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Employer Guide to Apprenticeships
August 9, 2019
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Wave of Companies Join Apprenticeship Register.

A wave of organisations have been added to the refreshed register of apprenticeship training providers, while nearly 20 have been removed – in its first major update in almost 12 months.

Forty three additional providers have been allowed on by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, including 25 main providers, 14 supporting and four employers.

Nineteen providers, meanwhile, have been removed from the register, most of which were main providers.

Eleven have changed from being main providers to being supporting, so they can only work as subcontractors; and two have made the opposite journey.

This update follows a year-long review, started in October 2017, that led to new “stringent and challenging entry requirements” for the register.

These requirements were brought in by the ESFA after FE Week uncovered instances where companies run by their sole director from their home address were being given access to millions in apprenticeship funding, despite having zero experience of delivering government-funded programmes.

Analysis by this publication in December found that almost a third (580) of providers on the register did not deliver any apprenticeships in 2017.

But under this stricter regime, applicants had to have been trading for 12 months at least in order to be eligible, and provide a full set of accounts to be on the register.

Subcontractors delivering less than £100,000 of provision a year also needed to register.

Additionally, the agency will throw providers off the register if they go 12 months with no delivery after joining the register.

Getting onto the register, then, will be a relief for many providers, especially after most were left hanging by the government for months following their applications in December.

This is despite the ESFA planning to tell providers if they have been successful 12 weeks after their bid.

Since October 2018, only 23 other companies have been added to the register – all of whom were supporting providers.

The full list of new providers is below:

Apprenticeship Funding Rules
July 30, 2019
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The ESFA had published the 2019 to 2020 apprenticeship funding rules following feedback from the clarification exercise.

The changes they have made are set out in the summary of changes which can be found using the link below:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apprenticeship-funding-rules) gov.uk/guidance/appre…

Update from GOV.UK – £20m Funding to Help 10,000 Young People into NHS Careers
July 25, 2019
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The Health and Social Care Secretary has announced £20 million funding to support 10,000 young people from all backgrounds to get an entry level job or apprenticeship in the NHS. This will be matched by £7 million from the Prince’s Trust.

The 3-year pre-employment programme will begin later this year and will involve up to 150 NHS trusts in England. Participants will gain basic skills and experience of working in the NHS. The programme will focus on helping those who otherwise may not have the opportunity to gain this experience to overcome barriers and enter sustainable employment.

The programme will provide:

  • job application support
  • NHS trust work placements
  • courses in basic healthcare, literacy and numeracy skills
Young hospital receptionist speaking to a patient

It is expected to help 5,000 young people get into the NHS through entrylevel positions, with a further 5,000 joining through apprenticeships. Roles will include digital and business administration, healthcare assistant, facilities, catering and portering.

The programme will be delivered by The Prince’s Trust and supported by Health Education England (HEE). HEE has already worked in partnership with The Prince’s Trust to run 250 pre-employment programmes, helping over 1,000 young people find work in healthcare across the country.

Nick Stace, UK Chief Executive, The Prince’s Trust, said:

Each year, The Prince’s Trust supports thousands of young people across the country to develop the confidence and skills they need to get a job – with our ‘Get into Healthcare’ programme we help young people to take their first step into employment with the NHS.

We are delighted that through this enhanced partnership we will give thousands more young people across the country exciting job opportunities. Placing young people into frontline roles at the heart of our National Health Service will empower them to realise their potential, kick start their careers and make a valuable contribution to our society.

We believe that when young people succeed, our country succeeds and this is a great example of what that can mean in reality.

Apprenticeship v University: What Course to Take?

Remember that moment when the school careers adviser leant over the desk and asked: “So what are you planning to do next?” 

It’s a daunting decision when you’re 17. 

A university degree costs tens of thousands of pounds, although the evidence suggests it can boost your earning potential later. 

On the other hand, an apprenticeship lets you earn as you learn, but life gets serious pretty fast. 

