Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Apprenticeships Cancelled as Funding Boost Backfires: Fe News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Apprenticeships Cancelled as Funding Boost Backfires: Fe News

Article excerpt

Jobs at risk as SFA allocations fail to match rates for skills training.

Thousands of apprenticeship places have been scrapped as a result of changes to how basic skills qualifications are funded, leaving independent learning providers millions of pounds out of pocket.

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) has warned that its members could be forced to make staff redundant in order to stay in business as a result of the unintended consequences of funding rates being increased.

Having long complained about the low rate of funding for functional skills courses in English and maths, providers welcomed the announcement in November by FE minister Matthew Hancock that the amount paid for the qualifications was to be more than doubled (see panel).

But the move appears to have backfired. While the funding increase per qualification was backdated to last August, the values of contracts between providers and the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) - set months previously - are unchanged. This means that providers are getting paid more but reaching their SFA allocation months sooner than expected.

With little additional funding being made available, many are being forced to abandon apprenticeships and other courses that they had been planning to start in the first half of this year.

Out of more than 100 members who responded to an AELP survey, three- quarters said they had been adversely affected by the increase in funding rates.

The manager of one independent provider in Northamptonshire told TES it had been forced to axe 250 apprenticeships that had been due to start between January and March, thereby missing out on Pounds 500,000 in funding.

"It's having a big impact: we have been unable to start any new apprenticeships because we have gone over our funding allocation," he said. "We had one project lined up with a local employer to get unemployed people into training and apprenticeships, and we have had to cancel that. The functional skills increase has taken us over our capacity."

Matt Garvey, managing director of West Berkshire Training Consortium, said the firm will probably have to cancel more than 100 planned apprenticeships at a cost of Pounds 200,000-Pounds 300,000. It has also had to scrap programmes for the unemployed and "gift" its learners to less successful providers.

"When they retrospectively changed the funding rate, it meant we went over our allocation by tens of thousands of pounds," he said. "We are paying the price for being successful."

AELP chief executive Graham Hoyle has written to Mr Hancock to express his concerns. …

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