The long-awaited tender for 19-24-year-old traineeship funding is finally here, yet with an extremely tight deadline for providers to think through their offer and submit their application.
So, what do you need to think about before applying for traineeship funding in time for the 28th October deadline?
SDN Senior Associates (and former ESFA Senior Managers) Karen Kelly and Anna Sutton give us their thoughts…
1. Are you sure the traineeship opportunity is right for you?
It can be tempting to see big figures, the chance to secure £1m+ funding, and go in all, guns blazing, without really stopping to think about whether this is the right opportunity for your business.
Delivering traineeships is not easy. Many providers have secured funding in the past but haven’t hit their allocation because there is a lot of work to do building relations with employers, referral services and supporting trainees on programme.
It’s a good idea to think through how traineeships will fit alongside your existing offer and plan how you will deliver so the programme is valuable to the young person. Only if you are sure it’s cost effective and you can deliver a high-quality programme should you apply for traineeship funding.
2. Can you meet the requirements?
Secondly, really analyse whether you can meet the requirements of the traineeship tender.
The obvious requirement that most providers are scrambling around to secure is their Cyber Essentials certificate. It currently takes between one and three days to get self-certification, but there will be a high demand at the moment, so it might take longer. Plus, if your business doesn’t meet the cyber requirements you will need to make changes and re-apply. This takes time, so work on this first.
You must also be confident your organisation meets the ESFA’s financial tests and that you can deliver a minimum of £250,000 worth of traineeship funding between February and July. To do this, you almost certainly will have to have a good deal of starts by the end of March to meet this minimum target, which will not be an easy feat.
3. Read the whole traineeship ITT before putting your application together
Having supported many providers through their RoATP application, we know this is something that catches a lot of people out. ESFA tenders always have hidden depth, in the sense that you must read every document and understand what is being asked of you before you start to complete your application.
One small example of this is in the Traineeship Procurement Specification Document, where there is a section called Information, Advice and Guidance for Young People. It says: “The Contractor must achieve the matrix Standard accreditation within six (6) months of the Agreement Date and maintain such accreditation for the Contract Period.”
If you don’t have Matrix accreditation already this is something that you’ll have to work towards. There are other little nuggets of information like this in the ITT documentation, so do make sure you read all of it to understand exactly what you are committing to.
4. Cover everything asked of you in the traineeship technical questions
Answering the three technical questions is harder than it looks at first glance. You only have 2,500 characters to answer each question, yet it is vital that you cover all bullet points within each question.
This means your writing has to be sharp and to the point, as well as written in the kind of language the ESFA expects. Where possible it is also important to include facts or examples of how you will meet the requirements to give yourself the best chance of scoring highly.
We would advise you to complete the technical questions last but do give yourself plenty of time before the deadline to do this. Honing in on your offer and telling your story in the right way does take time to get right.
5. Get a second opinion if you need to
Once you are happy with your application, it is good to build in a quality assurance process. This might be running the application by trusted colleagues that have an eye for detail and can pick up on any errors or anomalies. Alternatively, it might be that you asked an external organisation (like SDN) to review your application before submission. This can give you peace of mind and the honest advice and feedback you need to fine tune your application and showcase your offer in the best possible light.
Former ESFA Senior Managers, Karen Kelly and Anna Sutton, Associates, SDN
SDN’s Traineeship Procurement Support Service: SDN’s bid writing team is led by former ESFA senior managers who have an in-depth understanding of Traineeships and know what the ESFA are looking for from applicants.
If you are a high-quality provider with the right experience and capacity, SDN can work with you to help you articulate your traineeship offer succinctly. We can also help you with the government portal to ensure you have submitted everything correctly.