Apprenticeships are shaking off a reputation for low-paid drudgery and there are more higher-level apprenticeships coming on stream. But competition for the best opportunities is as fierce as it is for the top university places.

So if you’re leaving school, does it make sense to aim for one of those coveted places? Or are you missing out if you don’t go for the campus experience? Recent apprentices and graduates have shared their experiences with us.

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‘School was very anti-apprenticeship’

When Matt Carpenter left school at 17, a lot of his classmates were aiming for university. He could have joined them.

“I was the only person in my class who didn’t go,” he says. 

Matt Carpenter (r) and fellow Merchant Navy apprentices at sea
At 21 Matt Carpenter (r) is already qualified to drive ships and tankers

Instead, he took up a three-year apprenticeship with the Merchant Navy, spending half his time at college and half his time at sea on oil and gas tankers, passenger ships and bulk carriers.

“School was very, very anti-apprenticeship – even when I had the place, they were very against it. Up until the last day, they were still asking, ‘Do you really want to do this?'” 

For him, the choice was clear: no student debt and pay of £175 a week. Now, at 21, he’s on an annual salary of £37,000 tax-free and qualified to drive the world’s largest ships.

He admits the social life didn’t compare to what his friends were up to, though. “When you’re at sea, you’re quite cut off. There’s no internet. You’re working every day.”

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‘It made me who I am’

Amy De Friend, 25, did a degree in fashion promotion and communication. She now works in recruitment, but doesn’t regret her decision to study first.

“I went to university, because at the time I didn’t know what I wanted to do.” Amy started her degree the first year that fees went up from £3,000 a year to £9,250.

“My parents said: ‘Do you really want to spend £9,000 on this?'”

And at the end of the three years, she discovered that to get into the fashion industry, she would still have to take unpaid internships. So she worked for Carphone Warehouse instead.

Amy De Friend
Amy De Friend says one of the new experiences she gained through university was learning to scuba dive

Amy accepts she could probably have got the recruitment job she’s in now without a degree.

“I wouldn’t say it was a waste of time,” she says. “The experience I had was fantastic, it helped me develop as a person.”

At university, Amy joined a diving club and qualified as an instructor, something she wouldn’t otherwise have tried.

“I don’t think it’s all about getting a job. It’s about what you gain from the experience. It made me who I am.”

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‘I was itching to start work’

Nick Martin, 20, has just been head-hunted for a £22,500-a-year job in sales. He puts that down to his work experience as an apprentice with a telephone networking equipment company.

“Before I got my last job, I went through a lot of interviews. Every single agency and company loved the fact I had done an apprenticeship, because it shows you know what it’s like in a fast-paced office environment.”

Nick Martin cycling
Nick decided he could pursue his ambitions as a semi-pro cyclist alongside an apprenticeship just as easily as through a university team

At 17, Nick was “just itching to get into work”.

The apprenticeship scheme he joined was new and he felt he was a “guinea pig”, often left to get on with things unsupervised, which meant a lot of responsibility very quickly. 

“By the time most people my age come out of uni, I’ll have had three to five years’ experience. On the flipside, I haven’t spent that time getting the extra qualifications.”

“At the time, I didn’t have doubts. Now, to be honest, I think about it a bit more. The main reason for that is a bit of ‘Fomo’ – fear of missing out – missing out on the social aspect of being at uni. You get to live in halls or housing with flatmates. I’m still living at home.”

Then there’s the snobbery. “I still get that feeling from some people – people I know who are at uni who think they’re better – there can be a smugness. But there’s nothing guaranteed. They’ll have a degree, but they’ll still have to find a job, which is hard.”

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‘To learn about something I loved was brilliant’

Jenny Willbourn, 29, joined engineering firm Atkins after gaining undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in geography. The firm has a well-established apprenticeship programme, but she says that wouldn’t have been the right route for her.

