In the face of the global pandemic, there is a great deal for the UK’s awarding industry to be proud of, writes Tom Bewick

Awarding organisations and endpoint assessment organisations have been hit badly by coronavirus.

Our bread and butter, as thriving knowledge-based organisations, are about serving the qualifications and assessment needs of thousands of learners and apprentices in both the UK and overseas.

Without general qualifications, such as GCSEs and A-Levels, young people and adults would struggle to progress in their lives. And without applied generals, apprenticeships, vocational awards and other types of work-based end-point assessments, whole sectors of the economy would grind to halt. In short, our work is all about providing the supply of occupationally competent people for a complex workforce.

We have been working in lockstep with the key statutory agencies

A shut-down of the active labour market is what is now unfolding.

Which is why this is such an unprecedented crisis. It has huge ramifications for the entire education and skills sector. Even during the Blitz the government managed to keep the schools open. People went to work. In the long history of national summer examinations, the government has never felt the compulsion to cancel them.

Since the crisis of Covid-19 first broke, the Federation of Awarding Bodies has been forced into non-stop contingency planning mode. Every single aspect of the AO and EPAO ecosystem is being ripped up as we think about mitigating ways in which we can keep the show on the road.

This is proving very difficult. Our industry is renowned for being both high-tech and high-touch. People –learners and employers – are at the heart of everything we do.

I’m proud of the way our industry has stepped up to the challenge.

The CEOs of awarding bodies and EPAOs have dropped everything to help guide government officials with understanding the front-line impact of coronavirus. FAB and many of my colleagues have been working in lockstep with the key statutory agencies to produce comprehensive guidance on everything from special dispensations for learners who are forced to take a break in their apprenticeships, to how to conduct a valid end-point assessment remotely.

We have set up a Covid-19 web page with a dedicated webinar

People working in the sector are looking to their peak-level representative bodies like never before
to represent and support them. At FAB we have set up a dedicated COVID-19 web page for AOs and EPAOs to access all the up-to-date information they will need. This will include dedicated webinar and linking all responsible officers with FAB, via WhatsApp.

We are bringing forward our pre-existing plans of becoming a best-in-class digital trade association by moving all of our training programmes and events online over the coming weeks. As a virtual organisation our staff already work mainly from home. We’ve invested in smart teleworking technology like HiHi2, which gives us a streamlined and integrated way of communicating across our business.

It also means we can do some morale boosting things like coffee catch-ups on video and sharing stories about a menagerie of pets (mainly cats).

As the total lock-down of our society looms, now, more than ever, is the time to promote a real sense of community and to be there for one another.