From education to employment

Become an Industry Assessor

What does the Chief Stage Electrician for Opera North, the Executive Director at Skillscene, and the Operations and Facilities Manager at Bristol’s Colston Hall have in common? Answer: they are all part of an interesting group of Industry Assessors being promoted to the FE sector by the National Skills Academy for Creative & Cultural.

These people from Industry are qualified as Assessors and came initially from a project run by industry body Skillscene working with PLASA Qualifications whereby candidates gained the old A1 Assessors Award – the professional Level 3 qualification for people to be NVQ Assessors.

Over 25 people qualified to assess competence in the work place through this first project, but the problem with all this is that although 12 Rigging A1 assessors are used for the PLASA Rigging Qualification, the technical theatre arena in which most of these assessors earn their living doesn’t have any NVQs for them to assess. However, as with many Assessors who previously specialised in delivering NVQ’s, some of these people are now becoming involved in Apprenticeships.

The National Skills Academy for Creative & Cultural offer a service promoting these assessors on their website. They are promoted to FE colleges as potential assessors for the Apprenticeship, and they have been documenting their experiences. The encounter is clearly valued as shown by these comments from Midlands Offstage Consortium’s Sebastian Barnes:

“I’ve been fortunate to be employed on a freelance basis, to help two Creative Apprentices work through the Level 3 EDI pathways, Cultural and Heritage Venue Operations. This is my first chance to put the excellent, PLASA A1 Assessor training into practice. So far I’m finding it interesting and rewarding. Having completed the first two meetings with my candidates, planning their assessment and looking at evidence, I can begin to see the patterns and pace that suits assessment in the Creative Sector.”

Assessors are integral in making the Government’s apprenticeship targets a reality, whilst most critically ensuring positive outcomes for both the learner and employer. It is therefore clear to the Skills Academy that there needs to be a raising of the profile of industry assessors to the Further Education sector.

Assessors play a crucial role in maintaining the standards of learning and teaching, as well as ensuring every scheme delivers training that is relevant to both the learner and the employer. In order to maintain and improve the standards of Apprentice schemes, it is vital that more industry talent is encouraged into assessing. The substantial increase in Apprenticeship starts – over 700 now in the Creative industries from 0 in 2008 – is excellent news, but delivery could prove problematic if there aren’t enough qualified assessors available. This problem is exacerbated by the noticeable shift from Permanent to Freelance Assessor job vacancies that are being advertised.

The Skills Academy is pleased to be able to promote individuals who have successfully gone through an appropriate industry assessor training programme. Assessors use their knowledge to deliver programmes that support candidates to meet the industry standard and gather appropriate evidence. Access to extensive, hands on and up-to-date job experience and industry knowledge is a boon for FE.

Becoming an Industry Assessor is a good opportunity for someone looking to use their professional expertise to support learning and development in the Further Education sector. Assessors can combine the role with their existing job after taking a qualification. The National Skills Academy industry assessor pool can be made available to further education organisations such as awarding bodies, colleges and training providers as they seek the industry knowledge to support work in relation to Apprenticeships and in other areas.

With the newly introduced Assessor Development Programme – Skills Academy industry members could train one or more of their staff as an in-house assessor available to assess levels of competency amongst employees as opportunities naturally arise. The National Skills Academy are currently talking to their Further Education Founder Colleges to see if any of them could facilitate this.

Awarding Organisations are offering four new assessor qualifications which replace the A1 on the QCF, and one of the key Skills Academy Founder Colleges – North Hertfordshire College – have recently hosted a series of free workshops at the Goldsmith Centre for Business for businesses in the East of England, and they are also available to hold workshops on employers own premises.

Further Education needs strong industry engagement, and looking to use Industry Assessors might be one of those initiatives that genuinely works to the benefit of both sides.

Robert West is education and curriculum manager for the National Skills Academy for Creative & Cultural Skills, a freelance writer, and has worked as an FE tutor

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