Association of Employment and Learning Providers

Press release – embargoed until Tuesday, 29 October 2019, 00.01hrs

 

Providers call for improvements in future procurements of devolved Adult Education Budget

A new AELP survey of independent training providers has identified how the Mayoral Combined Authorities (MCAs) and the Greater London Authority (GLA) could improve future procurement arrangements for the Adult Education Budget following tenders related to half of the £1.5bn budget devolved to the English regions.

AELP is committed to the devolution of AEB and the combined authorities getting the best value for money from the best providers in what is a vital area of skills funding that deserves substantially more investment across the country.

93 providers gave a reasonably positive verdict overall to the series of AEB tenders that the MCAs and GLA held during the past year but approximately a fifth of respondents said that procurement and the devolved authorities’ engagement with interested providers could be improved.

Some comments on the actual procurement process were especially critical while limited scope to deliver training as a subcontractor also prompted frustration on the part of providers.

The participating providers in the survey recommended for future AEB tenders the following areas for improvement:

  • greater transparency on the bidding process: providers complained that they would not have bid if they had known that only a few contracts were being awarded

 

  • rewarding providers with a proven track-record: unproven providers won over those with an established footprint and history of solid delivery

 

  • delivery contracts that better meet local skills needs: responding to LMI data and the need for realistic employment opportunities for unemployed people were not being properly satisfied in the commissioning

 

  • checking on probity of provider bids: contract winners are now seeking partners for subcontracting arrangements, indicating that they won more funding than they could use for direct delivery, while others bid within their capacity

 

  • more consistency across different MCA procurement approaches: providers recognise that devolution means different approaches but some tenders were overly complex in some areas and too light-touch to make credible judgements in others

 

  • timely rules applied consistently: tender rules were sometimes published later than the norm and then not consistently applied.

 

ITPs also reiterated the AELP view that value for money was not being secured by allowing providers with grant allocations to also bid when they didn’t necessarily have a good track-record of AEB delivery. They feel strongly that the entire AEB, devolved and non-devolved, should be put out to tender.

 

Mixed outcomes for providers in AEB tenders
Out of the 93 survey respondents, 29 won devolved AEB contracts for 2019-20 in comparison with the 69 contracts delivered by them in 2018-19. The contract values were also generally lower than for last year.

89 providers tried to secure a subcontracting arrangement with a grant allocated provider for 2019-20 but only 20 were successful.

Only 14 providers out of 69 managed to secure a subcontract from a provider that had successfully bid in a devolved AEB procurement.

ITPs expressed concern that in some areas adequately meeting the skills needs of the Health & Social Care and Retail sectors will be a casualty of the procurement outcomes.

AELP CEO Mark Dawe said:

‘We hope that our survey will help combined authorities and national government finesse their approach during a recognised period of transition. This report is intended as a positive input to the review and development of the AEB programmes across the country.


‘The devolved AEB tenders were a new experience for both the MCAs, GLA and providers, so we knew that they were never going to be plain sailing and it was only the first year of a transitional process. If notice is taken of the AELP survey findings and the combined authorities start to procure more of the budget in future years, we could well be on the right track to the AEB delivering the much needed skills that the English regions require. AELP is therefore fully committed to working with the combined authorities to ensure that the transition is a success.’

The AELP survey results have been shared with the DfE at the latter’s request.

Link to survey report here.

 

ENDS

Contact Aidan Relf on 07710 305182

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