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“Excellence for learners, value for employers”

AELP launch new research, highlighting the importance of independent training providers

  • At an event hosted in Parliament by Lord Aberdare, AELP launched their latest research into independent training providers (ITPs) and their place in the English skills system
  • The report highlights the significant role that ITPs play in delivering the skills that learners and businesses need
  • AELP’s research makes seven key recommendations to redress the balance and ensure parity between ITPs and other Further Education Providers


The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) has launched its latest research showing the significant impact that independent Training Providers (ITPs) have within the English skills system.

AELP’s report, Excellence for Learners, Value for Employers: How independent training providers can deliver the workforce of the future, was launched in the House of Commons at an event hosted by Lord Aberdare, alongside AELP Chief Executive Jane Hickie and AELP Chair Martin Dunford OBE. The event was kindly sponsored by Learning Curve Group.

The report sets out the strength of ITPs and the scale of their delivery throughout the skills sector. It also argues that there is a clear need for equitable treatment of ITPs in policy, regulation, and funding in order to maximise the amount of high-quality provision they can offer learners and employers.
ITPs are responsible for delivering 7 out of 10 apprenticeships nationally – as well as adult education, the majority of traineeships and skills bootcamps, and a range of programmes for the unemployed. They deliver consistently high-quality provision and work closely with employers to ensure fantastic outcomes for learners. This is shown regularly by Ofsted inspection results, with 80% of ITPs rated as either good or outstanding. Yet despite this, providers are still not being treated with parity by government.

AELP’s research voices concerns around this disparity between ITPs and other forms of post-16 education provision. This includes, but isn’t limited to, the lack of financial support given to ITPs during the Covid-19 pandemic when compared to other providers, an iniquitous intervention regime for under-performing ITPs, and a funding system that often works against them.
The report outlines seven recommendations to help make the best use of the of the range of skills and expertise that ITPs have to offer. These are:

1. That skills policy should concentrate on facilitating what works and not which type of institution is delivering it

2. That intervention measures designed to improve performance at colleges and ITPs must be made more equal so as not to disadvantage the learners that choose to go to each type of institution.

3. That ITPs have particular strengths in the delivery of learning at level 2 and below – an area sorely requiring review and emphasis in recent years amidst the government’s rush to improve the provision of skills at advanced and higher levels, leaving this layer of learning behind.

4. More lateral thinking about the design of new provision and how it could use the established and successful model of roll-on roll-off entry that ITPs deploy rather than rely on traditional three-term academic year models.

5. More policy equivalence given to learning via classroom-based GCSEs and work-based Functional Skills Level 2

6. That government must learn to trust ITPs to deliver on the basis that that is what their track record has long demonstrated. Doing so will widen learner choice, allowing more employers to engage and benefit from the system.

7. And finally, and perhaps almost in summary, that as ITPs bring a wealth of experience, expertise and industry knowledge that should be central to formulating the proper responses to skills needs of employers and learners alike, policymakers must make much better use of these attributes than they do.

“It was a pleasure to launch our new research in parliament, particularly as we need to get more decision-makers on board, ensuring that they reflect the value and impact of ITPs in policymaking. One of my favourite quotes in the report followed Lord Aberdare’s comments in the Skills Bill debates. He was concerned that ITPs are sometimes viewed mainly as gap-fillers in the training system. In response, an interviewee for our report told us: ‘If we fill any gaps at all, it’s only because we’re the mortar between the bricks. Without us, the whole wall could come down’. And this report shows that, time and time again.

"However, the system continues to be built on the premise that the major protagonists in the FE sector are, by and large, colleges. Many of the rules surrounding regulation and funding have been designed on the basis of how they affect colleges, rather than taking into account the enormous role ITPs play in the English skills system. The major effect of this appears to be to disadvantage learners who have chosen to follow their studies at an ITP.

"The report’s seven key recommendations outline how we can achieve parity between ITPs and other forms of training providers to the benefit of learners, employers and the economy as a whole. Fighting for a fairer deal for ITPs will always be at the core of what we do.”

Paul Warner, AELP’s Director of Strategy and Business Development and author of the report



“Excellence for learners, value for employers”: AELP launch new research, highlighting the importance of independent training providers

For further information or for interviews please contact Matt Strong, Communications Manager, AELP, on 07920 161685 or [email protected]

Last published: 23/02/2022