Training providers are struggling to give clear instructions on what’s expected of apprentices, writes Dexter Hutchings
I started my level 3 in digital marketing in February 2017 and throughout my degree apprenticeship, I have felt like dropping out. But never have I been closer to doing so than now, as I tackle my end-point assessment (EPA).
Unfortunately, figures for 2020/21 showed 47 per cent of apprentices on standards dropped out.
Here are a few of my concerns regarding the new apprenticeship standards, and in particular, the EPA:
1. A lack of forward planning and communication from the training provider
Apprentices must complete a training log as evidence of their off-the-job training. Unfortunately, my cohort was not given access to our training log until the beginning of year two, which led to an increased workload.
While the EPA was mentioned when we started our apprenticeship, it was not spoken about in detail. I believe apprentices should be given a detailed lesson on what will be required to complete the EPA, so they can begin thinking about it.
2. The burden of raising quality has fallen on the apprentice
Standards were introduced to raise the quality of apprenticeships, but it seems like the wrongdoings of training providers has cost apprentices themselves.
Over the years, I have read far too many shocking stories about training providers offering poor training and failing to meet the 20 per cent off-the-job training requirement ̶ in fact, I experienced this myself during my first apprenticeship, with 3aaa.
However, it seems that in a bid to boost quality, we have increased the apprentices’ workload. Apprentices are responsible for logging their 20 per cent off-the-job training requirement and ultimately proving they are work-ready.
3. Occupational standards are a one-size-fits-all approach
A group of employers, described as ‘trailblazers’ by the Institute for Apprenticeships, develop the standards for their relevant occupation themselves.
In my case, I have to prove competency in 29 skills, knowledge and behaviours (SKBs). The problem is that occupational standards can be designed by a group as small as ten employers. In an industry such as digital marketing, ten employers is unlikely to be very representative, and this can be seen in a few of my SKBs.
I completed my apprenticeship whilst working for a relatively small foundation with a marketing team of two. I found that both the course and occupational standards were targeted at apprentices likely to be working for a for-profit business. So it was much more difficult for me to evidence certain SKBs, and probably for other apprentices in similar positions too.
While occupational standards cannot be tailored to meet every individual’s needs, perhaps apprentices could only be obliged to meet a percentage of a larger range of occupational skills but all occupational knowledge and behaviours.
4. The process is overly complicated and repetitive
The paperwork apprentices are given to help them understand the process of the EPA is unnecessarily lengthy and often confusing.
It seems we are guinea pigs
To start their EPA, an apprentice must find a suitable work-based project that will allow them to showcase that they are competent in each and every SKB. Apprentices must consider the implications of confidentiality and commercial sensitivity when choosing this project.
For my EPA, I had to write a report that was then put into a presentation. Throughout my apprenticeship, I have found myself duplicating work, which takes time and seems a little repetitive.
5. There is a lack of knowledge and support
One of the biggest problems throughout the EPA process was a lack of knowledge and support.
This started with our project selection, in which the lack of support ultimately led to apprentices in my cohort changing their project, having already reached their project presentation mock with an external panel.
As the first year to undergo an EPA for the standard I am completing, it seems that we are guinea pigs. Our training provider has almost always struggled to give clear instructions on what is expected of us. Unfortunately, this is understandable when the Institute for Apprenticeships paperwork is so unclear