“I believe there’s something valuable in academic study – the opportunity to understand a particular area of knowledge.”

Jenny Willbourn at her desk
Jenny Willbourn joined Atkins after studying for five years at university

“To push your communication skills is one thing, but to critically evaluate – that’s a skill that university teaches. I value that as second to none.”

She works in a highly specialised team at Atkins looking at spatial data, including mapping the locations of badgers and bats as part of the HS2 planning process.

“I needed a degree to tell me what the options were and give me the skills I now have. For me, the ability to hone my skills at an academic level was very important.”

But above all, she enjoyed the experience: “To learn about something I loved was brilliant.”

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‘I feel really proud of myself’

Joy Shepheard-Walwyn, 19, had a place at Durham University to study philosophy and Russian. She rejected it in favour of a management consultancy apprenticeship with accountancy firm PwC.

Moving to Leeds on her own just a few days after her 18th birthday was nerve-racking, she says. But PwC has helped provide a community for her in and out of work. She’s joined the firm’s netball team and teaches English to refugees. She loves the work, managing change in the public sector, adult social care, local government and schools.

“I feel really proud of myself in terms of what I’ve achieved.”

Joy Shepheard-Walwyn
Joy Shepheard-Walwyn turned down a university place to take up a PwC apprenticeship

She thinks university can be about putting off adult life a little longer. “My friends are out partying a lot, but I’m earning a salary.” 

“I don’t feel I missed out. I just went it about it a different way.” 

By Lucy HookerBusiness reporter, BBC News

Speech to AELP Annual Conference 2019 by Phil Beach CBE from Ofqual
June 27, 2019
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I’m delighted to be here to talk about ensuring quality – not just in T Levels, but across the range of regulated qualifications, including apprenticeship End Point Assessments.

Ofqual places a premium on high quality and assessment validity. Our statutory objectives include securing and maintaining qualification standards and promoting public confidence in them. We take this very seriously.

Phil Beach CBE

Ofqual is, of course, particularly in the public consciousness over the GCSE and A level exam season. But I am always keen to stress that our assessment and regulatory expertise is equally applicable to vocational and technical areas.

Whatever type of qualification – or indeed End Point Assessment – there is a judgement to be made about knowledge, skills and behaviours. How that assessment is designed, developed, and delivered has to be right – for the subject or skill area, and for those who will use and depend on the qualification result. The same principles of validity apply whether an academic or vocational assessment – but of course the assessment approaches vary.

Fairness

We regulate on behalf of users, which is a broad church. It includes employers, higher education establishments and training providers. But of course it also includes learners; whether a student in school, an apprentice or an adult learner. We work to secure consistent and reliable assessments and to ensure fairness.

Fairness includes making sure assessments cover the expected content and are clear and error-free, that marking is completed on time and is of high quality, and that grade boundaries are set to fairly reflect the demand of the paper.

Fairness means designing qualifications so that they are accessible to the full range of students who will take them, and that the requirements are clear to all teachers and trainers. This includes making sure that students who need them have access to enlarged or Braille question papers, or a scribe, or other reasonable adjustments.

It means dealing with any malpractice that might give some students an unfair advantage over others. And it means taking account of any serious disruption or other events which might affect individual students’ performances on the day.

Ofqual is focused on making sure the qualification system is fair for everyone, so that they’re competing on a level playing field. This is important if students, parents, teachers, trainers, employers and universities are to have confidence in results.

T Levels

When it comes to regulating the Technical Qualification that sits within T Levels, we will be working with the same seriousness and focus that we regulate GCSEs and A levels. To do this, we have taken the opportunity to introduce tailored rules that we have put in place for these new, high stakes qualifications that will operate in parallel with the Institute’s contract management process.

But regulating with the same seriousness and focus as General Qualifications doesn’t mean treating them the same – both our approach, and the design of the Technical Qualification – enables appropriate tailoring of the assessment to the subject content that has been set by employers, through the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (‘the Institute’).

