The Association of Employment and Learning Providers is consulting its members on proposals to avoid a looming ‘car crash’ over the assessment of apprentices at the end of their training. 

If the latest potential pitfall in the apprenticeship reforms process is not adequately addressed, it could be extremely damaging to the flagship skills programme’s reputation.

Under the reforms, every apprentice must be end point assessed before completing their programme.  According to the Institute for Apprenticeships, approximately 4,500 EPAs have taken place so far in a system which will need to support more than 500,000 apprentices every year.  

Over the next few months, the number of EPAs required is expected to increase exponentially and many training providers and End Point Assessment Organisations are deeply concerned that there is insufficient assessment capacity to cope, leaving the futures of hardworking apprentices up in the air.

The AELP consultation document, The 4 C’s – The areas of challenge for delivering EPA, lists the main issues that need resolving, namely:

  1. Clarity
  2. Consistency
  3. Capacity
  4. Costings

AELP proposes a series of actions for the government and the training sector to solve the identified issues.  The one of consistency can best be illustrated by a large training provider using two EPA Organisations (EPAOs) to assess two cohorts of its apprentices on the same standard recently; the first EPAO passed its entire cohort, while the second passed only half of its cohort despite the apprentices receiving the same quality training and support. 

AELP is recommending a single set of assessment rules and a single External Quality Assessment (EQA) organisation to bring about more consistency.  A standard level of assessor competence should also be agreed across all EPAs which is why AELP has developed an assessment training package free to all its members.

AELP CEO Mark Dawe said:

‘The warning lights on end point assessment have been flashing strongly for over two years but the authorities have buried their heads in the sand and now the horror stories are starting to appear.  If the EPA car crash happens, the damage to the reputation of apprenticeships among employers and young people could be far worse than anything else that has happened under the reforms so far.  None of us wants this to happen.

‘Considerable investment has been made by the sector in setting up EPAOs but the urgent need to build capacity quickly has inevitably raised questions on whether the quality of assessment is being compromised in some areas.  Without proper single EQA oversight across all standards, it is inevitable there will be poor and unreliable assessment and we are getting stories almost every day of issues on the ground.  These are caused by the systems, or lack of them, rather than the EPAOs or providers who are likely to be in the firing line of subsequent criticism.  This situation just cannot continue. 

‘AELP doesn’t pretend that its consultation document contains all the answers but it will hopefully prompt serious discussion on what needs to be done and done quickly.’

AELP has EPAOs and large apprentice employers as well as training providers within its membership, and all are concerned about the situation.  Provider members feel that if insufficient action is taken, providers should be able to end point assess themselves, providing that the assessor had no personal involvement in the training of the apprentice.  They recognise that controls against conflicts of interest would be required.

An example of an attempt to remove confusion is a document created by AELP’s EPAO and provider members.  It highlights the various costs of assessment, who is responsible and where agreement is needed.  It’s a simple document which provides much greater clarity to all those involved.

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