Radical reform in apprenticeships – guest post from Joe Wilson

This is a guest post from Joe Wilson

The most radical reform for 50 years is happening in the vocational training space in England. On 6th of April 2017 the new levy system will come into being and all UK employers with a pay bill of more than £3million PA will be required to pay a 0.5% levy. The collection will be through a monthly payment to HMRC (for organisations with seasonal employees there will be in-year adjustments). The system will be a standard one and it will impact all employers across the public and private sectors that are on or above the £3 million pound threshold. This includes Colleges, Local Authorities, Health Boards and any large public sector employers.

All driven by the new Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education – the landscape is undergoing a dramatic change which will drive radical changes in practice.

What are the big changes :

  • Standards and assessment strategies have changed – now created by Trailblazer and Pathfinder organisations rather than sector skills councils.
  • The new assessment standards include a grading element for the first time.
  • Employers will contract with training providers and assessment organisations through their digital training account.
  • Qualifications will play a much more minor role in the new system. It is envisioned that learners will complete a one to four year programme with the bulk of
    assessment being delivered through an end-point assessment (EPA).
  • Delivery will change as an apprenticeship now has to include at least a 20% off the job learning component .
  • The focus on End Point Assessment will mean that the tracking of a candidates performance and readiness for the (EPA) will become a critical success factor.
  • There will be separate registers for organisations who wish to deliver apprenticeships and those who wish to provide the End Point Assessments.

What are the likely impacts

Some larger employers will decide to become training providers in their own right and come on to the approved register of apprenticeship training providers , given the value of some large employers levy accounts, we will see a number of large outsourcing organisations courting them as training providers.

What does it mean for existing training providers

You need to decide whether you want to stay on the training side and join the register of training providers or move across to the register of organisations that will provide the end point assessments.

If you want to stay in or enter the apprenticeship market you need to re-think your training offer to employers and the way that you support apprenticeships. The nature of funding, reporting and the collaboration required to deliver work-based learning will change dramatically, this needs a new approach that moves past the traditional e-Portfolio or institutionally based virtual learning environment you may use currently to support apprentices . You now need to think about the best way to support an apprentice to ensure they are ready for the End Point Assessment and have a system that you can sell to employers who will be in the driving seat in terms of contracting.

New standards, a new funding landscape, new employer and learner expectations, a new regulatory and assessment environment require fresh thinking and new approaches to blending learning, delivery, assessment and data management. Apprenticeships have been driven in the past by a checklist mentality now they are something very different and this needs a new digital approach. The work of Jisc in this space is very timely and will support Employers , Training Providers , Colleges, Universities and above all learners negotiate this new landscape.

Joe Wilson MA, MBA , DipEd , PGCSE

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