End-point assessment is a vital part of any apprenticeship, and Thomas Burton explains how to get it right.

The government wants its trailblazer apprenticeship reforms to have independent end-point assessment (EPA) to drive up productivity.

Seen as a vital source of ammunition in the nation’s economic arsenal, the reforms are designed to redress a skills deficit that has forced businesses not only to compete with each other for orders, but also for a small pool of potential workers with the necessary skills.

Apprenticeships give employers back control, by nurturing and developing their own talent pools. Managed properly, they can greatly expand any company’s skills base and create a committed, able and highly competitive workforce.

The pressure and stress of an EPA experience is like learning to drive and taking a driving test

NOCN has been working in partnership with employers, FE colleges, training providers and skills experts in many trailblazer groups to develop a range of standards and assessments for new apprenticeships. The group has already been approved to deliver 43 standards – the most of any end-point assessment organisation (EPAO) to date.

Working with employers and training providers, we have all started to learn some valuable lessons. Early involvement in EPA Involvement from both the employer and training provider is required early in the process.

EPA planning must involve the employer, and must be considered and planned for at the outset of delivery. Flexible approach EPAOs need to have a flexible approach when engaging with training providers and employers. Agendas and employment demands can change in the workplace and the ability to respond to employers is a requirement of any successful EPA provision.

Training providers have a key role to ensure that apprentices have a full understanding of what EPA looks like. The pressure of an EPA experience is like learning to drive and taking a driving test. Clear structure An EPAO needs to provide a clear structure to the training provider and employer. Vitally, this information must also reach the apprentice.

An apprentice will need the support, preparation and guidance to ensure that during EPA they perform to the highest level. The training provider must allow the apprentice to own their EPA process; it’s their apprenticeship and apprentices must understand that it is down to themselves to prepare, with the support of their provider.

Robust gateway A robust gateway prerequisite process is a regulatory requirement for all EPAs, ensuring that every apprentice has reached the level of competence accepted by the employer at a recognised industry level. The EPAO needs to consider the ability to respond to a reasonable adjustment request and the suitability of assessment across all apprentices, in all job roles.

The EPAO and training providers must work with employers, especially those engaged with level two apprentices, to consider the impact of assessment. Resits, complaints and appeals Training providers need to ensure a contractual agreement is in place for resits, complaints and appeals.

Education technology and the portability of mobile learning devices portability both play an important role in how employers and apprentices view modern assessment.

Every option for a successful delivery should be considered when working with an EPAO. Effective regulation Feedback from the EPAO to both the training provider and the employer ensures that the future quality of apprenticeships is maintained within the standard.

This in turn makes sure that a standardised approach is applied to all assessments, and rigorous internal quality-assurance is applied by the EPAO to mitigate poor or inaccurate assessments.

To achieve this, we need to ensure consistent, effective and efficient regulation of EPAs. The advent of the apprenticeship levy is an opportunity for the English apprenticeship system to become a true driver of skills, productivity and workforce development.

To make it a success, employers, training providers and EPAOs need to work together to achieve the desired benefits.

Thomas Burton is Head of assessment, NOCN