Delivering a world-class Apprenticeship System

David Gallagher, Acting Chief Executive, NCFE

It’s nearly a year now since we undertook our first and eagerly awaited End-Point Assessment (EPA) at NCFE and since then, we’ve gained fantastic insight into what it takes for apprentices to be successful in EPA. We’d like to share some key points that we believe enhance the value and integrity of apprenticeships, something that we at NCFE care about very much.

Begin with the end (point assessment) in mind

Understanding what is truly important at the ‘end’, should inform every step of the apprenticeship journey.

Whilst most training providers and employers have endeavoured to understand exactly what the ‘end’ of an Apprenticeship really entails, sometimes this understanding has been incomplete. On odd occasions the Apprenticeship Standard and Assessment Plan have not been understood at all, until it’s too late. This of course creates a huge challenge for apprentices to showcase the best of their ability at EPA.

To give apprentices the best possible chance of success, it’s crucial that training providers, employers and apprentices all have a comprehensive understanding of what the EPA looks like. And whilst EPA organisations can’t teach providers or apprentices how to ‘pass the test’, it’s a core part of their role to provide all of the relevant information to inform programme design and delivery from the very beginning.

In such a new and rapidly changing environment, the challenge of keeping knowledge up to date and accurate cannot be underestimated. Regular refreshes are key and as experts in the ‘end’, NCFE and the other very good EPA organisations out there can provide information and support that can make all of the difference.

Building trust and integrity

At NCFE we believe that training providers and employers must work together with EPA organisations, as trusted partners, in order to realise all of the benefits of our improved apprenticeship system.

Understanding is the foundation of trust. Therefore, gaining absolute clarity in regard to roles, responsibilities and expectations is crucial.

Good EPA organisations will work with you to ensure that all respective roles, responsibilities and expectations are understood and fulfilled.

At a more strategic level, recently we’ve been extremely pleased to see and be part of a much greater collaborative effort within the sector. Not just between EPA organisations, training providers and employers, but also key stakeholders and regulators who have all made a proactive and concerted effort to engage, understand and respond to the challenges that we face as a sector.

Creating value

We believe that great EPA delivery should be a valuable extension of an apprentice’s journey. Our primary collective goal should be to create value - value for the apprentice, for business and for society. At NCFE we want to make sure that training providers, employers and particularly apprentices, are far improved by the end of this process.

The end is just the start

EPA is quickly becoming the day to day ‘acid test’ of whether the teaching, learning and development of an apprentice undertaking an apprenticeship has met the expected standard.

EPA organisations stand at a new vantage point in the apprenticeship system. The independence of EPA organisations, combined with continuous and direct engagement with apprentices, creates an opportunity to gain deep insight into what works.

Delivering reliable and valid assessments and maintaining objectivity and impartiality are core features of being an EPA organisation. Fairness, transparency and trust must reign, with no one apprentice placed at any advantage, or disadvantage through the EPA process. 

Clearly there are lines that cannot be crossed, and as said previously, we can’t teach apprentices to ‘pass the test’. What we absolutely can do though is translate EPA insights into intelligent and informative feedback. Feedback that we need to nourish apprenticeship systems as a whole, and through this, improve outcomes for apprentices and businesses everywhere.

Our new apprenticeship system has great potential to deliver the economic and social benefits that were envisioned at the outset of the Apprenticeship Reform Agenda. It is apparent that the key to realising these benefits can be found in a mix of time-served approaches and innovative new ideas, partnerships and the relentless pursuit of quality. As we gain further insight at NCFE, we’ll continue to share our learning with you in the hope that we can play a big part in delivering a world-class apprenticeship system that we can all be proud to be a part of.