More than a third of the apprenticeship standards that the government has deemed ready for delivery involve no funded qualifications other than a final assessment, exclusive FE Week research has revealed.
While the standards have end-point assessments in place, they will not provide apprentices with the chance to accumulate qualifications as they go along – as was the case with the previous apprenticeship frameworks.
This structure was designed to allow apprentices to build up their achievements, meaning that if they were unable to finish the full apprenticeship, they had still gained qualifications (or partial recognition in the form of units) from it.
It was also considered beneficial when a learner chose to change sectors, as it broke down the course, making transferable skills clearer to employers.
But the apparent lack of qualifications within new apprenticeships standards has raised concerns in the FE sector over the transferability of current training, and how well its quality will be measured.
Every standard “should include or itself be a recognised qualification”
Mark Dawe (pictured), AELP’s chief executive, told FE Week that he believes every standard “should include or itself be a recognised qualification”.
“The omission of qualifications from standards will adversely affect the portability and transferability of apprenticeships, make it difficult to make comparisons between standards of level and breadth, and present difficulties in inspecting for quality,” he said.
“There is a serious question about whether we have the right assessment with a need for skills and competency to be measured throughout the apprenticeship, rather than placing so much reliance at the end point.”
AELP has already recommended that the government’s Technical and Further Education Bill, which is currently moving through the House of Lords, be amended to take this into account. Mr Dawe said he was “encouraged to see both MPs and peers agreeing” with the proposal, even though “ministers still remain unpersuaded”.
Andy Walls, head of vocational policy at the Joint Council for Qualifications, agreed that embedded qualifications were valuable for apprentices.
“The evidence shows that learners benefit in their careers from obtaining a recognised qualification as part of their apprenticeship,” he said.
“Although it is right that employers decide the requirements of their sector’s apprenticeship standard, we want to see learners gaining the advantage that a recognised qualification brings.”
Teresa Frith, senior skills policy manager at the Association of Colleges, acknowledged that end-point assessment “does represent a change from the old system”, but said from her perspective the new approach could still be effective.
“In some industries, taking qualifications alongside an apprenticeship will still be important but for others the EPA is sufficient and the apprenticeship itself is the qualification,” she said.
The previous system was overly complex
“Providers need to continually challenge the rigor of the EPA system, so that we can be confident that apprenticeships remain high-quality, nationally recognised qualifications.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said the government’s apprenticeship reforms remain focused on “quality”.
“The previous system was overly complex with a huge number of qualifications that tested incremental progress, but did not necessarily demonstrate that an apprentice was competent at the end of their apprenticeship,” she said.
“We have therefore introduced new apprenticeship standards which are developed by employers themselves and rigorously checked.
“We have also taken steps to protect the term ‘apprenticeship’ from misuse helping us to achieve our target of three million apprenticeship starts by 2020 and providing excellent value for money.”