ATAs: the best apprenticeship scheme you may never have heard of

It's potentially a cheap and hassle-free way for SMEs to take on apprentices. So why isn't the Government doing more to promote Apprenticeship Training Agencies?

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
With the Government taking every opportunity to trumpet the importance of vocational training during Apprenticeship Week, we’re surprised it didn’t make more of one scheme in particular. Apprenticeship Training Agencies, run by the National Apprenticeship Service, barely got a mention (as far as we could see). And yet they offer business - especially SMEs - a way to employ apprentices without the hassle of setting up their own scheme. But although the plan was for ATAs to create 14,000 new training places between now and 2015, its short-term future isn't entirely secure. Time for the Government to put its money where its mouth is?

As you've probably noticed, the Government is quite keen on promoting apprenticeships at the moment. Last week it pledged an additional £222m to create another 100,000 places, bringing its total funding up to £1.4bn a year. Meanwhile vocational training provider City & Guilds has launched a campaign called ‘Million Extra’, designed to help (you guessed it) 1m people get onto an apprenticeship scheme by the summer of 2013.

The idea of ATAs is that they cut down on the complications of taking on an apprentice: once the new recruit is placed in a ‘host’ business, the ATA pays them, sorts out their contracts and does all the necessary admin, then simply bills the business for their wages. ‘It’s primarily designed to allow small and medium enterprises who are interested in the idea of taking on an apprentice but unable to take the risk of employing one,’ Martin Ward from the NAS told MT today. 

So why don't we hear more about them? Perhaps it’s got something to do with the origins of the idea: the UK’s 12 ATAs were created with £7m worth of funding from the Labour government in 2009, to try and boost opportunities for 16-18-year-olds. Nonetheless, even though the other lot thought of it, it's still surprising the Government hasn’t made more of the scheme – at least if it's serious about getting more firms to take on apprentices.

And there's another problem. The scheme is still in its pilot stage - and although Ward says the reaction from employers has been positive (and MT has certainly found this, anecdotally - as per the comment from HeddaBird on our apprenticeship story last week), there are still no official figures for the number of places it’s managed to create so far. Apparently, funding runs out at the end of March, at which point the organisation will have to come up with a few more specifics. Let's hope it can continue to justify its existence, because it's a good idea that clearly has the potential to be valuable – particularly to smaller firms.

 

ATAs: the best apprenticeship scheme you may never have heard of

It's potentially a cheap and hassle-free way for SMEs to take on apprentices. So why isn't the Government doing more to promote Apprenticeship Training Agencies?

With the Government taking every opportunity to trumpet the importance of vocational training during Apprenticeship Week, we’re surprised it didn’t make more of one scheme in particular. Apprenticeship Training Agencies, run by the National Apprenticeship Service, barely got a mention (as far as we could see). And yet they offer business - especially SMEs - a way to employ apprentices without the hassle of setting up their own scheme. But although the plan was for ATAs to create 14,000 new training places between now and 2015, its short-term future isn't entirely secure. Time for the Government to put its money where its mouth is?

As you've probably noticed, the Government is quite keen on promoting apprenticeships at the moment. Last week it pledged an additional £222m to create another 100,000 places, bringing its total funding up to £1.4bn a year. Meanwhile vocational training provider City & Guilds has launched a campaign called ‘Million Extra’, designed to help (you guessed it) 1m people get onto an apprenticeship scheme by the summer of 2013.

The idea of ATAs is that they cut down on the complications of taking on an apprentice: once the new recruit is placed in a ‘host’ business, the ATA pays them, sorts out their contracts and does all the necessary admin, then simply bills the business for their wages. ‘It’s primarily designed to allow small and medium enterprises who are interested in the idea of taking on an apprentice but unable to take the risk of employing one,’ Martin Ward from the NAS told MT today.  

So why don't we hear more about them? Perhaps it’s got something to do with the origins of the idea: the UK’s 12 ATAs were created with £7m worth of funding from the Labour government in 2009, to try and boost opportunities for 16-18-year-olds. Nonetheless, even though the other lot thought of it, it's still surprising the Government hasn’t made more of the scheme – at least if it's serious about getting more firms to take on apprentices.

And there's another problem. The scheme is still in its pilot stage - and although Ward says the reaction from employers has been positive (and MT has certainly found this, anecdotally), there are still no official figures for the number of places it’s managed to create so far. Apparently, funding runs out at the end of March, at which point the organisation will have to come up with a few more specifics. Let's hope it can continue to justify its existence, because it's a good idea that clearly has the potential to be valuable – particularly to smaller firms.

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