Apprenticeship ‘Exclusivity’ contracts – are they right for the apprentice and the employer?

Last week at ITEC we received a phone call from a national provider who informed us that they have an ‘exclusivity contract’ with a local school, with whom we have worked with for the past 10 years or so prior to the Apprenticeship Levy coming in to play.

Now this shouldn’t be a problem, I hear you say, as we specialise in IT technical apprenticeships, whereas they specialise in a different sector and they do not deliver the IT standard the employer and their apprentice want.

However, because of this ‘exclusivity’ clause in their contract, it seems this provider is going to attempt to run this specialised IT programme for this apprentice, despite the fact that the employer wants to purchase this training with ITEC and has agreed a contract with us to deliver this standard.    The provider is in control of the employer’s levy funds not the employer!

This concerns us on many levels.   This is clearly not in the apprentice’s best interests, it isn’t what the employer wants and is ignoring their right to choose, and it reflects poor practice as a training provider, which reflects on all of us in this sector.   It shouldn’t be about the funding and the money, it should always be (first, last and everything in between) about the people!

Apprenticeship_Employers_BadgeThe Government Agency, ESFA, are absolutely adamant that employers must be in the driving seat for spending their apprenticeship levy funds and procuring the right training for their apprentice.    So how do ‘exclusivity’ clauses work with this aspiration?    This training provider is actively preventing this employer from choosing who they want to work with on this occasion to the detriment of the apprentice, who should, after all is said and done, be the most important person in this transaction!

We see how ‘exclusivity’ can work in certain sectors.  For example, a national training provider specialising in Care may have an exclusive contract to provide apprenticeship training for a national Care Home provider or a national training provider in Hair may have an exclusive contract with a salon franchise.   But this shouldn’t be to the exclusion of all else, should it?    We are perplexed as to why a training provider thinks it is in the best interests of the employer and the apprentice to deliver something that is not in their current remit and which they do not have a track record with, especially when the employer has a long-standing relationship with a training provider that does have that specialism.

It’s not something we would do here at ITEC nor would it even cross our minds.   We specialise in IT so why would we try to deliver apprenticeships in other areas that we know nothing about, for example, Hairdressing or Sports Management?   When one of our employers wants something we cannot deliver, we refer them on to a specialist provider who can help.   That is the right and proper thing to do and is in the best interests of the employer and apprentice, isn’t it?

In the example given above, the training provider needs to be flexible with their approach to applying the ‘exclusivity’ clause when there is a need to run a specialised programme for an apprentice that is outside their scope.  To try to run a one-off programme in an area that is not their speciality when there is a small, local provider like us who is able to run it, is doing a disservice to the apprentice, the employer, reflects badly on our sector and is, quite frankly, an abuse of the system.  But that’s just our opinion!  What’s yours?

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