From education to employment

Creative Industry expert, Karen Hedger gives her experiences of the end-point assessment journey

end-point assessment journey

‘And to make an end is to make a beginning,

The end is where we start from.’ [T S Eliot]

Karen Hedger2The 14th National Apprenticeship Week seems a good time to pause and consider, for a moment, what an end-point assessment, the culmination of an apprenticeship actually represents.

We see our role at AIM Assessment as quite simple; to establish the apprentice, through our end-point assessments, as fully competent to continue their professional journey. ‘Continue’, ‘journey’ and ‘establish’ are the significant words here and we often mull over the incongruity that ‘end’ features so largely in our everyday vocabulary.

Perhaps we should go back to defining our collective understanding of an apprenticeship. The website tells us ‘An apprenticeship is a real job where you learn, gain experience and get paid. You’re an employee with a contract of employment and holiday leave.’

It’s far more than that, though, isn’t it? It’s much more about a support framework to learn skills, become capable professionals, recognise personal development and adding real value to businesses.

#Buildthefuture is the theme for this year’s activities which implies, if not a starting point, another step onwards and upwards into the future. So, why are talking about an end so soon when the future stretches on? Well, we all need a solid base from which to launch into a new phase of life, some degree of certainty, a token of recognition that we can put into the knapsack of essentials that will help us through the game of life.

As specialists in the creative industries, we work a lot with the games industry and many of you will have played computer games in which finding the ‘golden chalice’ can only happen by moving up levels. To do that, you need to prove yourself in a number of challenges. The end-point assessment of an apprenticeship is no different. It is a deliberately set challenge but not one that can’t be achieved successfully and with ease if the journey towards it is planned for, if an apprentice has acquired all the knowledge, skills and behaviours to demonstrate they are competent in the job role, to function as a fully-fledged professional for as long as that part of their journey lasts before fate steps in and offers other opportunities, other paths.

Confirming competence through end-point assessment is a huge responsibility and one which we do not take lightly; it’s vital that we get it right, to encapsulate in our assessments, the spirit and intentions of the Trailblazer employer groups who set the standards for their industry. Yes, we are guided by the Assessment Plan, but how we articulate the requirements, the support we give to apprentices, training providers and employers to prepare for assessment, and the assessors we appoint, is very much down to us. Of course, we value the EQA(s) to keep us to the mark but, when it comes down to it, we are appointed by employers in a position of trust. In turn, we trust that training providers will have supported those same employers and the apprentices to ensure that we are asked to assess only when apprentices are truly ready. It must be working for us because we are at a 95% pass rate across our 20 standards.

This last year has been an unexpected challenge, most certainly. It has set us all digging deep into reserves of all kinds, fishing around in the knapsack for skills we might not have used for some time and for those bottles of inspiration that we have been storing, and frantically learning new tricks to see us through. The pragmatism of IfATE has been very much welcomed as they have granted flexibilities to assessment plans that have enabled us, for the most part, to support apprentices to continue their EPAs from their homes.

Every hero or heroine’s journey needs allies like this and we hope that we, too, are seen as just that – people who have a role in setting assessments that are a logical flow from the apprenticeship, reflective of the language style appropriate to the standard. A team of people supporting employers, providers and the apprentices themselves through guides, sample materials and online preparation sessions.

To be honest, we would rather not use the word ‘assessment’ either – ‘achievement’ seems so much more appropriate and indicative of the energy, drive, and success we see time after time in the apprentices who cross our path. We take our hats off to them all with our thanks to their employers and providers who are supporting our ambitious plans for our very own AIM Assessment journey.

Karen Hedger, Business Development Lead – Assessment (Creative & Cultural), AIM Qualifications and Assessment Group

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