Earlier today (7 September 2017), the Scottish Government announced details of the £10m Flexible Workforce Development Fund (FWDF), one of the activities funded by the apprenticeship levy.

The fund will be open for applications from 11 September 2017 and access will be on a first come, first served basis.

Third sector employers will need to act quickly to access the fund.

All of the relevant documentation, including a FAQs is available here and key points are below.

What is the fund?

The FWDF is a one-year pilot. It is intended to be a skills fund which will bring the college sector together with Scottish employers who support in-work training.

The criteria encourages employers to give due consideration to specific groups, including older workers, low-skilled jobs and early service leavers. The idea is to support training needs of workers where a full Modern Apprenticeship might not be appropriate.

How do I apply?

You can find the application process and application template here.

You must be paying the apprenticeship levy to apply. You can find out more about the levy and whether you are affected here.

You must present the college with evidence of your eligibility to pay the levy alongside your application.

The Fund is being administered through Scotland’s colleges so you have to apply to a college. You must only apply to one college, so consider what college you want to work with before you apply. Note that financial allocation to each college is based on the estimated number of levy-paying employers, and their employees, in that college region.

This means each college has a limited fund and the money is largely concentrated in the central belt.

Colleges are expected to work with you to identify required training and assist with the application process. As a starting point, you must complete an application identifying your skills needs, a ‘training needs analysis’, as per the template above. Paragraph 26 of the guidance provides more detail on the application. Be warned, it’s complicated.

How much money can I access?

The fund is limited to £10m and each employer is restricted to £10,000. As the fund is allocated on a first come, first served basis, funds are likely to run out quickly so there are no guarantees about accessing any funds.

You can use the FWDF as part-contribution towards a higher training cost.

What can the money be used for?

Regional Colleges and assigned colleges are required to develop a regional suite of training provision available in support of the FWDF. The ‘offer’ should be developed in line with the Scottish Government’s national priorities and be informed by labour market intelligence. Colleges are not expected to present a ‘prescriptive offer’ but should be flexible around three main areas; productivity, skills gaps and regional needs.

The fund can’t be used for funding required by law and employers are expected to meet their mandatory responsibilities.

What’s next?

The fund is open for applications from 11 September until 15 December. SCVO understands that this fund is not conducive to the third sector’s involvement and that the fund will do little to assist third sector organisations struggling to recoup your levy contributions.

Considering that the third sector will not have the pre-existing relationships with colleges enjoyed by the private sector and our sector typically doesn’t have the same awareness of our skills needs, the nature of this fund ignores the needs of the third sector almost entirely.

We know that organisations were told to wait for this fund to recoup their levy contributions and that it hasn’t met expectations in this regard. We’re going to take forward work with our members and Scottish Government to see how we can best support the third sector moving forward.

Where can I go for help?

To get more details about the fund, email fwdf@sfc.ac.uk or contact Martin Smith, Chief Funding and Information Officer, on 0131 313 6528 / msmith@sfc.ac.uk

To talk about the issues raised by the fund, contact Ruth Boyle at SCVO on 0141 465 7532 / ruth.boyle@scvo.org.uk