Apprenticeships – A Journey Through End Point Assessment (EPA)

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In 2017 the changes to apprenticeships included an End Point Assessment for all apprentices. The purpose of the End Point Assessment (EPA) is to test that an apprentice is fully capable of doing their job before they receive their apprenticeship certificate. It also helps to demonstrate that what an apprentice has learned can be applied in the real world.

When we went through our first EPA nearly a year ago, we found the experience quite unsettling and stressful.  The main reason for this was that the End Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO) were not at all clear on the process and appeared to be making it up as they went along, the experience was very disorganised and stressful.  We struggled to get accurate information from them, they changed and missed appointments and we never spoke with the same EPAO employee twice, they couldn’t keep their employees either. It was their first cohort so I suppose we should allow them some grace!  We persevered and all the cohort passed, but it was not an experience that we wanted to repeat.

We were determined that our apprentices would not have to go through such a negative experience again so, after carrying out research and interviewing some new EPAO’s we selected one who was committed to working with us from induction onwards and who would assist us to embed the process throughout rather than just in the final stages of the programme.

We were then able to set about making sure that apprentices knew what EPA meant to their success from day one. We ensured that the employer knew before they signed up just how important the EPA was and that they were in the driving seat and that ultimately giving the “green light” to progress to Gateway would be their decision. Gateway is the point towards the end of the apprenticeship programme where the employer and training provider ‘sign off’ the apprentice as being ready for EPA having achieved the level of knowledge, skills and behaviours for the apprenticeship

In every workshop with the apprentice, we highlight how it will contribute to the EPA and how to identify examples of work that showcases each apprentice at their best. We practice interviews and professional discussions, deliver mock exams and during the programme apprentices discover the benefits of a properly organised observation and how much they could learn from that process. During the workplace visits and reviews our facilitators work with apprentices and managers to embed EPA and encourage both to understand, learn from, challenge and question the process.

At Gateway we meet with each manager and apprentice and have a thorough discussion on the apprentice’s progress and gap analysis. We come up with an action plan for the apprentice and do not sign the Gateway off until the manager and apprentice are both confident of a positive outcome.

Recently, our second cohort of apprentices went through EPA and we achieved 100% pass rate with 67% Distinctions and 33% Merits. We are not resting on our laurels, you never can. We are working with another 6 cohorts at present and want to get the process working like a smoothly oiled machine for them too.

One inspiring apprentice told us on achieving their distinction, “. I have been able to take aspects of the apprenticeship and apply them to, not only my working life, but my personal life too. I am more in control of my life, have a controlled savings plan and have the courage to speak to new people. Never again will I be content with what I am doing. I will always strive to improve myself; the apprenticeship has re-ignited my love for learning and made a real difference to my life.” We couldn’t have asked for more.

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