PCS, along with the other departmental trade unions, spoke to DWP regarding a number of issues which have been raised by members regarding the Apprenticeship scheme and the provision of support from Premier Partnership.
In consultation with the DWP it has been confirmed that members who have not yet completed their Apprenticeship and who continue to progress to completion will continue to be supported by Premier Partnership for the remainder of their qualification. They will not transfer to the new provider, Knowledgepool.
Enough time and support?
All members continuing with their Apprenticeship will be permitted 20% of their working hours to undertake off-the-job learning as part of their Apprenticeship. Any individual who has difficulties completing the Apprenticeship on this basis (including as a result of other training commitments such as on-going training to a move onto Universal Credit work) should speak to their line manager in the first instance to ensure that they are given sufficient time and support to achieve their qualification. Where this does not resolve the issue, members should raise this with their local rep who can assist in challenging locally and then highlight to PCS at Group level in order to be taken up nationally if unresolved.
18 months into Apprenticeship and less than 70% complete
Members who have been part of the Apprenticeship scheme with Premier Partners but have not completed 70% of their accreditation will be allowed to choose to either continue with the Apprenticeship and be given additional time to complete it; or end the Apprenticeship element but still continue to achieve the Operational Delivery Professional accreditation level 3 certificate. Again they will be given additional time to complete the certification and still receive support from the Apprenticeship Provider Premier Partnership.
Am I required to do an Apprenticeship?
Questions have been raised with PCS regarding the requirement of some members to undertake the Apprenticeships in the first place and whether it was a requirement as a part of their role. DWP have clarified that Apprenticeships are open to all staff on a voluntary basis, however since 2016 anyone recruited into the Department would have applied for their role via an advertisement which included stipulation of a “work based learning requirement”. DWP have stated that this means that unless an individual already has the knowledge, skills and sufficiently relevant qualifications, that undertaking an Apprenticeship will be required in most instances, although this may take the form of other learning e.g. Work Coach Accreditation.
The decision on whether someone has the relevant skills and qualifications is based on a knowledge checker which is undertaken with the member by the Apprenticeship provider. This knowledge checker is subject to audit to ensure that the decision is reasonable and adequately documented.
New Provider for future Apprenticeships
Toward the end of the contract with Premier Partnership the Department were informed by the supplier that a high number of Apprentices had not completed the expected portion of their Apprenticeship. DWP has stated that this was due to a range of factors and was not necessarily failures solely on behalf of the contractor. They did concede that there had been errors in the reporting and monitoring process, and that the Department had not been made aware of the problems at an earlier stage. The Department states that lessons have been learned from this and they will be working with the new provider, Knowledgepool, to monitor progress effectively and ensure members are supported to make progress toward their qualification at the expected rate.
If not an Apprenticeship then learning is still supported.
Where an individual is not required to undertake an Apprenticeship and chooses not to opt for one, the Department have committed to still provide appropriate learning to new and existing members through the Fundamental Learning Journey. This is to ensure members have the knowledge and skills to undertake their role effectively.
Apprenticeships ended by Premier Partnership
Following PCS’s most recent meeting with DWP we have been advised that DWP have been notified by Premier Partnership of a number of apprentices who have started their apprenticeship since May 2017 who are also not making sufficient progress on their apprenticeship.
Due to the levy funding rules, Premier Partnership have the right to withdraw these individuals from the apprenticeship without needing DWP’s consent (otherwise they would be in breach of ESFA funding rules).
DWP is urgently investigating these cases to see if there are other alternative options for these individuals. There are approx. 150 individuals at risk of removal. This is not just a DWP issue, and PCS are aware of other Govt. Depts. also affected by this and believe this is directly related to the ESFA audit of Premier Partnership. DWP have undertaken to keep PCS updated on this situation.
Action to take
Members who are experiencing problems with their Apprenticeship should speak to their Line manager if they feel that they are not receiving the time or support that they need to complete their qualification. Where members concerns are not addressed or where further support is required they should speak to their local rep for help in taking the issue forward.