An article by Claire Illingworth MIEP ACIP, People Development Consultant at Seetec and Chair of the Employability Trailblazer Employer Group (ETEG)
We are one step closer on our journey to develop new standards for Employability Practitioners and Lead Employability Practitioners within the Apprenticeship Trailblazer. After almost a year of discussion, debate and great levels of collaboration with colleagues in the ETEG, our Expression of Interest was submitted to the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) on the 16th January. The IfA will now consider our submission and we should hear within the next 6-8 weeks about what we need to do next.
The journey to this point has delivered quite a lot of learning and it all started with the launch meeting in March last year. This was the first time we had key sector employers around the table, all having had a previous or continuing relationship with the IEP, coming together to agree that what we wanted to do was to develop new standards for the Employability sector.
The timing could not have been better, playing a big part in the success of driving this initiative forward in its early days. At the time of our initial discussions, employers within the sector, were delivering the ERS or ESS qualifications as part of the existing apprenticeship frameworks but these were due to expire. The Apprenticeship Levy was about to be launched meaning that employers with a payroll of £3m+ would have to pay a percentage of their payroll for Apprenticeships or they would lose the money. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to develop something meaningful and it was a chance for us all to update and create something that would fit the changing landscape with the advent of the Work and Health Programme and the future needs of a new type of Employability Practitioner. We also wanted to ensure that we were keeping up to date as existing frameworks were in the process of being moved over to new standards. It was a chance for us to look beyond the traditional boundaries of ‘employment support’ and embrace the new ideals of initiatives like the Work and Health Programme of providing a holistic approach to ‘employability’ services, working together in a more integrated way with a broader range of providers including skills, probation, justice, housing and careers to deliver a more joined-up service to customers.
Developing these new standards has allowed us to ensure we are keeping the training and learning fresh for people who are undergoing Apprenticeships and it also highlights the social and economic value of the work that people in our sector do every day in supporting their customers.
Since that first meeting the ETEG has met once a month, bringing together a vast amount of knowledge and experience from a range of organisations – Large private sector employers, local authorities, careers services including Careers England and the CDI, housing associations, charitable organisations and smaller employers with less than 50 employees. This wide and varying spectrum of employers is testament to how we are all working together, advising, guiding and ensuring that we have all the necessary pieces in place to produce a robust and professional submission that will meet the requirements of the Institute for Apprenticeships and our sector over the coming years.
The ETEG Group will continue to meet monthly. Our next meeting takes place this week and we have invited a number of experts to advise and provide guidance for the end point assessment part of the process as it is important that whilst we await the IfA decision we need to keep up momentum.
At times the process has been a challenge but we’ve learned a lot along the way, the most notable being the need for us to speak in a different language i.e. less employment support jargon and acronyms and more holistic employability. We’ve learned about rules and regulations and the particulars around the funding of these standards and we’ve had to think long and hard about the specific differences between the Level 3 and the Level 4 standards. It was a real challenge to properly differentiate between the two and to evidence how they compare.
This process has helped us in so many ways and, as a result we have created something that will deliver the right future skills for practitioners. The standards will mean that we are not just preparing someone for their current job, we are supporting ambition. We are developing the opportunity for career progression in a wider employability and skills landscape that will provide many more benefits for our practitioners and their customers too.
The experience has really shown me what can be achieved when employers work together to collaborate for the greater benefit of the industry within which they operate. I have learnt a great deal about apprenticeships and the way the new standards operate. I look forward to seeing what we can produce over the next 12 months.
IEP Chairman Scott Parkin FIEP said ‘this has been quite a journey but one that has maintained its spirit of collaboration throughout. I have been impressed to see everyone working together, over 30 employers, 10 strategic organisations and 4 awarding bodies to date and interest continues to grow. The IEP is focussed at all times to enable people to develop their skills, providing the best services possible for customers. I am very much looking forward to what happens next and to being able, during 2018, to launch the standards across the sector. Thanks again to all those that have been involved so far’.