Last week, we submitted our response to the BIS consultation on the Future of Apprenticeships: Next Steps following the Richard Review.
The consultation covers a lot of ground, unsurprising given the range of recommendations put forward by Doug Richard in his Review. One of the areas up for consideration is assessment, with Government consulting on how employers can better engage with the development, oversight and practical delivery of assessment.
What we have found amongst our members however, is that many employers are already successfully engaged in the assessment of their Apprenticeship programmes. Only yesterday I was visiting a member company, who has six on-site assessors (they are currently recruiting around 4 apprentices a year).
What we need to do is encourage greater numbers of employers to engage in this way, demonstrating the clear advantages of employers being involved in Apprenticeship assessment.
Assessors can be a commercial asset to a business – not merely an additional cost.
We also need to talk about why the process of assessment is important - it ensures Apprenticeship programmes produce high quality workers. Employers should see assessment as informative and integral to the development of Apprenticeship programmes.
Assessment models and methods should be developed by employers.
The status of an assessor should be recognised and rewarded by employers to encourage further staff development and training.
Speaking to a member company recently, they said their on-site assessors saw the responsibility as a benefit, acquiring additional, transferable skills – (they also received an additional bonus payment!)
The consultation sets out the aims of Apprenticeship assessment – for it to be independent, consistent and for the maintenance of standards over time. Again, many of our member companies have suggested that such independence already exists within manufacturing.
Whilst manufacturers have internal assessors overseeing the competencies of the Apprentices, there is little incentive for the assessor to pass an Apprentice who cannot perform the functions or has the knowledge needed by the employer – as even a minor error could have severe consequence on the business!
Safeguarding this independence further is the additional layer of assessment from the awarding body, overseen to be the external assessor.
The independence, knowledge and consistency Government is looking for is very much alive in our sector.
Of course, assessment requires time and resources and so it may be impracticable for some employers, in particular SMEs, to be heavily involved in the practical delivery of assessments.
Other companies could look to providing assessors for other firms in their industry, or alternatively accredit their own assessors.
Peer assessment would be independent from the learner, provider and employer, conducted by those with a mix of qualifications, skills, and experience.
This is something we would like to see piloted in future Industrial Partnerships
Finally, the Review also proposes that the Apprentice's employer be asked to confirm that he or she has demonstrated the necessary level of competency and experience in the workplace.
In manufacturing, we would argue that this is a case of theory catching up with practice, as in many best practice relationships, employers already confirm the competencies of the Apprentices. The challenge is making this the norm across all sectors.