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Stewart Milne Group Cements its Support oF Apprenticeships with its Latest In-take
September 16, 2019
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An Apprenticeship Case Study.

Stewart Milne Group has recruited a further 12 new apprentices to meet demand across its developments in Scotland.

Stewart Milne Group cements its support of apprenticeships with its latest in-take
Stewart Milne Group

The independent home builder and timber systems manufacturer now boasts 44 apprentices across the business at various stages in their career, reinforcing their commitment to apprenticeships as a way of attracting young people into the sector and offering them the opportunity to build attractive careers in construction.

The new apprentices, who will work in a variety of trades such as joinery, bricklaying, plumbing and painting, will undergo a four-year programme to gain the skills and experience needed to develop an exciting career in a sector which continues to face skills shortages.

As a result of this looming skills gap, construction apprenticeships are some of the most popular and competitive and the modern apprenticeships at Stewart Milne Group offer individuals a chance to join an award-winning team, with scope to build a long-lasting career.

Having been involved in apprenticeship schemes for almost 40 years, Stewart Milne Group now has many former apprentices in senior roles across, including heads of departments and even directors. 

Stewart Dalgarno, director of product development began his apprenticeship at Stewart Milne Homes 35 years ago. He said, “The apprenticeship scheme at Stewart Milne Group is an excellent pathway for those aiming to pursue a career in the construction sector. Year on year the company equip apprentices with the experience and knowledge to thrive within one of the UK’s largest housebuilders.

“Through hard work, and with support from the company, I was appointed a director before I was 30 and then relocated to England to take up the post of managing director of Stewart Milne Timber Systems.

“At Stewart Milne, we believe there is no wrong path and are very proud of our culture that has no limits on personal development. As our employees progress, there are opportunities and tools available to help them build a successful and rewarding career. This includes our internal and award-winning leadership programmes as well as fast track initiatives and MA degrees and certifications.”   

Looking to kickstart their careers at Stewart Milne’s Homes North division are apprentices Jamie Elliot, Jamie Cargill, Connor Leisk, Ryan Cruickshank, Nathan Stephen and Ryan Maclsaac.

A further six apprentices are due to start in Central Scotland later this month.

They will work on a variety of new developments across North and Central Scotland, with a range of trusted and expert Stewart Milne Group sub-contractors. 

New apprentice bricklayer Jamie Elliot said: “I am very excited to get started and take my first steps in the construction sector with Stewart Milne Group. The apprenticeship scheme is a great opportunity to develop a range of technical and practical skills, as well as offering job security for the future. 

“The apprenticeship scheme does not only equip you with vital skills for pursuing a career in construction, but also offers the chance to progress through the company.

“Having heard of many others who have progressed from apprentices to senior roles, I’m looking to achieve every success at Stewart Milne Group through a combination of hard work and determination.”

Apprenticeships with Stewart Milne Group involve training on-site and at college during the first three years, giving an apprentice a balance of technical and practical skills. Trade apprentices then complete their fourth year on site.

The 44 apprentices, at various stages in their apprenticeships, including civil engineers, quantity surveyors and architectural technicians, represent around 5% of Stewart Milne Group’s total workforce and the new recruits will join and learn from this supportive community.

Case Study: Management and Leadership Qualifications Help Boost Efficiency at NHS Trust
September 13, 2019
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Management staff at a London NHS Trust have been taking advantage of a successful training and development partnership between London South East Colleges and Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust where the training of staff, particularly in the area of operations and departmental management, is highly important.

Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust is responsible for University Hospital Lewisham, Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Greenwich, and a range of community health services in Lewisham. Its vision is ‘to work together to provide high quality care for every patient, every day’.

For over seven years, the Trust has employed the services provided by London South East Colleges for the training and development of staff from a wide spectrum of management roles including clinical and administrative.

Ranjan Pattni is the Trust’s Apprenticeship Lead and responsible for supporting staff in training and development via the apprenticeship route. She Says:

“Each year we offer our staff the opportunity to apply for the Operations and Department Management CIM Level 5 Diploma which covers strategic planning, budgeting and finance, managing people and processes, leadership, managing change, decision-making, communications and building relationships with staff, patients and their families. It is a two-year course in which each candidate is required to pass six units. Needless to say, this is not easy, especially while balancing work, study and family life.

“This leadership and management training is a mix of bi-weekly lectures and assessments, distance learning and assignment-led projects – it works well for the majority of learners. A dedicated tutor from the College is always on hand to support and guide them through their studies.

“These courses help staff in their day-to-day roles, as well as enabling them to build their skill sets and progress their careers.”

Jean Firaza, 28, is a Ward Manager at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. She was promoted from senior staff nurse last year to work on two new wards. Jean says:

“All of a sudden, I was operating within a network of new people and my responsibilities pretty much tripled overnight. Though a lot of these were dependent on my general aptitude and previous experience, I recognised immediately that I needed more training – particularly dealing with challenging behaviour, introducing new working patterns and resources and embracing change.

“I started this course in November 2018 and within weeks I was learning about leading and organising a team (I have a team of 25 staff members associated with my ward). I’m enabling my team to become more self-sufficient and familiar with new systems and structures, creating a calm and composed working environment and a safe, comfortable and hygienic recovery space for patients. It’s also helped having a superb manager who has supported me in this training, regularly highlighting all the positive changes he’s noticed in me since I started the course.”

