Graham Hasting-Evans, Managing Director, NOCN

NOCN has put together ‘10 top tips’ that all levy paying employers should do to ‘make apprenticeships matter’.  

For employers to be able to justify the investment in time, resource and money of offering apprenticeships, they need to be able to guarantee that they will have an impact on both their commercial and social goals. In line with the recent Apprenticeship Conference held in Birmingham came at one of the most challenging and exciting times for apprenticeships in a generation. The key things to come out of the three days of keynote presentations, workshops, panel discussions, seminars and exhibiting were a focus on quality of opportunity and the need for increased emphasis on ‘End Point Assessment’ from the outset to ensure that apprentices complete the programme with enhanced employability and social mobility.

Since reformed apprenticeships are designed to be ‘employer-led’, we’re keenly aware of the fact that the landscape is still very unclear for employers and that many of the questions which will be keeping them awake at night remain unanswered.


  1. MAKE APPRENTICESHIPS PART OF THE BIGGER PICTURE: To really make apprenticeships matter apprentices should be part of your wider business growth strategy. The introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy isn’t a reason to run apprenticeships ‘for the sake of it’.
  2. PRIORITISE QUALITY: They say you get what you pay for but higher cost doesn’t necessarily mean higher quality when it comes to reformed apprenticeships. Choose training providers and apprentice assessment organisations (AAO) that are quality-assured and offer experience and expertise at a reasonable price. The cost of End Point Assessment (EPA) can be anything up to 20% of the overall delivery cost but AAO providers like NOCN with experience of creating efficiencies around assessments and the mechanisms used to deliver them, can offer the best quality in the market for just 11%.
  3. GET TO KNOW THE STANDARDS: Reformed apprenticeships are based on specialist apprenticeship standards that have been developed in partnership with employers to identify the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to do the job. The apprenticeship training programme and assessment will be completely based on these simple two page standards so employers, apprentices, training providers and assessment organisations need to know them inside out.
    NOCN has been directly involved in the development of the 21 standards that we are currently government approved AAO to deliver EPA for and has experience of delivering qualifications and assessments in the specialist sectors they relate to.
  4. BE A ‘RESPONSIBLE EMPLOYER’: One of the aims of the new Apprenticeship Levy is that apprenticeships are employer-led and that apprentices get more out of them in terms of social mobility and employability. You need to think beyond what the apprentice can do for your business in the short term and more about what they can bring to your wider business and sector over the long term in terms of skills.
  5. PROMOTE FAIRNESS: Apprenticeships are an opportunity to increase diversity in your workforce but they must be designed to be open to all. Training providers and EPA organisations should promote fairness by taking into account barriers to success such as confidence issues and English as a second language.
  6. EMBED THE END POINT ASSESSMENT FROM THE BEGINNING: With all the controversy around the publication of the Register of Approved Training Providers (RoATP), the discussion around how employers can ensure that apprentices complete the programme has been over-looked despite it inevitably being top of the agenda for most . Just as driving instructors help learners to prepare for their driving test from the very first lesson, employers should ensure that apprenticeships are designed to ensure that apprentices can get through the EPA process.
    Employers should engage with approved AAOs as early as possible in the development, so that their knowledge and understanding is incorporated from the beginning.
  7. ALLOW TIME FOR PREPARATION: The key to making apprenticeships matter is getting your apprentices through the EPA. You wouldn’t let a GCSE student go into an exam without any revision sessions or mock exams. Make sure your assessment organisation provides pre-assessment support.
  8. WORK WITH PEOPLE THAT SHARE YOUR ETHOS: When choosing apprenticeship training providers and assessment organisations, it’s important that they share your organisation’s ethos and values. As an educational charity, NOCN understands employers’ commercial agenda but also its corporate social duties and outcomes.
  9. REDUCE THE RISK: Even with the funding available through the Apprenticeship Levy for employers, apprenticeships are a big investment in time, resources and money for any organisation. Reduce the risk by making sure that everything is in place from the beginning and apprentices will be able to successfully complete the programme and become a long term asset to your business. There are some new AAO’s entering into the skills markets that don’t have vocational learning heritage and or knowledge expertise as their core business. Awarding organisations like NOCN are a safe pair of hands for the employer.
  10. DON’T MAKE THE END OF THE APPRENTICESHIP, THE END OF THE JOURNEY: Apprenticeships should lead on to further training and qualifications that will offer apprentices a career pathway that is a genuinely attractive alternative to a degree. It’s also important to have a backup plan if apprentices fail the EPA to ensure that their potential doesn’t go to waste and they are supported to give it another go!

NOCN is a leading awarding organisationthat has been creating opportunities for almost 30 years and top two, Government-approved AAO provider, ready to deliver EPA across 21 new apprenticeship standards, in tandem with approved training providers and employers, in ten occupational areas.

With so much uncertainty around the roll out and assessment of the new apprenticeship standards, NOCN is keen to advise and reassure all levy paying employers (and providers) that, despite this ‘brave new world’ it is possible to deliver quality apprenticeships that are fit for the future. As a progressive educational charity, NOCN is at the forefront of vocational skills development and apprenticeships, in the UK.

Graham Hasting-Evans, NOCN Managing Director

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