Independent training providers: how to meet Gatsby 7

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(Gatsby benchmark 7)

We know many of our schools are struggling to get to grips with the ‘meaningful encounters with independent training providers’ requirement of Gatsby benchmark 7 – so we asked our Apprenticeship Manager Paddy Patterson for an explanation and practical help.

Independent training providers, by Paddy Patterson

What exactly are ‘independent training providers?

Okay, so when we use the term ‘independent training providers’, what do we mean?  Simply put, we are talking about any non-FE college organisation who is delivering Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA)- funded training either through a directly-held (‘prime’) contract with the ESFA, or operating as a subcontracted organisation to a prime contractor.  They will typically be privately-owned and while most will be profit-making organisations, a great number operate on a not-for-profit basis.

Who are my local independent training providers?

The first thing here is to define ‘local’.  An independent training organisation can be ‘local’ in the sense that it can provide training to an individual without necessarily having a physical building in the locality.  This may be because they utilise online/distance learning resources, provide support in the workplace through a visiting tutor or assessor, or offer a ‘block release’ training model that requires an apprentice to make occasional travel to a training centre out of area for a concentrated period of ‘classroom’ study, as opposed to a weekly day release that might typically happen via a local college.

How do I find independent providers that operate in Buckinghamshire?

First of all, there isn’t an official, local directory.  We have a very small number of independent training organisations with physical training centres in the county, yet we know we have over 150 ‘out of area’ training providers delivering apprenticeship training in Buckinghamshire.

So, how does anyone begin to make sense of that system and seek to provide ‘meaningful’ encounters with independent training providers? Consider these 4 options:

Schools should provide all these links on the careers section of their website.

So how do we provide ‘meaningful’ interactions for students?

Providing the links alone is a good start, but not likely to directly provide a ‘meaningful’ encounter for students. Making use of the links above (particularly (i) and (ii) ) and actively searching for providers that are able to operate locally, and whose ‘offer’ is relevant to student interests and aspirations can support activities that are likely to be ‘meaningful’.

  • Run a session on ‘Find Apprenticeship Training’ that requires students to research areas of interest and draw up a list of independent training providers that can be contacted by the school or even the students themselves.
  • Make sure students are aware of open days/evenings being held by independent providers: it’s helpful if careers leaders sign up to receive news from providers where possible to then pass on.
  • Invite independent providers into school who are relevant to students’ interests and aspirations.
  • Organise trips to regional and national careers/skills events that will be attended by independent training providers.