Good governance for independent training providers and employers​

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What is good governance and why is it important?

While governance is increasingly in the spotlight in the continuing education landscape, there are no explicit governance requirements for independent training providers (ITPs) and employer-providers, and certainly no one-size-fits-all solution.

However, good governance is certainly receiving increasing attention, and while there is nothing specific in an EFSA contract that commits suppliers to engage or commit to the governance of any Either way, there is a rule of thumb that good governance impacts your organization’s effectiveness and transforms your bottom line.

Governance should enable management teams and boards to manage organizations in a legal, ethical, sustainable and successful manner, for the benefit of stakeholders, including shareholders, staff, customers and customers, and for the good of society at large.

For ITPs and employer-suppliers, this can relate to business planning, program and delivery, QA processes, evaluation and improvement. All of these are, to one degree or another, within the purview of governance.

Fundamentals of governance

To shape or improve governance within ITPs and employer-suppliers, leaders need to understand what “good” looks like. At the very least, they should work to a set of transparent standards and officially known criteria used to assess and inform education policy, provision and performance. So, what does this look like in practice for ITPs and employer-providers?

The guide for providers to deliver quality apprenticeships, published in November 2021 by ESFA refers to governance in that:

“Suppliers must have effective governance structures, such as a board or board of directors. All suppliers must be independently reviewed to ensure that the best interests of apprentices… are taken into account. Good governance also ensures that all public funds received are spent properly.

It is likely that providers can expect to see a clearer delineation between funding rules for providers and clearer governance expectations in the future.

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) 2018 Code of Governance is a helpful resource to refer to for more information here. The code is relevant to all ITPs working in the learning, education, training and skills sector after age 16.

It is based on a set of shared values, principles and expectations, and those who follow it are encouraged to adopt the “spirit” of the code as well as its “letter”, to show that they conduct their business in the best interest for learners, apprentices and employers, key stakeholders and funders. Click here to read the full code.

What can happen if governance goes wrong?

Failing to recognize the importance of good governance and taking positive steps to implement a strong governance framework can lead to the following consequences:

  • Missed opportunities for improvement and growth
  • Weak decision-making, including poor financial management
  • Not spotting indicators and early warnings – increased risk
  • Inefficient work practices
  • Not setting clear or realistic expectations
  • Lack of accountability for public funds
  • Insufficient quality control and monitoring
  • Insufficiently managed safeguard risks

And we know the impact these areas can have with the most alarming of all:

  • Withdrawal from RoATP / termination of contracts and other penalties
  • Getting the right support for ITPs and employer-suppliers
  • Governance is unique to ITPs and Employer-Suppliers and, as noted earlier, cannot be effectively implemented using a single solution.

SDN is hosting a series of workshops for ITPs and employer-providers sharing ideas and practical approaches on the following topics:

  • Introduction to good governance
  • Consider the learner in governance
  • Consider employers and stakeholders in governance
  • Consider you as the supplier within your governance

To learn more and register for the workshop series, visit Developing Effective Governance Workshops. We can also provide 1-2-1 advice through our strategic associates, who support gubernatorial teams at a range of training providers across England.

This may include conducting a review of your existing governance, defining areas for improvement, as well as acting as an independent member of your board of directors. If our strategic associates cannot meet your specific needs, we will endeavor to connect you with someone who can.

Call us on 01622 962 411 for a first chat. Or, for more information and to download our brochure, go to https://www.strategicdevelopmentnetwork.co.uk/governance-support/.

By Karen Kelly, Strategic Associate, SDN

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