While boosting the numbers of people entering into apprenticeships is vital in order to reach the Government’s target of 3m apprentices by 2020, we need to ask; at what price? The head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, recently questioned whether low-level, low-quality apprenticeships were really worthy of the name. Employers offering such programmes were accused of wasting public funds and abusing the trust placed in them by the Government by failing to give learners the skills and knowledge employers are looking for, or add value to the economy.
With the chancellor vowing to put ‘employers at the heart of apprenticeships funding’ in his Autumn statement, it is vital that we create a system which delivers the best standard skills. While training providers and colleges currently collect all of the funding for an apprentice, the new structure means that money available through the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) funding has decreased and more has gone straight to employers. In addition, the new apprenticeship levy coming into play next April further hands control over to businesses, enabling them to contracting apprenticeships from those FE colleges that they feel best support the skills sets they need.
As a result, FE colleges are facing a new, long-term challenge: that is, to ensure that they will be able to directly compete in a transforming marketplace. This means they need to take a more commercial, and competitive, approach to funding. The alternative, forecasts the Public Accounts Committee, is “financial meltdown”, with 70 colleges rated as “financially inadequate” by the end of this academic year.
So what can be done to allay fears in the sector and give reticent FE colleges the nudge they need to turn this challenge into an opportunity? The role of technology plays an integral part, providing the flexibility and functionality to provide solutions the specific needs of colleges and apprenticeships. Yet ccompiling all of the information that employers require in order to make decisions about which FE provider to use is no easy task. It’s therefore essential that colleges have the right management system and access to reliable information so they can accurately measure their own effectiveness in order to compete to the best of their ability and to deliver high quality outcomes at the lowest possible cost. They also need to understand their competitive positioning, their proposition and are able to map their skills onto their region via Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).
Introducing dashboard software can help provide FE colleges with the metric information required to plan and deliver its apprenticeship programme, fundamental in providing a competitive edge in securing funding from the government’s new apprenticeship initiative. By enabling colleges with accurate, real-time monitoring and reporting of key performance indicators, dashboards deliver greater visibility of student success, attainment and recruitment across the whole organisation. This not only reduces administration time but ensures all apprenticeship data – lead conversions, enrolment figures, success rates by department, current and predicted minimum contract value – is clearly and easily available to potential employers in real-time.
The alternative? Put simply, FE colleges who don’t adapt to the changing funding market won’t have a future. While the current reforms are undeniably challenging and have divided many as a result, most are in agreement that we need to do more to equip our young people with the skills to compete in a modern economy. Apprenticeships – proper apprenticeships – have an incredibly important part to play in achieving this goal.
Interested to know more about information management solutions? Why not read our new White Paper.