Making sense of procuring apprentices

3rd October 2018

On Tuesday 18th September, representatives from 20 local authorities across the East of England came together for an “Apprenticeship Procurement Workshop” to help them try to make sense of purchasing in this relatively immature market. The workshop, facilitated by the East of England LGA’s Senior Manager, Eddie Gibson, used a mixture of group discussion, tutored learning and action setting, to identify and examine the current challenges surrounding the procurement of apprenticeship providers.

In one sense, the idea of a “competitive market” in the world of apprenticeships did not even exist until the introduction of the “Apprenticeship Levy” in April 2017, although early government guidance when the concept of the levy was introduced in 2015 made it clear that “negotiation with providers” was expected to be a key change from the previous approach where suppliers set the prices for courses and there was little or no procurement process involved.

The workshop attendees, mostly drawn from the region’s HR community, voiced some common concerns which were causing them evident difficulty including:

  • The additional timescale and workload involved in securing apprenticeship providers
  • The need to be seen to procure in markets where there may be only one known or definitely interested provider
  • The threat of Apprenticeship Levy payments being lost if not spent within the necessary timescales
  • A lack of recognition of both the additional workload and the organisational development opportunities created since the introduction of the Levy

Whilst many authorities in the East are already working in partnership on their procurement, such as those in Hertfordshire and Norfolk, others admitted that they were working in isolation on the issue and had not explored collaborative approaches or the use of approved public sector frameworks, such as those offered by the Crown Commercial Service (details at https://ccs-agreements.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/contracts/rm3823) or the Yorkshire Purchasing Organisation (https://www.ypo.co.uk/apprenticeships).

Whilst delegates agreed that there was no “one size fits all” approach which would work for every local authority, they could all see the value in taking a more collaborative approach, not just to the procurement itself, but on issues such as the sharing of information, managing supplier performance and contract management – the latter in particular being suggested as the possible topic for a similar session in the future.

Overall, the workshop was rated as “very helpful”, with one delegate in particular claiming to have learned “more today on the subject than I have in the last six months”.

The Apprenticeship Procurement Workshop was part of an ongoing series of events laid on by the East of England LGA for our member councils and you can find more details about our current programme at www.eelga.gov.uk/events

To find out more about how East of England LGA are supporting authorities with their Apprenticeships, please contact Lucy Ashwell – lucy.ashwell@eelga.gov.uk or 01284 758319

To find out more about how East of England LGA are supporting authorities with their Procurement, please contact Eddie Gibson – eddie.gibson@eelga.gov.uk or 01284 758310

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