How to complete the non-levy procurement
The ESFA (Education and Skills Funding Agency) has changed the non-levy procurement process – AGAIN.
The ESFA has launched a new procurement process to apply for non-levy apprenticeship funding. This will replace the previous process that was scrapped in April after being massively oversubscribed. All providers on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP) will now have to submit a new tender to apply for funding – even if they've already submitted the old one. The new questions are different and difficult, so it won't be a copy-and-paste job either.
In fact, the whole process is very long-winded and complex; a deliberate move by the Government to reduce the number of successful tenders. The RoATP has doubled the number of registered training providers from 793 to 1,679, meaning the Government will have twice as many applicants as before, but less funding to hand out. The ESFA has made assumptions about how much levy will be left by levy-paying employers in 24 months' time. At the moment, they've estimated £650 million will be available – more than last year's £440 million – which is great news for SMEs. However, if big employers pull their fingers out and invest in apprenticeships, there's going to be little levy left in 2 years' time.
This means that even if your application is successful, your apprenticeship funding is not guaranteed.
What does the tender look like?
The procurement process is broken down into 17 questions covering delivery planning, compliance, finance, geographic distribution and funding. All questions are worth 100 points, even though each question varies in significance and character count. The character limit for the full application is 65,200 – around 10,000 words – which is a lot of work to do in a short period of time.
What's the timescale?
If you're a registered training provider, you'll already have been invited to tender in July. You now have a few weeks to complete your application before the bid window closes on 4th September. The Government will then award funding in early December 2017 for contracts that run from January 2018 to March 2019.
As mentioned, the deadline for applications is 4th September, so you've got the rest of the month to submit. The timing is very unfortunate indeed, as most training providers and colleges are closed in August. In fact, this may be the worst possible time to run a tender! Nevertheless, it's got to be done, and you may even need staff to work during their summer break in order to complete your application in time. You've really got your work cut out!
But you're not the only one. The Government has set themselves an ambitious timetable too. They need to assess, moderate and award thousands of applications in a few months, ready for delivery to start in January 2018.