On February 22nd, AELP presented research to ITPs and parliamentarians at a reception at the Houses of Parliament. We wholeheartedly support its conclusions and sentiment.

For much too long, Independent Training Providers (ITPs) have lived in the shadows of educational policy and progress. Caught in the current of ever-changing political appointments, ITPs have been positioned as a poor cousin. These organisations are held to the same standards and oversight as other educational organisations but without the same voice.

A sector of thought leaders

The data from the AELP report on ITPs tells a powerful story. 80% of ITPs are judged good or outstanding by Ofsted. 86% of employers and learners report themselves satisfied with the quality of the provision. ITPs and the commercial considerations that guide practice might suggest that they are more interested in profit than innovation, but this report from AELP suggests the opposite.

Despite the best practice and innovation in ITPs, the report notes, “skills policy has historically tended to overlook the contribution of ITPs and has been formulated primarily with the needs of the state’s own FE estate in mind.” The consequence? The learners within ITPs are disadvantaged.

ITPs are currently a wasted resource, as they are a sector of educational professionals who embrace innovation and thought leadership, that is being ignored.

Time to step up and lead

In his presentation to the reception at the Houses of Parliament, Paul Warner noted that it is time for ITPs to step up and out and be thought leaders for education. As ESFA notes, “ITPs are a key part of the Further Education provider infrastructure.” And it is from this position as a key provider, that ITPs need to step up to set the agenda for the future of skills development.

The research rightly concludes that it is no longer right that ITPs wait to be invited to the policy table. It is time that these thought leaders proactively direct policy by engaging in the national debate on skills.

There is much to challenge regarding funding given to ITPs, as Paul Warner revealed in this research. Yet, there is also a missed opportunity to remedy. The report notes, “Policymakers and those designing the implementation of such policies must make better use of their expertise, skills and attributes.” Yet, ITPs also need to shout louder and demand space in the discussion on the future of skills provision for the credibility of their provision to learners.

Supporting innovators

Entelechy Academy chose to work with apprenticeship providers because of this thought leadership.

Our product and service disrupt and challenge educational provision. We work actively to shape what it means to learn. And we realised that ITPs would be an audience that saw the intelligence and imperative of the ideas we delivered.

ITPs want to be at the front of the queue to move the approaches to learning forward. We have been delighted with the response of those wanting to be on board with innovation from the beginning.

Focusing on the character of the learners through their professional behaviours leads to a more successful apprentice. When we state this argument, ITPs have been more receptive to the sense we are speaking.

Driving forward through research

As an AELP Patron, we are keen to support them in the mission to give ITPs a voice in policy discussions.

We are undertaking research on the role of character-based development to add value to apprenticeships. By using character to meet the behaviours standards, we hypothesise that dropout rates will fall, and achievement rates will rise. With early intervention in the work-readiness and effectiveness of apprentices, the learners can better guide their personal success within a programme.

We are looking for AELP members to join our pilot research programme. Contact Malcolm Williamson [email protected] or Steve Barker [email protected] to learn more.