds postcode, I was presented with 15 apprenticeship providers sorted by distance - the closest one being twelve miles away and the farthest being 120 miles away. I clicked on the first provider and was met with a short bio, plus a rating of employer satisfaction and learner satisfaction (based on the Skills Funding Agency FE Choices) and an achievement rate against the national average.

My review? It is obviously a useful and necessary tool going forward. What I think would make it even stronger is a page where employers can provide unbiased reviews of the service they have received. Perhaps it is one for the future - what do you think? I am sure that many levy paying employers have already experienced this website and are in the throws of negotiating with training providers, but if you haven’t done so already, here are a few top tips from us on getting the right training provider for you and your business.


Choosing an apprenticeship provider: what to look for

Ensuring that you have chosen the right provider is critical for your business; you need it to ensure that you have the right apprenticeship programme, and in turn, the right apprentice to suit the needs of your business. So it’s a big decision. I’ve already discussed above how you can start the process of looking for an apprenticeship provider, but I would advise taking the reviews with a pinch of salt - these reviews only tell one side of the story. Perhaps that apprenticeship provider only delivers apprenticeships that are tough, or they are new to delivery and so their results will build up over time. Once you’ve shortlisted a couple from the database - then I would suggest picking up the phone and asking some questions before you even get to meeting with them.


“Let’s talk about your experience…”

You need to know you’re picking the right provider for the job, so it’s crucial to learn about their experience. There are a couple of key questions here that I think will tell you a lot about what you need to know…

  • What experience do you have in providing training within this sector?
  • How long have you been providing such training?
  • How many students undertake this apprenticeship each year, how many places do you have and how much interest does it generation?
  • Do you have any quality marks or accreditations?
  • What experience do your trainers and assessors have?
  • Do you have any references or recommendations from other employers and are there any I can speak to?


“Let’s talk about money…”

The serious stuff. We all need to know how much it’s going to set you back and whether you are getting your monies worth…

  • What funding do you receive to support the training costs and where does that funding come from?
  • Is this an Apprenticeship Framework or Apprenticeship Standard? How does the funding differ between comparable programmes?
  • Would my business be required to make a contribution and, if so, how much?
  • Can you outline fully the other costs involved, for example, registration fees, travel expenses, materials or equipment?


“So, how’s it going to work?”

Before you commit, you need to know the details. It’s important to get an idea of how things will work day-to-day and in the long run. Don’t be afraid to ask questions - remember, no question is too stupid to ask - you need to know the details.

  • Can the apprenticeship be tailored to meet the needs of my business?
  • How is the training delivered (is it day release, is it on site, etc) and can you deliver out of hours, if so required?
  • What percentage of the apprentices’ time will be spent training?
  • How are individual training needs assessed and how is training altered to meet them?
  • How frequently will you visit the workplace to carry out assessments?
  • Can an apprentice start their apprenticeship at any time of year?
  • Do you have a copy of the Apprenticeship Framework or Standard learning objectives and assessment criteria?
  • Can I talk to any current or ex-apprentices on this programme?
  • What time estimate would you put on an apprentice’s extra workload each week?
  • How will you keep me informed about how each apprentice is progressing?

I would recommend this list of questions as a starting point. At the end of the day, you need to choose the right provider for you - and ensure that you know the details of how it will work on a practical level. Talk specifically about your own business and ensure that you are asking questions that are important to you.

As with all of our blog posts, I scoured the internet for high quality information pertaining to choosing the right training provider. As a small business, we are not in the position to be choosing a training provider, but I know that many of our clients are and often come to us for advice on what to look for, what to ask and indeed, who to go to. I must give credit where credit is due here because I found this list of questions on a website called Apprentice Makers - which I suggest you take a look at. It’s a fantastic resource for employers giving them the opportunity to ask other employers about the training providers they would recommend. You can go on there, search for similar businesses and drop them a quick message to see if they have any suggestions or ask questions in the community forum.

In Part 2 of this article, we’ll be providing some provider recommendations and reviews. Watch out for it!


Reading this as an employer?  

Are you prepared for National Apprenticeship Week? If you haven’t already booked in some activity, take a look at our offerings for 2017 and how you can get involved with one of the most talked about weeks in the industry.


Reading this as a school?

Have you seen our new online workshop with Kennedys Law LLP? Taking place during National Apprenticeship Week, it’s an opportunity for your students to learn more about different routes into law and chat directly to someone already working in the sector.