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Modern Apprenticeships suffer because of TEC funding, says TSC

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Training and Enterprise Councils (TECs) have been thwarting the success of Modern Apprenticeships as a result of the funding methods they use, according to the Training Standards Council (TSC).

According to TSC chief inspector David Sherlock, "weaknesses in funding mechanisms for modern apprenticeships are compromising achievement." Sherlock sites the example of using the achievement of NVQ level 3 as the trigger for a final outcome payment by TECs, which means that many Modern Apprenticeships are not seen through to completion.

The details, published in Modern Apprenticeships - A Survey from the Council, show significant differences in funding arrangements between TECs. The report highlights significant differences in the funding arrangements which each TEC makes in contracting with training organisations and in working directly with companies, using three key areas of construction, engineering and hairdressing as examples. The level of funding made available can vary greatly, for example, a training provider with contracts from different TECs for engineering modern apprentices can be paid £3,390 by one TEC and £10,000 for another, even though both may be working alongside eachother.

Payments for starting schemes, moving apprentices from other schemes to Modern Apprenticeships, payments for progress reviews, milestones (as an NVQ level is reached) or payments for completion of the scheme can all vary from one TEC to another. In addition, regular changes to funding arrangements over the last 2-3 years have meant that employers have received decreasing amounts of funding for taking on apprentices, which can make it difficult to plan ahead. Some TECs may make extra payments for areas in which there are skills shortages, but definitions of these areas of work may be different from one TEC to another. The practice of using the completion of an NVQ as the final outcome for payment means there is little incentive to extend the scheme beyond that time.

The modern apprenticeship programme accounts for most of the growth in work-based learning among young people – 47 per cent of all young people in training are pursuing the award, and Sherlock says it can be very successful: "At its best, the working environment is an ideal place in which to learn both theory and practice in a relevant and memorable way."

The TSC recommends that national tariffs should be set up for funding, which would be weighted according to the real cost of the training, but sees this as an ideal opportunity for the incoming Learning and Skills Council to make headway in ironing out the complexities of the current funding situation: "The creation of a new funding body, when the Learning and Skills Council starts work in 2001, offers a golden opportunity to iron out discrepancies and make things better for both learner and employer", David Sherlock said.

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