Maureen Ekhuemelo, 37, is a Senior Staff Nurse at Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s endoscopy unit and is responsible for ensuring clinical excellence and close cooperation with staff specialising in various disciplines. Maureen says: 

“At present I am a team leader and need to boost my confidence by learning more people-related skills. Our tutor, Badar, has such a broad knowledge of management techniques and principles that are common to all sectors. As well as learning the core fundamentals of each unit, we pick up even more with practical exercises and simulated activities that allow you to put what you have learnt into practice.

“The course has really helped me think on my feet a lot quicker, as well as learn how to solve complex problems or remove difficult obstacles by simply approaching them from different perspectives. It’s helped me to shine new light on dilemmas and complications that can arise during a typical shift in my unit and has empowered me to become more assertive and confident. It is a very good course and I’m so pleased that I decided to take it when I did.”

ViewPoint: Why Doesn’t the Skills Sector get the Importance of Management Skills?
September 11, 2019
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By Mandy Crawford-Lee, Director of Policy and Operations, University Vocational Awards Council.

It seems that every few months a survey is published on the UK’s low productivity together with an analysis of why poor management skills provide part of the explanation for the UK’s productivity gap.

Mandy Crawford-Lee

This August it was the turn of Lloyds Bank with a survey of large manufacturers.

Commenting on the survey in The Times, Lloyds Bank’s head of manufacturing Steve Harris stated:

‘Large manufacturers are being brutally honest about the skills shortage affecting their sector and are highlighting that the problem is most pronounced at management levels.’

He went on to say: ‘Most experts agree good management is key to improving productivity. It is clear the sector needs to invest in up-skilling the next generation of managers now.’

DfE, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IFATE), the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and Ofsted should take note of this report – the health of our manufacturing sector is vital to the well being of the UK economy.

The Apprenticeship levy was, of course, introduced as a productivity tax, designed to compel employers to invest more in the training and development of their employees to raise productivity.

Management Apprenticeships, such as the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship and Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeship are being used very successfully by UK manufacturers across sectors as diverse as automotive, aerospace, rail, informatics, food & drink, construction/civil engineering, electronics, oil & gas and defence to raise skills levels and productivity.  So good news and something to be celebrated? Not apparently to some in the so-called skills sector.

The schools and further education inspectorate, Ofsted has, for example, been clear in its view that the Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeship doesn’t need levy funding. A rather bizarre position given Lloyds Bank’s findings on the need to enhance management skills, which echoes points made in a range of other reports including the Government’s own Industrial Strategy and the position of the Bank of England. Enhancing management skills is fundamental to raising productivity and Apprenticeship is first and foremost a productivity programme. When using management apprenticeships employers are doing exactly what Government has asked them to do: that is develop and use the Apprenticeships their businesses need to raise productivity. So what doesn’t Ofsted get?

Employers paying to rectify a deficiency of the schools’ sector

The response is usually that Apprenticeship should be prioritised for young people, particularly those who don’t achieve a full level 2. But shouldn’t employers have a right to expect the schools’ system and Ofsted to ensure young people achieve a level 2 qualification after 11 years of compulsory education? While no one would deny the need to support young people, it seems inappropriate for Ofsted to argue that a hypothecated productivity tax imposed on employers, the Apprenticeship levy, should be used to fund training programmes to rectify a deficiency of the schools’ sector. After all, doesn’t Ofsted have some responsibility for school standards and performance?

Many in the skills sector have also opposed the growth of management apprenticeships. Some going so far as to argue that level 6 and 7 Apprenticeships shouldn’t be funded by the Apprenticeship levy. Such an argument is, of course, nonsense. If the Apprenticeship levy is about productivity then employers should be able to use it where they need to, regardless of level, to raise productivity. I don’t doubt there are some skills shortage areas in the UK economy at level 2, but if we’re about using Apprenticeship to develop a high skill, high productivity economy provision will increasingly be focused on level 3 – 7, including Management Apprenticeships.

I hope the Treasury, DfE and IfATE take note of the Lloyds Bank report, get behind our large manufacturers and support the use of management apprenticeships to raise skills levels, productivity and UK prosperity. UVAC will be supporting providers deliver the Management Apprenticeships our large manufacturers need. We hope others in the skills sector will do likewise.

Mandy Crawford-Lee, Director of Policy and Operations, University Vocational Awards Council

Webinar: Apprenticeship Programmes – How to Generate Stakeholder Buy-In in Your Large organisation
September 2, 2019
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During this webinar, you will hear from Strategic Commercial Manager Paula Gibson and Stakeholder Partnerships and Policy Manager Bryony Kingsland on how to generate internal stakeholder buy-in in your large organisation.

Date: Thursday, September 5th, 2019 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM BST

Topics cover how to:

  • get buy-in from your stakeholders
  • demonstrate the return on investment with a case study on Scottish Power
  • overcome internal barriers including key messaging for the 20% off-the-job learning
  • plus a Q&A session at the end.

To register, follow the link below.

https://bit.ly/30Mn5dT

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?
July 16, 2019
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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