I want to stress this point because Ofqual is sometimes accused of “over-academising” assessments, and I want to put this misconception to bed. It’s important to recognise that Ofqual is not a content-setting body. In the case of T Levels, the subject content is – quite properly – being set by panels of employers, through the Institute. Ofqual’s role at this stage is to ensure that the content could lead to a qualification that will support valid outcomes. It is not to determine how academic the subject matter is.

We can – and do – encourage flexibility. So for Technical Qualifications there is flexibility in terms of the size of the core versus the occupational specialism. There is flexibility within the core, in terms of the weightings for the core exam and the core project.

And of course there is flexibility in the assessment methods for practical tasks. Validity requires the most appropriate form of assessment to be used for each Technical Qualification – we should expect to see a variety of approaches, much as we do in the apprenticeship End Point Assessments we regulate.

As you’d expect, we are working closely with the Institute to bring together our respective expertise and maximise the different levers available to our organisations. The Institute is running tenders to select awarding organisations to deliver Technical Qualifications. And the Institute will subsequently approve each qualification to ensure it meets employers’ needs and the requirements of the contract.

From an Ofqual perspective, we have consulted on and introduced Technical Qualification-specific rules, including issues like the number of assessments, timing, retakes, marking, recognition of prior learning and reviews of marking, moderation and appeals.

We are using materials from the tendering process to inform our recognition decisions. As you’d expect, we’re looking hard at each organisation to be sure that they have the capacity and capability to deliver the Technical Qualification, should they win the contract.

And we will be accrediting the Technical Qualifications, employing our assessment expertise to consider them from the perspective of our rules, which dock with the Institute’s contractual requirements.

Our rules are intended to help secure appropriate comparability, and to ensure that there is a consistent level of demand across all Technical Qualifications. Employers – through the Institute – will be setting the initial grade standards, and Ofqual will regulate to maintain those standards over time and across the cohort. Simply put, our aim here is to ensure that a candidate would get the same grade for a given performance, whenever and wherever the assessment is conducted.

This approach, where we consider the fitness for purpose of the awarding organisation as well as the lifecycle of the qualification they propose to deliver, is a tried and tested method. We have seen the importance of checking quality at the start, through accreditation and technical evaluation. And we have learned much from monitoring how the assessments run in practice. We are experienced in using the full range of our regulatory levers to keep things on track and have applied it across the range of qualifications we regulate.

Functional Skills qualifications

Reform offers a great opportunity to build in quality and for Functional Skills qualifications, I hope you’ve been following our regular updates on how the new English and maths qualifications are progressing through our technical evaluation process. As you’ll be aware, first teaching for the new versions is this September. Our focus is now on a safe transition from old to new and you should all be preparing for the removal of old versions.

We are keen to ensure that colleges and training providers have all the information needed to prepare, so we have published a range of resources and links on our website. We have encouraged awarding organisations to publish specifications and materials to help with preparation, in draft if necessary.

I do want to remind you that the last date for registering learners on the current qualifications is 31 August, and after that all new registrations must be on the reformed qualifications.

A regulated approach to apprenticeships EQA today

And we take equal interest in our regulation of apprenticeship End Point Assessments. Back in 2017, we first published a document setting out our approach, and the regulated approach to External Quality Assurance is now really well established.

At every stage we are focused on meeting the needs of employers and protecting the interests of apprentices. We have engaged proactively and reactively to ensure these outcomes. In May, we presented to the Institute’s Quality Assurance Committee what we have found from our External Quality Assurance activity thus far.

We set out our view that you need to build in quality and validity at the start. We see evidence that comparability between End Point Assessments (EPAs), developed and delivered by different End Point Assessment Organisations (EPAOs) against specific standards, can diverge.

