A direct conversation with Safaraz Ali, CEO of Pathway Group where he talks about the further education and skills sectors and provides an update on “what’s happening” and his personal view on matters – the video is therefore aptly titled: Skills Sector update.

General transcript of video:

We’re heading towards mid October 2018- which is approx. 10 weeks into the academic year 2018/19. It’s different for independent providers but most colleges have been keeping on an eye on their enrolment & numbers and have been busy “number crunching” for the remainder of the year and of course on the impact for the year ahead.

Most of these detailed conversations with providers will happen in the next 4 weeks of October and November and we shall see impact of this later on in the year ourselves, as well as Pathway Group along side all others we have been “number crunching” of a different kind which is finalising our year end. We’ve just had period R13 and hard close is on our doorstep- tweaking and checking success rates, timeliness & many other percentages, ratios and factors.

In the funded skills sector we’ve just had the biggest rounds of procurement and the last ESF funding that there will be.

Approx 360 million went out to tender across the country with significant competition and complexity in this round of funding.

There was an element of threshold and constraints and many traditional primes did not go in as a lead provider like ourselves we decided not to go in on our own & following the partnership route choosing instead to support the larger or in some cases more regional players. Bearing in mind that in each area & funding stream there will be one winner.

So, despite all that I’ve said- for most independent training providers this has probably felt like all their Christmas’ rolled into one- with the amount of potential there has been, something for those specialise and work in the B2B market, for the unemployed and the NEETS, B2B being the SSW, unemployed SSU & the NEETS contacts.

We all have round 4 months to wait for announcements with progress to start in April 2019.

There is a school of thought that is short term- however it does give security for 18 months which is still substantial period & possibly more importantly, a great boost and spring board to winners- building on additional track record & history as well as opportunity to cross promote and utilise other funding streams- and supplement on what else you do as a business.

The SSU funding works fantastically with AEB consisting of elements of regulated qualifications with unregulated training & then progressing- a great way to mix and match and:
– offer more
– deliver more
– & gain more.

The SSW fund again perfect to engage with employers working hand in hand with other mainstream qualifications and NEET programmes as a source to introduce traineeships and apprenticeship programmes.

Anyway, as I’ve said its like having a 18 month ‘security’ that allows you to — —- cross sell
– Upsell
– and get more.

The next round of funding that will be aptly named the prosperity fund but that is a long way away!

If we look back to the past, the changes in the sector, we have moved from core funding to grant funding to more project based funding and now we are all dissecting this further.

So whether its
– hard to help,
– hard to reach, or
– rapid response programmes

They are very specific restrictions on
where you can deliver,
what you can deliver-
and certain protocols
these specific targeted areas and customers will be the norm going forward with localism and localness throughout everything that you do.

The AEB devolution is the most exciting game changing, funding change that is about to happen- its a serious change that will affect all in the sector.

Some people view is, that there is no long term in general AEB with T levels and traineeships seen as a priority here.

We know that AEB funding nationally will be reduced, and most organisations will have significant reductions with the only way to gain is via a local tendering opportunity, and that process will need to show localism and niche activity combined with employer links.
Other points that I just want to quickly maintain and end on- are :

The past winners on ESF may not be in the same position- you cant say that a certain area is ear marked, and there is a likely winner e.g Stoke on Trent College has always won in Staffordshire that’s not been the case anymore for a while.

Its different providers now who are winning the bids and that’s likely to be more of the same.

The competition is tougher – the bids are more difficult, they need much more time and usually a team effort to work on.

Its worth putting in the effort now for AEB devolution bids knowing what your wins are, your differention and your markets before hand.

E & OE and (C) Safaraz Ali
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