How to choose the right apprenticeship provider

Nov 22, 2021 | Apprentices & school leaver

In the world of early talent recruitment there are several key partnerships that are critical to success and apprenticeship providers are one of these.

An apprenticeship training provider is an organisation that delivers education and training programmes to apprentices.

They can take a wide range of different forms from small local providers specialising in a particular type of training, to big national providers, to further education (FE) colleges and universities.

Before you start procuring an apprenticeship provider you need to think about the apprenticeship standard (in England) or framework (in the other UK nations) that you want to use.

An apprenticeship standard is a description of what an apprenticeship should cover and there will probably be one that is focused on the job that you need an apprentice for. The government’s hire an apprentice site is really useful.

If you are just starting with apprenticeships, the procurement process for an apprenticeship training provider can be complex, especially if you do not have the experience and knowledge in-house. Bringing in an apprenticeship expert to guide you through these initial stages will help you make the right decisions and save you time and money.

Finding apprenticeship providers

During your procurement you need to do your due diligence and use your network and the ISE community to find out about potential providers.

Each provider is likely to be different and it is useful to talk to them about what they can offer, in what area and to think about their culture and ethos and whether it fits with yours.

Use the Register of apprenticeship training providers to look into the track record of different providers. You should particularly pay attention to their completion rates (what proportion of their learners finish their apprenticeship) and their Ofsted reports (which provide an external quality assessment of their provision).

Even if your programme is small, or you have limited resources, run a mini procurement exercise: ask the providers that you have contacted to give you a business case and a proposal, beyond the standard offer, to more closely support you and help you understand the regulatory landscape.

Each apprenticeship is based on an apprenticeship standard or framework which says what needs to be covered in the programme, but there is still the possibility to develop bespoke elements for programmes that particularly fit your needs. If you have a cohort of ten or more apprentices you may find that you can run your own apprenticeship with the provider rather than participating in a broader programme with other employers.

One or multiple providers?

You may have to choose between finding a provider than can work across the whole of your needs (delivering across multiple standards or frameworks and across your different sites) or one that is more specialist. Depending on the size and geographical coverage of your organisation and the diversity of the apprenticeships that you need, you may find that you are working with multiple providers.

While, in general, it is easier to manage fewer providers, in many cases it will be necessary to work with a number of different training providers. This is particularly the case if you are recruiting apprentices in more than one UK nation as the apprenticeship systems are different.

Once you have got a provider on board they should be a fount of knowledge that you can tap into about all things related to apprenticeships. They may be able to help you to develop your apprenticeship strategy, understand how to spend your apprenticeship levy, how to target and attract candidates, assess the capabilities of school leavers, and manage apprentices. Working with a provider that has a structured account management process will make things easier. 

Internal engagement

Consider how much internal engagement within the business you need to do, and whether you want your partner to lead or assist you on this. Some examples of internal engagement activities might be to:

  • identify key stakeholder groups
  • create a strategy and a document detailing the organisation-wide benefits of working with this partner
  • champion apprenticeships to different divisions, increasing their appetite to take on apprentices
  • talk to line managers to dispel myths and increase understanding about the level of support needed, and
  • break down the barriers that people identify to taking on apprentices. For example, by helping to find solutions about how the organisation can deal with the 20% off-the-job times required as part of apprenticeship training.

This is an excerpt from ISE’s Complete Guide to Student Recruitment and Development

Read more insight and know how from ISE’s Guide

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