As the world of business slowly eases back towards a situation resembling normality, there has never been a better time for employers across multiple industries to upskill their employees on an individual and collective basis through the use of carefully selected apprenticeships.
Before implementing any new scheme, though, all managers and CEOs must remember the objectives associated with the development tools. Whatever those targets might look like, end-point assessments are the perfect way to track them.
An end-point assessment (EPA) is, in its most basic definition, an examination or review of a student's development. It is used to validate and verify the new skills that have been learnt during the apprenticeship. EPAs need to be completed by all apprentices to confirm occupational competence, showcasing an understanding of the core knowledge bases and theoretical issues, as well as practical capabilities.
Many employers and employees have discovered the appeal of apprenticeships over university education, for example, in recent times. The practical learning alongside a job provides a comprehensive development strategy while employers can potentially capitalise on financial incentives from the government for recruiting apprentices and investing in this type of staff training. Now more than ever, apprenticeships are an integral feature in the country's efforts to get through this unprecedented and testing period.
EPAs are essentially the final stage of the apprenticeship, therefore confirming that endeavors have been worthwhile for employers and employees alike. From an employer's perspective, it should be noted that the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) does not fund apprentices until the End-Point Assessment Organisations (EPAOs) have been agreed in principle. In short: EPAs must be set out for compliance purposes as well as the benefit of the student(s).
While all apprentices must undergo examination, the fact that apprenticeship schemes may be used across multiple sectors, job roles, and disciplines should not be overlooked. Consequently, there are several potential methods to analyse the competence of an apprentice. Ultimately, it is up to the employer to decide when the employee has gained the confidence and capabilities to satisfy the criteria of the proposed EPA to achieve their certification – in whatever field or discipline it may cover.
An EPA may focus on one assessment type or combine several. While there are several possible avenues, the most common are listed below:
Online examinations – online tests often use a combination of multiple-choice questions and interactive theoretical situations, although case study and open answer questions may be included. They are completed under controlled and invigilated conditions. Results are sometimes instantaneous.
Written examinations – written examinations are becoming less frequent but still exist. They often stick to open end or multiple-choice questions and must be completed under invigilated situations. In many cases, employees will take these alongside apprentices from other companies.
Observations – the student will be shadowed and monitored for a set period of time while they complete a range of assignments that are required in the job. This can be thought of in a similar vein to a practical driving test, not least because the assessor will be from an outside authority.
Portfolio assessments – employees may need to keep a logbook or build another type of portfolio to record their new skill developments and technical understandings of the job, certification, and assignments attributed to the objectives of the training strategy.
Project submissions – similar to the portfolio, this EPA involves the submission of a project that is subsequently marked either as a standalone or assessment or alongside interviews. The project may be a written or practical assignment and will likely relate to the business itself.
Practical demonstrations – this type of assessment analyses knowledge and behaviours inside a practical skills facility. This could be a simulated work area within the assessment centre. Discussions may follow the practical demonstration to further highlight competence.
Presentations – the employee will need to make a presentation to an independent assessor to showcase a thorough understanding of the apprenticeship content and its relation to a career in the field. Presentations are solo endeavors, even when multiple employees take on this apprenticeship.
Discussion projects – whether it’s a straight-out interview or a two-way discussion, apprenticeships need to show an independent assessor that they boast theoretical, technical, and practical understandings to achieve whatever objectives are set out by the EPA.
Once the training programme has been delivered, the learner, training provider and employer must all agree that the apprentice is ready for their assessment. In addition they must also comply with prerequisite criteria. The key points are set out by each apprenticeships 'gateway', which details key elements that a student must satisfy before starting they can take their EPA. Key elements vary but often include;
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