To make an apprenticeship successful everyone needs to be fully involved. There needs to be a good relationship between the:
- training provider
- end-point assessment organisation (EPAO)
In the apprentice panel survey 2020, some apprentices raised concerns that they are the only link between their employer and their training provider. Although it is important that the apprentice encourages transparency in their apprenticeship progress, apprentices often have to chase either the training provider or the employer to meet the demands of the apprenticeship training.
For example, training providers may not be informed of changes to the apprentices working circumstances. Such as a change in manager or placement, or the employer may not have an overview or clear communication to the apprentice’s course leader. This is not a joined-up approach to apprenticeship training.
1. Ten ways to improve the partnership
- The employer should meet with the training provider’s representative before the apprentice starts to ensure that there is awareness of the workplace and training is tailored to the specific needs of the employer. This should include designing and planning the curriculum
- A commitment statement that goes beyond the formal requirements and is personalised to the apprentice and employer
- The commitment statement, training plan and the apprenticeship standard should be reviewed monthly in regular catch-up meetings between the employer, training provider and apprentice
- A clear log of the apprentice’s progress related to the development of new knowledge, skills and behaviours and their off-the-job training. This should be recorded and accessible to everyone supporting the apprentice, and the apprentice themself
- The training provider and employer should be proactive in scheduling regular meetings
- If possible, the training provider or employer should arrange talks or mentoring with former apprentices or people within the industry to help inspire apprentices and provide support and resources to guide the apprentice with their next career steps
- Apprentices should feel empowered to speak up if their commitments are not being met. Training providers and employers should provide explicit opportunities for this to happen, rather than leaving it to happen by exception
- If possible, the training provider and employer should offer experience, talks or tours with other organisations to broaden the learning experience of the apprentice
- Apprentices should be encouraged to search for their apprenticeship standard on Institute’s webpage and read both occupational standard and end-point assessment plan in detail
- Opportunities, communities or support available from the training provider or the employer should be communicated clearly to the apprentice
2. A good partnership
Establishing an effective partnership between the apprentice, the training provider, employer and end-point assessment organisation enables all four to collaborate and create a great apprenticeship experience. This provides obvious benefits to all, not least in that it helps secure the apprentice’s success, which is the ultimate goal of everybody involved.
No one can make the apprenticeship a success alone. If the training provider is fully aware of the working environment and training requirements of the employer, it encourages the integration of the on and off-the-job training. This reinforces the knowledge, skills and behaviours learnt by enabling them to apply it in the workplace.
Training plans can also be tailored to ensure the key skills and behaviour requirements of the apprenticeship are taught in parallel in on and off-the-job training. It is important that there is clear accountability for the apprentice’s training programme and their preparation for EPA, so that apprentices feel confident and equipped at gateway.
Another key benefit is that a strong partnership encourages better-shared awareness of progress and feedback. Training providers can support areas where the apprentice is struggling in the workplace. Employers can intervene in areas where the apprentice needs more off-the-job training, for example. This collaborative approach enables each member of the partnership to communicate effectively and provide support, challenge or praise the apprentice consistently throughout their apprenticeship.
3. Importance of a commitment statement
A commitment statement defines with clear expectations and responsibilities how everyone will work together to achieve full occupational competence for the apprentice. It’s a great source of clarity for everyone which can be revisited as the apprenticeship progresses to check that all needs are being met.
Everyone involved must be named and identified on the commitment statement. These names should be communicated on day one of the apprenticeship and a getting to know session should be organised to start the apprenticeship.
Everyone must sign the commitment statement. As suggested in the induction section, the commitment statement should go beyond compliance with the funding rules. For instance, it may be appropriate for the training provider, employer and apprentice to agree on some shared commitments to supporting an apprentice who has specific learning needs. This might amount to making reasonable adjustments in some cases, and it is helpful to make these clear from the outset and agree on what is possible and appropriate.
Making a shared, explicit commitment to these sorts of things means that the apprentice will know what is expected of them and what is expected from their training provider and employer. If possible, the materials and guidance available from the end-point assessment organisation should be brought in at an early stage and awareness of the end-point assessment should be introduced to the apprentice.
4. Making commitments specific
All apprenticeships are bespoke and the off-the-job training where appropriate should be tailored to the on-the-job training environment.
It is worth emphasising the reinforcement between on- and off-the-job which is the defining feature of apprenticeship learning. Training providers and employers must work together with the apprentice to help ensure, wherever possible, that the training plan lines up on- and off-the-job training experiences.
This is one area where the partnership between apprentices, training provider and employers is so critical. Unless there is good interaction between them, it will be almost impossible to achieve join-up between the off-the-job training and what is happening in the apprentice’s workplace. It is desirable for everyone to agree to show the necessary flexibility to enable this, as a commitment made from the outset.
5. Checking commitments are being met
Apprentices have often felt more supported when structured and regular meetings take place. Everyone is required to attend these meetings to have transparency over the apprentices’ progress. The apprentice should also be made to feel they can share any areas of concern.
A potential agenda for these meetings:
- Follow up any actions from previous meetings
- Check commitment statement
- Feedback from employer on apprentice’s progress and performance
- Feedback from the training provider on apprentice’s progress and assignments and overview of what is coming up
- Celebrate achievements
- Discussion of what’s going well and what could be better – leading to specific actions for each to address
- Learning objectives, linked to specific knowledge, skills and behaviours for the coming month, and agreement about how these will be supported by both the training provider and the employer
- Opportunity to ask any questions and highlight any concerns, including any concerns, or risks relating to safeguarding or the apprentice’s welfare.
- Ask the apprentice if they feel supported and what additional support might be helpful
- Agree arrangements for EPA practice and preparation
- Agree on clear actions