Chris Cherry, Senior Associate, Strategic Development Network (SDN)

Challenges for the next stage of Apprenticeship reform?

Over the next 10 years there's going to be a need to update standards at an ever-increasing rate.

At the moment we have standards that have a two- or three-year shelf life, and the knowledge, skills, and behaviours are current at the time of writing.

I think as technology evolves, and industry changes, and we have an ever-increasing digital platform which we have in our economy, a lot of the standards are going to need updating and evolving quicker.

Convening employee group meetings, and making manual changes to have these approved, may not be the most effective and economical way of addressing that.

More flexibility

Could we have a system where we had a structured architecture for an apprenticeship, into which employers have greater flexibility to move components and knowledge skills and behaviours, as their employment requires, and yet still retain the quality, the rigour and the comparability between different employment settings?

I think the ability of employers should be to allow their skills to update, and some of the knowledge, skills, and behaviours to drop off because they're no longer relevant.

At the same time, an apprentice that is always looking to work at the cutting edge of technology should be able to use their apprenticeship as currency, in their employment setting but also as part of England's knowledge capital.

Knowing when the Apprentice is ready to move through that Gateway stage

The process of Gateway, and how it's starting to look in practice.

The Gateway is supposed to be an assessment where the Apprentice is ready to undertake the End Point Assessment.

It should be led by employer and training provider, and underwritten by the End Point Assessment Organisation.

I think very strongly that it should be a meeting between employer, and maybe the line manager or supervisor for the apprentice, the training provider, and the apprentice themselves.

Each of them have the same status and stake in the discussion.

How can training providers and employers really know when the Apprentice is ready to move through that Gateway stage?

What's really important is you have to ask the right questions at Gateway.

Most EPAOs provide a form that you fill in that says, the evidence is in place, and the Apprentice is compliant with the requirements of the End Point Assessment plan. But in reality what we should be saying is, "Is the Apprentice acting at or above the competence level required in the occupation?"

If we can answer that question positive, by using test questions, analysis, and a triage of the evidence, having a look at the Apprentices work, and involving the Apprentice in that discussion, that's the key to success in terms of the Gateway.

How can End Point Assessors learn from the first few assessments that they might undertake, and continue to improve their practice?

For End Point Assessors the starting point is: "What is the evidence base that the training provided and employer have used to make that Gateway assessment?"

So, we've got the completed documentation in Maths and English, they might have a self-assessment, there might be a portfolio. But how would they read it, use it, essentially triage it to make sure that the evidence actually is in place that shows competence.

That doesn't breach the independence, because they will come and do the assessment knowing the Gateway has been met. Actually what they need to do is to make sure that the apprentice is going to be able to perform under the rigours of the End Point Assessment.

Chris Cherry, Senior Associate, Strategic Development Network (SDN)

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