Peter Marples, Group Chief Operating Officer, 3aaa Apprenticeships

We have now been working with end test assessment organisations for over 21/years.

It has been an interesting journey and one where we have needed to establish new relationships, you could say all of us have been paddling our canoe but not sure where we are going.

We have achievements at both L3 and L4 and can claim to be the first in the country in some of these areas.

We have scars on our backs, but most importantly so do the employers and the Apprentices themselves.

There are many EPAOs out there who see the opportunity but not many that have actually invested much energy and resource – ahead of the curve – it is being made up as we go along in far too many cases.

The IFA is still findings it’s feet but it needs to go from a toddler to an adult very quickly if it is not going to experience some significant growing pains.

I cannot help thinking that:

  • It won’t be long before providers and employers will be in a long queue for the EPA to take place – remember we still have timely completion targets to hit – or are those going to be dismissed. EPAO’s are delivering a contractual service so I hope they have plenty of available resource because if they impact on my achievement rates, there will be some pretty difficult discussions
  • I will be losing some of my staff to those EPAO’s that are struggling with their staff resource – again, I won’t be a happy bunny if on the one hand I’m paying over lots of money and on the other hand they are recruiting my staff !
  • Where is the value for money in EPAO – I estimate the cost to us this year will be over £2m – much more than registration costs for qualifications and in many cases candidates won’t be getting any nationally recognised qualifications- I really do struggle with the value for money in all of this.

Whilst we are still in the early stages of standards and operation of EPAOs, it is time to sit back and reflect on the underlying purpose and objective, taking the best bits from them and examining closely the unintended consequences.

And I really would like the powers that be to talk to the training providers – after all, it is us that are the guinea pigs for all of this and have put the investment in to try and make a system fit for purpose.

The ETA was all about testing and confirming competence. Are we really sure this is what our £2m per annum is going to do or is it more likely that it will be some form of tick box exercise.

Peter Marples, Group Chief Operating Officer at 3aaa Apprenticeships

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