Plans to integrate mandatory qualifications with final assessments in apprenticeships have been put to the sector for a 10-week consultation.
The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) has published its proposals to make mandatory professional qualifications work “seamlessly” with the end point assessments (EPAs) and eliminate some of the current problems in the system.
Currently, an apprenticeship doesn’t end until the end point assessment has been completed, but for many apprenticeships such as electrician or adult care worker, a professional qualification to work in their industry are also required. Those qualifications are often completed before the EPA.
IfATE reckons around 40 per cent of apprenticeships mandate at least one qualification.
But it says there is evidence that learners leave their apprenticeship after gaining the qualification and before EPA, meaning there is no formal record of their knowledge, skills and behaviours.
It has also found that assessment in the professional qualification may also duplicate parts of the EPA, resulting in “overassessment of learners and inefficiency”.
IfATE’s new proposals aim to integrate at least one of a qualification’s assessments with the EPA, to be conducted after a learner reaches gateway as part of the main EPA. That would ensure learners complete their whole programme at the end of the apprenticeships and strip out duplication.
It will require end point assessment organisations (EPAOs) to make clear in their marking criteria where the grade boundaries will be in the integrated assessment to pass EPA.
In addition, the proposals will require employers to submit a rationale and supporting evidence that a professional qualification is needed to prevent disadvantage in the labour market for learners.
It also wants to ensure “that the qualifications are necessary, because an apprentice would struggle to get a job or progress after finishing the apprenticeship, without them”.
A consultation has launched this week for the sector to share feedback, closing on February 17.
Sam Callear, IfATE deputy director for policy and new concepts, said the proposals are based on its experience in developing apprenticeships over the last few years, as well as feedback from employers, apprentices, providers and EPAOs, accepting that qualifications and EPAs “haven’t always worked together as well as they could”.
“We think we can improve the balance and relationship between the study and assessment needed to achieve these specific qualifications and the study and assessment that is needed as part of the apprenticeship,” he added.
Responses to the consultation can be submitted online here.
Jane Hickie, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers welcomed the consultation. Writing in the organisation’s weekly newsletter, she said: “Similar to the approach with degree apprenticeships, this is to reduce duplicate assessments and help to stop apprentices leaving early without completing EPA.
“This would be a win all round for the apprenticeship brand and drive higher success rates.”
Apprenticeship drop-outs have been a key problem for the sector, with figures for last year indicating that 47 per cent – nearly half – of apprentices failed to see their course through to the end.
It has prompted the government to set an ambitious target of securing a 67 per cent achievement rate on standards by 2025 – a target reiterated by the new ministerial team which came in during the autumn.