FE-Q panel 2
The first panel covered a really hot topic – end-point assessment.
Then, after a quick coffee break, Stewart Segal launched the second debate. This time it was all about the apprenticeship levy. He was joined on stage by Kirstie Donnelly from City & Guilds, Mary Sansom from QA, Kathryn Marshall from Lloyds Bank, Alison May from London South Bank University, Graham Razey from East Kent College Group, and special guest: Gordon Marsden MP, the shadow education minister from the Labour Party.
The session started with a general discussion about how successful the levy has been so far. Kirstie said that things still aren’t 100% right, but we need to keep optimistic, make sure quality is there, and stick with it. Gordon from Labour agreed, saying that although the levy got off to a ropey start, we need to look at the long haul. Some employers are still willing to write it off as an additional tax, but things are on the up.
Momentum is absolutely growing as employers become more educated about the levy. Kathryn from Lloyds Bank explained that the levy has sparked the discussion about apprenticeships with senior leaders. Over the last year, they’ve increased their apprenticeship programmes from 10 to 35 – giving them a fantastic opportunity to diversify their staff and fill their skills gap.
Question 2 tackled a topic that’s still causing confusion for many employers – the 10% levy reallocation. At first, reallocations weren't permitted. Then the rules changed so that employers could transfer 10% of their levy to just one other company in their direct supply chain. Now, they've relaxed the rules further – but many people don’t know that the 10% can now be reallocated to multiple companies outside the supply chain – even levy payers. The panel agreed that this was a good move.
Gordon said that flexibility was welcome and that employers should be encouraged to reallocate funds in their local regions. Kathryn agreed, explaining that Lloyds Bank is planning to reallocate their unspent funds, but have concerns about the process and any administrative costs involved. Mary Sansom from QA works with 100s of employers, but only 2 have reallocated any of their levy. We still need to spread the word and make the whole process easier to understand.
The final debate focused on the Institute for Apprenticeship’s recent funding band reviews. The overall consensus was that there’ll be a drop in quality due to the review. Mary thought the reviews had come at a really bizarre time. She spoke about the Associate Project Manager apprenticeship which has had a proposal for its funding slashed by 30%, even though only 1 person has completed the EPA so far. ‘How can they possibly evaluate the delivery costs with such a low completion rate.’
Stewart Segal also made a very good point: we could end up with 2 cohorts from the same employers, but with 2 different delivery plans based on the funding. This will mean providers may have to deliver 2 different learner journeys at the same time.
We need to decide what is an acceptable profit margin for training providers to make, Graham Razey concluded. They need to make a profit otherwise they’ll just pull out of the sector, so this has to be considered in the funding bands.
A lot of really good topics were discussed at the event, and although the panel disagreed on some things, they've made the first steps to come together and be a force for good in the sector. Thank you to Lindsay McCurdy for organising a record-breaking event.