The ‘pause’ is to allow time for the Government to review its approach following the process being ‘markedly oversubscribed’.
In a statement on gov.uk, the government says it wants to get the ‘right balance between stability of supply and promoting competition and choice for employers.’
The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) has welcomed the move, saying it shows that the Government is ‘serious about the quality of the programme and the social mobility benefits of apprenticeships’.
The procurement process for SMEs was begun last October. Now, the contracts of existing training providers will be extended until the end of the year. Current training providers can only sign up new starts however if they are on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers.
The government added ‘We will undertake further engagement with the market to clarify our approach, and ensure that this meets the government’s wider objectives of securing stability in the market, good sectoral and geographical coverage of provision, and a market which meets the skills needs of employers. We will issue further guidance shortly.’
AELP chief executive Mark Dawe added, ‘The decision also gives the new providers on the register more time to prepare their offer for non-levy paying employers but more importantly, existing providers can continue to support their employers and start new apprentices while a more considered review of anticipated programme demand takes place in the context of the Industrial Strategy and the skills implications of Brexit.’