The AELP National Conference 2022 provided a fantastic opportunity to reconnect with old and new colleagues and discuss some of the challenges and opportunities faced by the sector.

Funding frustrations

Several people who visited the Gateway Qualifications stand mentioned their frustration with funding.  Numerous barriers prevent providers from accessing funding either for AEB or Apprenticeships, causing concern in the sector.  One delegate described the conversation in the Apprenticeship Funding Rules workshop as ‘lively’.

The general view seems to be that there is a lack of clarity with funding streams competing for learners/business rather than a segmented approach.

Digital Skills for the workplace

Providers are aware that there is a growing need to embed Digital Skills into their delivery models to prepare Learners for the working world.  Most LEPs and local area skills plans cite the need to grow digital skills, and there is an appetite for a funded offer tailored to employers’ needs.

In the “Employer Led System” plenary session Matthew Fell from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said they believe that as many as 21 million people require digital skills training and there is a “lot of ground to make up” in ensuring people have the basic and more advanced digital skills required for today’s workplace.  The CBI reinforced this point by suggesting that workers should have a digital MOT.

The CBI wants to see more flexibility in the system to support shorter more modular training rather than just longer programmes.  They went further by saying the apprenticeship levy should have increased flexibility so employers can utilise this for accredited reskilling training and not just apprenticeships.

Building a fundable digital offer

Gateway Qualifications delivered its inaugural workshop at the AELP conference “How to build a fundable digital offer that meets employer needs”.  The workshop was well received with lots of interaction and questions from delegates interested in delivering these skills that employers need right now.

Access to adult funding was cited as a key barrier, particularly for Independent Training Providers (ITPs). Clearly, there is a problem in the system where ITPs can and want to deliver but have limited access to Adult Education Budget (AEB).  With the national AEB threshold being increased in 2022/23 to 110% to enable providers to deliver more than their allocation to meet local demand coupled with further devolution of adult funding continuing across England these challenges will only increase.

Attendees at the workshop we able to leave with a handy guide to some of the key, fundable qualifications that can help address the need for digital skills for the workplace, if you missed out on a copy, you can download it below.

With positive feedback given by the conference organisers, senior delegates and even from some other Awarding Organisations, it was a successful debut for the Gateway Qualifications panel.

How to build a fundable digital offer – handout

Boot camps

The government will be investing £550 million into boot camps over the coming years and the DfE is actively looking for large established providers to take this offer up.

What was clear is that whilst they have rapidly grown they are still a work in progress. There will be an OFSTED summary report on boot camps released in September this year and there is a question mark over why half of those who complete a boot camp receive no tangible outcome. There is no mandated qualification component, which means learners leave with nothing to show for their time spent.

There was also confusion as to where in the landscape a boot camp sits. It competes with some apprenticeships, traineeships, and the National Skills Fund offer. This added much to the theme of the conference, which is that we have quite a complicated, fragmented picture of provision in Education currently.


Sustainability was on the agenda again with providers looking for ways in which they can embed awareness and skills into their training.

Panellists in a discussion on the sustainability agenda agreed that all jobs have green skills and sustainability within them. These skills shouldn’t be bolted on but they need to be embedded into every sector and job role. This needs to be introduced to learners earlier in their education.

There is also a need to educate and upskill current staff about what is needed within their own roles to improve sustainability and, at higher levels, there is a lack of suitably qualified staff to deliver and assess.

Local Skills Improvement Plans

It was interesting to hear how the Local Skills Improvement Plans will be rolled out with funding across England, giving local employer bodies and stakeholders a statutory role in planning skills training in their area, to better meet local labour market needs.

A recent Leicester and Leicestershire LSIP pilot put local employers at the centre of skills provision, and they shared how they engaged with local colleges, training providers, along with employers on the changes needed at a local level to make a real difference in meeting the needs of employers and the local economy.