Where assessment plan design allows for variances in approach there is a risk to consistency for that EPA. We’ve employed an ongoing programme of technical evaluation of EPA materials, working with sector experts to identify and mitigate these divergent approaches.

We can also see that the EPA market is maturing – though not necessarily in ways that we might have expected. Currently, fewer EPAOs have put fewer EPAs on our Register than we’d anticipated.

We are also seeing some EPAOs deciding some EPAs are not sustainable for them, and looking to withdraw from that part of the market. We are clear that apprentices should not be left high and dry. So where necessary we are intervening to protect the interest of learners by steering the pace or sequence of withdrawals. We will continue to monitor this maturing market closely in support of the Institute.

And EPAOs are responding to the changes and challenges of this new market.

Established awarding organisations are taking steps to strengthen their subject expertise so that they can deliver against assessment plans and meet the needs of specific sectors and industries.

And a variety of new organisations are looking to rise to the challenge of providing EPAs. Some of these are very niche organisations with evident depth of expertise and influence in their industry and sector. Some are finding the rigours of designing and applying robust assessment methodologies challenging.

They need to be able to demonstrate their capability and capacity to develop all the relevant required types of assessment as specified in the assessment plan. So we have seen them considering how they can develop this and we have supported their thinking and development.

Finally, we can see that our regulatory framework is having a wide influence over the quality of EPAs, across the apprenticeship system. We are seeing the strengths of our Conditions being applied by awarding organisations – wherever and whenever they provide an EPA, and not just where we are the EQA provider.

Looking ahead

So, it is from that evidence base that we should look ahead.

The Institute has the statutory responsibility for overall quality assurance of the apprenticeship programme: that is something we support strongly.

But the EQA options and arrangements are complex. As previously mentioned, the Institute has asked us how we might work as part of an optimised system for EQA, and particularly how we might work with professional bodies and employers.

Our response reaffirms our view that the simplest, most streamlined and consistent delivery of quality assurance for all non-degree apprenticeships would be through Ofqual regulation. We have signalled that we are prepared to extend our role as EQA provider.

Where EPAOs are already recognised members of the regulated community, this can be done quite quickly. Where EQA is currently provided by professional bodies and other groups – we could (and would wish to) – work in partnership with those professional bodies. That way we can combine our assessment expertise with their sector and subject expertise; together we can be more than the sum of our parts.

We have also committed to further developing our EPAO fora, so that they better reflect the depth and breadth of EPAO delivery. We remain committed to sharing best practice.

And finally, we have signalled our intent to extend the reach of our expertise. We intend to introduce a ‘field force’ to look at how assessments are working in practice at the point of delivery.

We’ll be undertaking on-site monitoring of EPAs, to gather intelligence from employers and apprentices and to strengthen the evidence base for our risk-based, targeted interventions. We want employers and professional bodies to be confident that EPAs provide an accurate measure of occupational competence. And we want to ensure that the assessment is fair for apprentices.

This field force will also inform our views of the delivery of other types of qualifications. This is a natural extension of our proposals to strengthen controls over centre-based judgements and the moderation and verification of assessments.

This work started with our evaluation of how Direct Claims Status operates. You might recall that we recently consulted on changes to our rules, and I was pleased to see the warm reception our proposals received from AELP in particular. We’re working through the consultation responses now, and you can expect to hear more in September.

Conclusion

So you can see that the approach we adopt to regulation is geared completely towards securing high quality assessment products that command public confidence, protect the interests of learners and deliver what employers and others need from them.

The messages I’d like to leave you with are that:

We have increased our focus on vocational and technical qualifications, treating them with the same seriousness as GCSEs and A levels.

We recognise the need for flexible approaches to assessment – one size does not fit all and our priority is to ensure validity and fairness.

We are fully engaged in the government’s reforms and believe strongly that regulation plays a critically important role in assuring quality and fairness.

