Imagine telling your elderly parents that they can’t give you a power of attorney to act for them when the time comes, but must wait until they are actually incapable of acting. Or having to write a cheque for each mortgage payment, instead of signing a direct debit mandate at the start. Or wanting someone to vote for you at a meeting, but still having to go to the meeting in order to authorise the appointment. Try to think of any area of law or business life where you are allowed to delegate authority only at the point where it is ready to be used.
Now take a look at paragraph 161 of the new Apprenticeship Funding Guidance.
One of the changes introduced by the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 is that an apprentice will be responsible for requesting from the Certifying Authority their Apprenticeship Completion Certificate. In practice, the Agency recognises that providers will do this on behalf of the apprentice. It must be noted that this authority cannot be given by the apprentice to the provider at the start or during the Apprenticeship as it must be done after all the components of the Apprenticeship Framework have been completed.
First, there seems to be a missing sentence before the one in bold (otherwise “this authority” makes no sense). Presumably, this would say something like “Before providers request a certificate, they must hold a written authority from the apprentice”.
More importantly, what is the point of the sentence in bold? It’s reasonable enough to say that the apprentice must have completed the framework before claiming a certificate. But what possible purpose is served by saying that he or she can’t give the provider authority until after completion? Providers are already required to get learners to sign documents at the start of training, so this is the logical time to collect the authority. Why can’t the apprentice sign a form at the start which says “I authorise Provider X to request a completion certificate on my behalf once all the components of my Apprenticeship Framework have been completed”?
It’s a small point, but an important one. The “Certifying Authority” seems happy to accept applications and authorities bearing signatures which could have been made by anyone (see my post on electronic records). But I guarantee that, before long, they will reject someone’s certificate application because the authority has the wrong date on it. Chasing around for signed authorities after completion is time consuming, expensive and risks failing to obtain the certificate at all if the learner has moved or changed career in the meantime. And if this happens, the provider’s success rate, and possibly its ability to obtain future funding, is jeopardised.
So I asked the SFA. Without naming names or publishing actual emails, the dialogue went like this.
PBD What is the statutory authority for this new rule?
SFA It’s required under the Regulations made under the Act
PBD. No it isn’t. Neither the Act nor the Regulations say anything about giving providers authority to claim certificates
SFA Well, the Act says that apprentices have to apply for their own certificate after completion. And we accept that providers can facilitate this.
PBD Yes, but that isn’t the point. The application has to be made after completion, but why can’t the authority to make the application be given earlier?
SFA We are working with the Sector Skills Councils to see how providers can apply for certificates as simply as possible and in a way which complies with the Act
PBD But you’re trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. The Act doesn’t try to prevent apprentices from providing an authoritybefore they have completed their framework. Please answer my question.
SFA The wording was agreed with colleagues in BIS. We are working on a streamlined electronic system.
PBD That still doesn’t answer the question.
A few months ago, Vince Cable set out five priorities for the SFA in 2011/12. One of these was “to support a simplified funding and performance management system, which recognises our commitment to free Providers, reduce bureaucracy and the costs for the sector, and enable Providers to be held to account by the communities they operate in.”
Not a great start.