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How to choose a good apprenticeship provider – An honest guide

Looking at apprenticeship providers but are unsure who to work with? Check out our unbiased guide on finding good apprenticeship providers.

The eternal question…

“Which apprenticeship training provider do I choose?”

There are currently, as of Oct 2023, nearly 1500 training providers in the UK. That’s a hell of a lot of choice for businesses looking to hire an apprentice. The saying “the agony of choice” comes to mind… So, in the quest for a suitable apprenticeship training provider, it’s inevitable that things can get a little confusing, That’s why we’ve written this guide. Hopefully, it should give you an idea of what to look out for both in terms of positives and negatives. For the purpose of this guide I’ll assume you’ve started looking around and have some idea of the sort of apprenticeship standard you’re looking for.


“Why should I listen to you?”

You’re probably wondering why my opinion matters or how I know what I’m talking about. Here’s a little bit of my background. My name is Mitch and I’ve worked in the apprenticeship industry for over eight years. During that time, I’ve worked for a variety of apprenticeship providers including some of the nation’s largest organisations but also smaller boutique providers. I’ve always worked on the frontline or very closely connected to it in coaching, curriculum, internal verification, and leadership. Basically, I’ve always worked closely with learners and employers so it’s safe to say I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the very ugly that the industry has to offer.


The five things I’d look out for


Reviews are a great way to get a real picture of apprenticeship training providers. The government offers services for finding providers which also utilise a five-start review system. Though these platforms are sufficient for an overall impression of the provider we all know that reviews can be misleading. How many times have you purchased something from Amazon that had thousands of great ratings but when it arrives it’s utterly underwhelming? If you want to look into reviews, my advice is to look at the following:


Use employee reviews on this platform. Specifically, look at coach or mentor reviews. The reason why I say this is because as I mentioned above, Coaches are the closest to the frontline and see what is really going on within training providers. If you see scores of terrible reviews from coaches and mentors, this should raise a huge red flag.

Google reviews

The reason why these reviews can be effective is because Google is a free platform and most people are already signed into their Google accounts. This makes it easy for anyone to leave their reviews without having to sign up and verify, etc. You’ll often get more apprentice reviews here. Let’s face facts, nobody pushes Google reviews over other platforms so the chances are these will be legitimate opinions from either happy, or very unhappy customers.


Overdiversification of courses

Dozens of subjects and standards

I’ve always liked the phrase narrow and deep. When I see providers offering every premium ticket standard on the menu I immediately know that there will be a lack of real quality in any one of their programmes. Whether the organisation is 500 employees strong or 50, too many standards across too many subjects is a big no, no. Again, I’ve seen and experienced this in my career history and it never goes well.

Obvious anomalies

I’d probably recommend avoiding providers that offer a one-off anomaly standard that deviates from their bread and butter. For example, a health and social care provider offering IT would ring alarm bells for me. This often means they’re running the standard because it’s worth a lot of money from a funding perspective. This may result in them using part-time or freelancers to run the courses due to caseloads.

Aside: Though it’s not one of my five factors, try to avoid providers that use freelance coaches. I’m not saying they’ll be bad per se, but a freelancer doesn’t have the same skin in the game as a full-time coach.


Now, this one may be harder to collect information on as you may have only just started looking at providers. However, do a little asking around with hiring managers and company owners. Jump onto LinkedIn and ask your connections who they’d recommend or if they’ve worked with providers. Maybe pop a post up using hashtags like #apprenticeships #apprenticeshipproviders, and #apprenticeshiptraining. Be sure to request people message you their suggestions as you’ll get brutally honest answers this way.


Pass rates

Use the apprenticeship training courses directory to search for a standard you’re interested in. This will then allow you to find providers offering that standard in your area. Once you have a filtered list, be sure to check out the pass rate data for these providers. If their pass rate is anything less than 80% be wary. Yes, all manner of things could affect success rates, but if they’re going into the 60% region that would raise a major red flag for me.

A side note: Some of the providers don’t show pass rates which is a little annoying. Your best bet then is to use the methods I’ve mentioned above.


OFSTED results

I will preface this section by saying that The Marketing Trainer has not yet had an OFSTED inspection. However, I have personally been part of several OFSTED inspections during my time in the industry. What I will say is this, OFSTED inspections often strike fear into the hearts of organisations and from experience are largely a reactionary process for larger providers.

Grades 1 and 2

For me, there is little difference between these two grades. I’ve worked at organisations that have had both and quite honestly wouldn’t say there is much difference between the two from a delivery standpoint.  What often differentiates a grade 1 and 2 is a single area that is slightly weaker which brings the final grade down.

Grades 3 and 4

Avoid providers with grade 4’s. This generally means that something has gone catastrophically wrong and is likely not just an oversight from OFSTED. Similarly, this is the same for grade 3’s. There have been some cases of grade 3’s being overturned, but they are few and far between. Ultimately, you probably won’t be able to work with these providers as they’re often stopped from bringing on new learners until they sort their act out.


So, there you have it.

There’s my guide to choosing a good apprenticeship provider. My final advice is to ensure you do some if not all of the above before choosing. Investing in an apprentice is a big deal and a long-term one as well. Don’t buy into sales patter and be left holding a ticking timebomb. Do your due diligence, it’ll pay off in spades.

If you’re considering hiring an apprentice outside of marketing and want to talk to people who’ve been around a the block, feel free to email and we’ll be glad to have a chat and even recommend some providers.

Considering hiring a marketing apprentice?

If you’re looking to build out your marketing team, grow your business, or get that competitive edge over your competitors, an apprentice may be the right solution. Here’s how an apprentice may help:

  1. Hiring apprentices over regular candidates can save you thousands of pounds in advertising and recruitment fees;
  2. Government funding and incentives mean that not only will you pay a minimal cost for thousands of pounds of training, but they may even pay you to take an apprentice on;
  3. There are a variety of standards which can be used to best fit your business and role;
  4. Apprenticeships last between 13 – 16 months on average meaning you build contracts around this;
  5. You don’t have to compete with prior experience and practices, you can shape and mold apprentices’ skills as you need;
  6. You have the ability to positively change someone’s life and develop a future marketing expert as part of your business.

Don’t delay, let’s get started.

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