Making the Switch: How to Change Apprenticeship Providers as Painlessly as Possible
Changing apprenticeship providers is never ideal, but what should you do if things go wrong with your current training company? Seetec’s Director of Excellence, Apprenticeships and Skills Mel Nicholson explains how to switch providers and avoid potential pitfalls.
It’s widely reported that the training sector is experiencing turbulence while the government’s apprenticeship levy initiative continues to mature. Almost weekly you’ll have seen news of providers losing their approved status, some being investigated and others folding. Not a great situation for the training provider. And not great for HR professionals who rely on them for their apprenticeship programmes and workforce development.
As a manager responsible for your company’s apprenticeship levy, you might find yourself looking for an alternative training provider. Either because your current provider’s circumstances have changed, or your business needs have.
What to consider before switching
Changing providers is not difficult, but it’s important to get right. Apprenticeships are a long term commitment for you and your workforce, so you don’t want to change too often.
Before choosing a different apprenticeship training company, you’ll need to think carefully about:
- What’s best for your employees?
- Will there be any disruption for your workforce? And how can you and your current and new providers minimise it?
- First exploring all the options with your current training company before making a move.
Leaving your apprenticeship provider
Once you’ve considered the impact of moving, as well as the benefits, leaving your current provider is fairly simple:
- Log into your apprenticeship service portal and turn off the funding directly. Note that this advice only applies if you are paying for the training entirely through your apprenticeship levy.
- Go through the exit process agreed between you and your provider.
- Appoint a new provider from the government’s register of approved training providers.
Before you choose a new provider, it’s worth reviewing your needs. Workforce development requirements change, and there are many new apprenticeship standards now launched. So it makes sense to check your new training company can cater for your skills plan.
Avoiding the pitfalls
The law is still changing, so it’s best to stay in the know about the rules and regulations. One of the most important things to keep in mind is “Who’s involved in funding my apprenticeships?” There are different things to consider if you are:
- Wholly funding an apprenticeship through your apprenticeship levy.
- Benefiting from government funding towards your employee’s apprenticeship (‘co-investment’).
- Receiving incentive funding for providing apprenticeship opportunities for selected people.
Solely using levy funds
If you are a levy payer using a single training provider and have not exhausted your levy fund, the switch can be as easy as the steps outlined above.
Co-investment is where the government covers 90% of your apprenticeship training and assessment costs, and you only contribute the last 10%. This might be the case if you’ve exhausted your levy fund.
Put simply, if you’ve got a co-investment arrangement, you’re not in full control of your funding.
If you’re using government co-investment in addition to your apprenticeship levy, your provider is responsible for notifying the government of any changes to the portion covered by co-investment. So if you’re planning on switching training companies, it’s best to do so quickly so that your provider feels inclined to complete the paperwork on time.
Providers usually ask that the majority of co-investment is paid up-front. This has financial implications when it comes to you switching.
Remember: the price you’ve negotiated with your current provider may not be possible with the new provider. Discrepancies can occur overpayments made to date.
Avoiding the pitfalls of switching with co-investment
Make sure you clearly document the progression of your apprentice’s training to help ensure funding continues uninterrupted.
Be clear and timely: when transferring apprentices from one provider to another, there are mechanisms in place to prevent overpayment. This requires clarity on every front and making sure everyone follows submission deadlines is vital. You don’t want to lose funds just because your current provider isn’t working out.
If you take on a 16-18 year old apprentice, or someone under 25 with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), you and your training provider may receive an additional financial incentive from the government. This is currently £1,000.
The financial incentive is triggered in stages at the 3rd and 12th month of the person’s apprenticeship. Providers and employers receive the same sum within the same timeframe.
Avoiding the pitfalls of switching with incentive payments
You’ll need to remember that incentive payments are linked to the apprentice, not the training provider or employer. The incentive payment is only made once for each apprentice.
If your current provider has already been paid, for example at the three months trigger stage, they get to keep the payment. Your new provider receives any remaining incentives. So changing providers could result in the new training company receiving only half or none of the payments, depending on the timing of the change.
It’s best to discuss incentive payments and their timing with your new apprenticeship provider as early as possible. This can inform your decisions about the best time to switch.
Switching training companies is not complicated but you want to get it right. Protect time to speak to potential new providers to see how they would support the transition. A good apprenticeship training company will have experience of managing changeovers and be able to support you through the process.
Established for over thirty years, Seetec is one of the UK’s leading apprenticeship providers. From digital media and finance to journalism and leadership, we provide tailored apprenticeship recruitment and programme management services to the private and public sector. To find out more about Seetec’s apprenticeship services, or advice on switching providers, contact us today.