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									Bureaucracy in Apprenticeship Delivery (AAN/09/03)

A MORE EFFICIENT APPROACH TO APPRENTICESHIP DELIVERY (Paper by Chris Weston, Managing Director, British Gas Services)

Introduction This paper highlights some specific issues faced by British Gas Services, and it is assumed other apprenticeship providers, regarding the level of bureaucracy when implementing apprenticeships. It is recognised that the majority of bureaucracy imposed is to meet the funding requirements from the Learning Skills Council and we understand there is currently a review taking place of current levels required. Specific issues are discussed briefly below. 1. Documentation: There are many documents required by the various organisations involved in the apprenticeship environment that mean duplication of effort and information. It is often the case that some documentation we use for business purposes has to be reproduced to fit the ‘standard format’ of an apprenticeship-related organisation.

Example: As a responsible training provider, BGS operates a continuous programme of review for each individual – these reviews are conducted at the end of each trained module. The timescales of review are between 4 – 7 weeks over the duration of the learning programme. To meet funding criteria however, additional reviews have to be scheduled every 12 weeks, and the documentation is standardised to meet the LSC criteria. Why can’t the funding agency accept the robustness of the BGS review documentation, timescales and process?
These agencies could be more flexible in the way they gather data from the employerprovider community and therefore reduce bureaucracy and remove impediments for other employers to engage in apprenticeships.

2. Audits: This is the biggest problem area which leads to considerable duplication, is very costly and time-consuming for the business. The business undergoes rigorous and frequent audit from: Ofsted Awarding Body (City & Guilds) Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK) Qualifications & Curriculum Authority (QCA) LSC PFA Audits (Provider Financial Assurance) Health & Safety Audit

These audits are in addition to an annual external ISO inspection (with there own audit regime).

Each audit requires that the same information be prepared in a different format that is suitable for the particular auditing body. Staff preparation also needs to be undertaken for each audit. There are also additional initiatives that are likely to add to the audit burden, for example the Training Quality Standard and Framework For Excellence. A brazen suggestion: in order to avoid unnecessary duplication and cost could a change be made to move to a single audit or reliance upon a third party such as ISO? 3. A “One Size Fits All” Approach The agencies are very prescriptive in the processes used to monitor performance of the training provision delivered by providers such as BGS. There is one common set of rules for all providers, whether they are Employers, FE Colleges or Private Training Providers; however there is no account taken of the differences in approach that is adopted by each of these provider types. In the main, the entire environment is geared towards the FE Sector. Employers are required to bend to fit the FE model which is often cumbersome, irrelevant and leads to inefficiency.

4. National Differences There are differing criteria and rules regarding apprentice funding across England, Scotland and Wales leading to considerable duplication for large national organisations such as BGS. Meeting the standards of one National funding agency should lead to accreditation for the rest. 5. Overtly Hierarchical: It’s often the case that the funding agencies target an inappropriate audience within an organisation across a variety of issues, and will not deal with those more closely linked to the issue. A reluctance to recognise more suitable contacts within an organisation seems to exist. This hierarchical approach adopted by the LSC creates a restrictive environment in which The Academy must operate. Summary: In order to streamline the process of apprenticeships which encourages employer engagement, I would make the following recommendations:     Funding Agency and Government should recognise that employers often have robust, efficient and business-focussed processes already in place and should not be required to adopt standard solutions that are common to all providers Processes should be adopted that reduce the audit burden on Employers and ISO accreditation (or another recognised quality kite-mark) should be accepted as a recognised (and respected) statement of quality Funding Agencies must accept that FE Colleges, Employers and Private providers all have different aims/methods/needs and should therefore allow for flexibility of approach across all of these sectors. Funding Agencies and Government should recognise that the current national differences in funding criteria lead to duplication of effort for large national organisations and consequently need to adopt arrangements to eradicate such duplication.

Reducing bureaucracy has been a long-standing issue and seems to have been under discussion for at least four years. The problems have remained the same with little noticeable improvement over this period.

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