Thank you.Published 25 June 2019

Free Webinar: Initial Assessment for Apprenticeship Standards – How is it Different? (28 June)
June 27, 2019
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Getting initial assessment right for apprenticeship standards is vital, and underpins the quality and effectiveness of your provision. What’s more, it’s now a key focus for Ofsted and the ESFA.

On Friday 28 June (12.30-1.30pm), The Strategic Development Network are hosting a free introductory webinar to give you an overview of why initial assessment is so important and what you need to be thinking about.

In the webinar, they’ll take you through

  • Why initial assessment is so important for standards provision
  • What it means for the quality of your provision, and compliance
  • Frameworks to standards – initial assessment challenges

Who is this webinar for?

The webinar will be useful for those involved in the management and delivery of apprenticeship training.

Facilitators and speakers

The webinar will be facilitated by David Lockhart-Hawkins. David, who specialises in compliance, systems and processes has been at the forefront of the apprenticeship reforms and has helped providers across the country to prepare to deliver standards.

Why an SDN webinar?

SDN has supported 5,000 apprenticeship staff, from over 1,000 organisations, to prepare to deliver apprenticeship standards and end-point assessment. We’ve also worked closely with over 80 of the trailblazer employer groups, giving us a unique insight into what is required.

Here’s the link to REGISTER YOUR PLACE

Millions are Unhappy at Work, but Some Apprentice Employers are Bucking the Trend
June 14, 2019
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By Emma Finamore. Editor, AllAboutSchoolLeavers.co.uk

A staggering 4.3 million UK employees report being unhappy at work – 13% of us nationwide – and over 15,000,000 days are lost per year due to reported mental health problems caused or worsened by work.

The findings come from research conducted by Robert Half UK published this year, and shows how our workforce is becoming increasingly held back by mental health problems such as stress, depression and anxiety.

According to this research, the UK has the highest rate of unhappiness in the workplace among the countries surveyed, including Canada, Australia, Germany and 4% higher than in the US. The research found that one in three (31%) UK respondents admit to finding their work stressful, while one in 10 (12%) employees say they are dissatisfied with their work–life balance. Read more

Crackdown on Schools Failing to Promote Vocational Qualifications
May 22, 2019
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Schools must stop blocking employers and colleges from speaking to their students about alternative non-academic options‘I want schools to talk about the whole range of things they might do after 16 or after 18 including apprenticeships and college,’ education secretary says to A-levels and university, the education secretary has said.

Damian Hinds has warned the government will take action against schools that are still refusing to open their doors to organisations that want to promote apprenticeships and vocational courses.

Speaking to The Independent, Mr Hinds said: “I want schools to be talking about the whole range of things that they might do after 16 or after 18 including apprenticeships and college options

“I think it is important that children have that knowledge. It is not for everybody to be pursuing a university route, and there are plenty of other really high-quality options and routes available.” Read more

Top Tips for Employers on Getting the Best Out of Apprentices
April 17, 2019
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ARTICLE BY: Stephen Isherwood | 
APPRENTICES NEED TO WORK A LOT HARDER ON DEVELOPING THEIR PROFESSIONALISM AT WORK COMPARED TO GRADUATES, BUT THERE ARE LITTLE DIFFERENCES IN KEY SKILLS SUCH AS RESILIENCE, LEADERSHIP AND DEALING WITH CONFLICT. CONTRIBUTOR STEPHEN ISHERWOOD, CHIEF EXECUTIVE – ISE.

Employers are also twice as likely to report that apprentices lack presentation, analysis, IT, writing, problem solving and interpersonal skills. However, there are few differences between graduates and apprentices in relation to resilience, managing up, leadership, dealing with conflict, self-awareness, career management and emotional intelligence.

Institute of Student Employers (ISE) asked its members about the 76,000 entry-level staff they have hired over the last three years, including graduates, apprentices and school leavers. The Survey revealed that employers are almost four times as likely to raise concerns about how apprentices dress for work in comparison to graduates.

Read more