Draft toolkit for consultation

It seems a long time since we first went to the FE and Skills Coalition meeting last October to scope the development of guidance on effective use of technology for colleges and training providers delivering the new standards. We asked the group their thoughts and issues on the painpoints around the apprenticeship lifecycle for the new apprenticeships, from management to delivery and assessment. We got an interesting and varied set of responses, which provided a very useful starting point for us to understand where technology might offer most benefit around that lifecycle.

The project team drafted visualisations of the end to end lifecycle and consulted with a range of stakeholders including AELP, ETF, apprenticeship providers, employers and assessment organisations. Providers ranged from small to large providers, serving a range of employers from SME’s to large international employers. Some of these providers were at the leading of technology use for one or more aspect of the lifecycle, others were very successful but digital was less of a focus.

The learning from these conversations was invaluable, and helped to shape the content, style and overall navigational structure of the new Jisc apprenticeship journey toolkit. The two main challenges for the toolkit were to firstly present an overall picture of a process that is in an early stage and is still evolving; and to provide meaningful guidance on digital in an engaging format across each and every stage in that journey.

We are very pleased to announce the toolkit is now available from: http://ji.sc/apprentice-journey-v1. We’d like to invite you to explore and feedback on this draft, so that we can better understand how this guidance can work for you as a provider; and importantly where the gaps are in the content to inform our future developments in this space. There is a short feedback form linked from the ‘About the toolkit’ section in the tool, or if you’d rather have a chat with us instead please contact me at lisa.gray@jisc.ac.uk

Please note the toolkit isn’t in its final form as an interactive website (due Summer 2017), for the purposes of consultation this version is presented as an interactive PowerPoint presentation.

Degree apprenticeships: understanding the opportunities

Last week I attended the UUK event on degree apprenticeships: understanding the opportunities.

A one-day seminar that will give delegates a full understanding of the policy landscape and a clear idea of how to implement degree apprenticeships in their institution. Delegates will hear case studies from leaders within the sector and have an opportunity to feed into Universities UK work in this area.

I made most of my notes and observations on Twitter and added them to a Storify with other tweets and links.

Continue reading

What are our new priorities, and what next? #codesign17


For this challenge we decided the most important area to focus on was the area of delivery of apprenticeships so we plan to explore whether Jisc can build a tracking, monitoring and reporting system for apprenticeships that provides a provider dashboard, an employer dashboard and an app for apprentices. This will help with the employability idea too. Whilst the assessment idea will not be explored further at the moment, we will be producing and disseminating online guidance later this year.

Read more in our blog about the results of the voting stage.

We will be sharing the initial results of our exploration in May. Keep an eye on the Jisc blog for announcements.

If you want to comment on the ideas, please tweet using #codesign17 or email james.clay@jisc.ac.uk.

Enhancing the digital experience for skills learners

On the 23rd January 2017 I delivered a short session to the AELP Construction Sector Forum.

The purpose of the presentation was to talk to the Forum about Jisc, the Co-Design 2017 Challenge and how Jisc can support those  working with apprentices and apprenticeships.


What would truly digital apprenticeships look like? Vote on our ideas #codesign17


Late last year we kicked off a consultation to identify what big new ideas Jisc should focus on once we have completed our current R&D projects. That consultation focused on 6 possible challenges:

  • What does the imminent arrival of the intelligent campus mean for universities and colleges?
  • What should the next generation of digital learning environments do?
  • What should a next-generation research environment look like?
  • Which skills do people need to prepare for research practice now and in the future?
  • What would truly digital apprenticeships look like?
  • How can we use data to improve teaching and learning?

Thanks to all the interesting discussion around these challenges we have come up with ideas for how Jisc could help with five of them. We now need help from Jisc members and other experts to decide which of those ideas would be most valuable for us to pursue. So we are asking people to express support for any of the ideas they particularly like. Please visit our co-design 2016-17 page to find out more. If you have any feedback or suggestions that don’t fit in our feedback form then please contact the relevant challenge lead or Andy McGregor as we are keen to hear all types of feedback. The feedback period closes on 30th January and we will announce the ideas we are exploring in early February.

Three ideas came out of the discussion in relation to Digital Apprenticeships.


The consultation highlighted the need to move to different delivery models. National employers want national delivery and meeting increased government targets while maintaining high quality is infeasible without the use of technology. However this throws up questions about how to deliver effectively to a wide range of learner cohorts, from 16-18 years olds used to study to adults over 50 who have years of work experience but lack qualifications, or who are seeking career progression.

Practitioners want to move to new models of delivery to meet the changing and demanding needs of the growth of apprenticeships. The challenge is, we assume that they know how to do this and have the necessary skills to embed digital technologies in the design and delivery.

Could Jisc explore whether we could deliver tools, resources, and data that anyone designing an apprenticeship could use to develop a course that makes effective use of technology and uses an appropriate mixture of online, blended and face to face learning?


Many people we talked to highlighted that there are significant challenges in assessment. The lack of approved awarding bodies in over 50% of apprentice standards and the move to end-point assessment and its separation from the delivery of training are two of the most pressing examples.

We believe technology-enhanced approaches can offer cost benefits without losing validity and reliability – eg remote verification and online proctoring and that it is essential to incorporate formative checkpoints to prepare learners for end-point assessments.

This area needs more detailed investigation before appropriate solutions can be found so we are proposing starting that exploration to identify the specific problems and explore how technology can address those problems.

Employability and skills verification

Not all apprenticeships lead to permanent roles. Some employers train for their supply chain, or their needs change during the apprenticeship. This will require learners to demonstrate their skills, qualifications and experience as they seek advancement and move between employers and training providers in order to progress to higher level apprenticeships.

