Tribal Group Blog

Tribal Group Blog

Becoming an employer provider – weighing up the pros and cons

Posted by Tony Allen on March 6, 2018

If you work in apprenticeships, you may already know that if you are an employer there are two main ways of delivering apprenticeship programmes. One option is to go through a professional training provider, and the other is to become an employer provider yourself and deliver your own programme.

But what does this really mean and what does it involve? Whether you are an employer already using a training provider, or simply thinking about becoming an employer provider from the beginning, here Tony Allen CEO of AAS Ltd weighs up the pros and cons of both routes to make your decision easier:

The pros

Keep the control

As someone who used to head up the team that managed employer providers in the Skills Funding Agency (SFA), I came to clearly understand what motivated an employer to want to ‘do it themselves’. There are many advantages. Firstly, you have control. It is your own staff who are delivering the training, doing the assessment and working closely with your apprentices. There are no ‘third party’ colleges or training providers delivering to your apprentices. Within the context of the apprenticeship framework or standard, you can control the content and ensure it meets your business needs and growth plans.

Do things your way

By delivering the programme yourself, you are working within the values and boundaries of your corporate brand and reputation. You do things your way and you control the quality of apprenticeship delivery. For young people in their first job, this will especially help them to feel a real part of your organisation.

Increase your opportunities

Other benefits include an increased opportunity for your own more experienced staff to become coaches and mentors to your apprentices, and in so doing enhance their own skills. Finally, as an apprenticeship levy payer it is easier to control and manage the funds in your digital account. Once again you have control as to when you start your apprentices, and how they progress.

"By delivering the programme yourself, you are working within the values and boundaries of your corporate brand and reputation"

The cons 

The costs associated

Being an employer provider is not without its challenges. There are costs involved as the employer takes responsibility for the operation and administration of the apprenticeship programme. In addition to employing admin staff to undertake the processes required by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), trainers and assessors are needed, as is a member of staff to over-see the quality of the programme.

Adhering to processes

Being an employer provider also brings with it responsibility for Ofsted and ESFA audits, both of which, if not properly monitored, could have a negative impact on corporate reputation. There is also the need to keep up to date with the often-frequent changes in government policy and processes. Whilst an employer could expect the ESFA to communicate any such changes, there is still the need to ensure the correct interpretation of policy, which is not always as clear as it could be!

Ensuring apprenticeship quality

If you do decide to become an employer provider how do you ensure you are delivering a first-class programme? Firstly, as an employer provider, it is easy to become a little isolated in the apprenticeship world. The solution to this is to join a networking group, such as the Apprenticeship Practitioner’s Forum where you can meet informally with colleagues from other companies who are also employer providers to discuss best practice. You can receive clarification on the funding rules, share your challenges, and usually find that someone there has an idea or two to help.

Tribal also offers an Apprenticeship Support Service to guide you through the new world of funding claims, financial assurance audits and Ofsted inspection, so you can focus on nurturing your talent.

"400 companies have made the decision and are enjoying the benefits, but it is not the right choice for everybody"

Other things to consider 

Internally review your programme

It would also be a good idea to internally review what you do and assess how effective your programme really is. It is easy to become complacent, when you should be making sure that you are compliant! For example, with the ESFA Performance, Management and Funding rules. There are excellent Learner Management Systems available, such as Tribal Maytas, which can support you to streamline your business processes and respond to any changes to statutory and tracking requirements.

Benchmark against other providers

Additionally, you should be looking to do some benchmarking work to compare what you are doing against others in your sector. If you are looking to get the most from your apprenticeship programme it’ll be important to consider how it really links to your recruitment, learning and development, and talent management strategies.

Should you take the leap?

There are already nearly 400 companies who have made the decision and are enjoying the benefits, but it is not the right choice for everybody. If you are thinking about it, or if you are already an employer provider not sure whether it is still right for you, then download this free guide to find out more:

Are you new to apprenticeships: a guide for employer providers

Whatever you decide…good luck

Topics: Skills, Training and Employability

Picture of Tony Allen

Written by Tony Allen

Tony Allen is CEO of Allen Apprenticeships and Skills. His company provides management support to employers, training providers and colleges around all aspects of skills issues in general, and apprenticeships, including the Levy, in particular. Prior to setting up his own company in June 2016, Tony was the Skills Funding Agency’s (SFA) Deputy Director for the Large Companies Unit. His team managed the relationship with all employers who held a direct contract with the SFA. Prior to this role, Tony held a number of appointments with the SFA and Learning and Skills Council (LSC). These included, Area Director for Kent and Medway, Area Director for the South East, and also Regional Skills Director for the South East. Tony joined the LSC in 2002. Prior to joining the LSC, Tony spent 25 years in the Hospitality and Catering industry. This included 17 years with Whitbread PLC in operational, HR and strategic roles.