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'Serious' issues accessing apprenticeship levy says Society of Editors


22 June 2018

SoE

The Society has raised concerns this week that aspiring journalists and other would-be apprentices are missing out on training opportunities due to government bureaucracy. 

In a letter to the Minister of State for Skills and Apprenticeships, Anne Milton MP, the Society raised serious concerns over the accessing of funds for the training of apprentice journalists and other positions in the media amid reports of serious difficulties in applying for the funding.

Ian Murray, Executive Director of the Society said: “What is a laudable scheme – to create three million apprentice places in the UK across all sectors by the year 2020 – appears to be falling foul of immense red tape and bureaucracy.

“While the Society of Editors is concerned regarding training in the media, we also feel that the exasperations and problems felt by those in our industry are most likely replicated across the whole spectrum of British industry.”

The problems, the Society says, surround how the Register for Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP) is being administered and the laborious nature of the application process. This difficulties in applying for the funding have left apprentices, employers and trainers in limbo, the Society said.

The Society’s concerns come after the publication of data analysis commissioned by The Open University (OU) found that more than £1.28 billion of the funding that has been paid into the apprenticeship levy is still sitting in National Apprenticeship Service accounts. The analysis revealed employers in England have withdrawn just £108m of the £1.39 billion they have paid into the apprenticeship levy.

“The experiences of our members working in the media industry who are finding difficulty in securing funds for apprentice schemes would appear to show at least some of the reasons why so little funding has been made available under the scheme”, said Murray.

One training manager went so far as to describe their experience of the application procedure as: “akin to taking part in an ‘escape room’ challenge, but without any hope of ever finding the correct combination to the hidden locks!”

“Journalism training providers, such as the Press Association, have been waiting since January for the RoATP window to reopen for applications. This delay threatens to leave employers in this sector without a trusted provider and is slowing the recruitment of talented and diverse young people into the industry” he concluded.

The published guidance states that the window for applications will open every quarter but this has not happened and there has also been no formal communication as to when it will open again, the Society said.  In addition, the system for applying for funding and the process by which applications are approved lack clarity and transparency, the Society warned. 

Urging the Minister to look closely at the issues and seek to alleviate the problems, the Society warned that demand may be lost if the problems are not solved.

He said: “The current process allows for no dialogue or feedback, beyond an exchange of messages in an e-portal. Where it’s considered an application question has not been addressed adequately an applicant is only told they have failed the process after that process has ended. There is no right of appeal and, as mentioned, no suggestion of when it will be possible to resubmit. There appears to be no transparency about who is making these decisions.”

“There is a big demand from the industry as companies come to terms with the Apprenticeship Levy, and for those who haven’t done so already, seek to utilise their own funds before the deadline of April 2019. This demand, and with it an aspiration to create three million apprentices by 2020, cannot be met if employers can’t choose providers they trust to deliver quality training.”


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