A related problem is that some potential apprentices struggle to find employers when transitioning from formal education to apprenticeships, as they need to be able to demonstrate suitability, often in vocational areas in order to engage relevant employers who can sometimes be small or even micro.

The consultation uncovered that whilst the use of e-portfolios and VLEs was widespread to demonstrate skills, this didn’t support the learner when seeking employment. Learners need to be able to demonstrate verified vocational and employability skills, qualifications and experiences in one place, simplifying interactions with potential employers as they progress through their careers.

Could we explore a new type of tool that allows students to easily curate and demonstrate the verified skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications they have gained, both formally and informally? To enable learners to curate and showcase experiences and activities to potential employers as they loop between study and employment during their careers.

Next steps

We are asking people to express support for any of the ideas they particularly like.

If you like any of these ideas, please register your support using our form. All expressions of support will be publicly visible. The form will be open until 30 January 2017.

Fill in the form.

See a spreadsheet of the results so far.

Please visit our co-design 2016-17 page to find out more. The feedback period closes on 30th January and we will announce the ideas we are exploring in early February.

Apprenticeships- An industrial past or a digital future?


This is a guest post from Bob Harrison

Apprentices have been a central element of our Education and Training system for hundreds of years. The design principles which underpin the various iterations of “Apprenticeships” however are predicated on a mindset shaped by the industries of the time. Starting with Agriculture and then during the Industrial revolution dominated by the heavy industries of Shipbuilding, Textiles, Mining, Steel and Engineering amongst others.

Consequently the thinking behind the design and delivery of the education, training and assessment systems reflected the processes in those industries. Some people describe this approach as “Taylorism” or “Fordism”

As a result the pedagogical processes were understandably reflective of the time.

When I taught my first Motor Vehicle apprentices in Sheffield in 1981 I was blessed by the availability of two rooms of BBC microcomputers conveniently empty on Friday afternoons as Business Studies tutors liked their long weekends in their caravans.

Nowadays the motor vehicle apprentices carry around in their overalls (usually white coats now) mobile devices a hundred times more powerful and with connectivity to the world of knowledge than those two rooms of BBC micros combined.

And therein lies the rub. Have the learning and assessment design principles , pedagogical processes and delivery methods kept pace with the potential technologies have to offer?

Apprenticeships are currently flavour of the year for FE and we have a window of opportunity to reflect on how we can design and deliver the learning and assessment to support apprentices by exploiting the potential of digital technologies?

This will require a “paradigm shift” by those policy makers, funding agencies, providers, awarding bodies, teachers and assessors and that will need support.

Jisc have years of experience, resources and the expertise to support this essential paradigm shift so the 3million apprentices will be fit for a digital future and not an industrial past.

Bob Harrison Chair of Governors Northern College, Board member UfI Trust, ALT FE Ambassador, Member of the DCMS Cyber Skills Advisory Group.
Follow on Twitter bobharrisonset www.setuk.co.uk

CANCELLED – Digital Apprenticeships Co-Design Challenge Webinar

Apologies, this webinar has been CANCELLED and will be rescheduled the next year.


On Thursday 1st December 2016 at 1pm, we are running a webinar on the Digital Apprenticeships co-design challenge.

What would truly digital apprenticeships look like?

Tell us how you think we can embed technology throughout apprenticeship design, delivery and assessment.

Apprenticeships is a growth area undergoing massive reform, with a government target of three million starts by 2020 and the implementation of the post-16 skills plan. The employer levy funding beginning in April 2017 is estimated at £2.5 bn, a billion pounds larger than now. Increasing and more effective use of technology will be crucial to achieving government targets whilst maintaining high quality.

We think it’s time we had fully digital apprenticeships – to meet the needs of employers and apprentices in the 21st century.

You can join us and find out more and add to the debate and the discussion.

To register, please send your name and organisation to [deleted]

Apologies, this webinar has been CANCELLED and will be rescheduled the next year.

The apprenticeship life cycle: what are the pain points?


We asked the FE and Skills Coalition group this question at their October meeting and got some interesting replies.

A range of participants representing many types of training providers, awarding organisations and other professional bodies sketched out their own views of the lifecycle and highlighted key pain points. We will be consulting further on this topic in order to see how technology can help address the issues. Take a look at the suggestions so far and let us have your comments.

Group 1

It is not necessarily a single cycle it may repeat many times. It starts once the learner has their competencies and gaps identified and finishes when they have no more gaps to fill and move on to something else (employment or further study).

The pain points in the post reform landscape will be:

  • managing the added extras that an employer wants especially in health and social care where they ask for a lot of added qualifications
  • endpoint assessment organisations – there are very few approved organisations as yet


Group 2

It is like a game of Monopoly. People start out not realising that they might not get a job at the end of it. Managing learner expectations is crucial.

Pain points:

  • procedural knowledge of the organisation for learner
  • on programme support
  • English and maths development
  • progression – going on to higher learning or employment elsewhere


Group 2

Group 3

This process view makes a key distinction between on and off the job training.

Pain points:

  • matching the job to the person
  • transport is a major pain point throughout the whole process for assessors and learners
  • maths and English skill requirements
  • apprentices changing their minds
  • new funding model

Group 3

Group 4

A more linear perspective on how the student might move through from school to decision to study apprenticeship, employer, qualification, vacancy, apply etc.

Pain points:

  • The apprentice may not always get the job they would prefer
  • How does the employer structure the learning as they aren’t involved in designing the learning experience?
  • Employer/employee wanting different end products
  • How do we prepare the apprentice for potential future self employment as well as this specific job?

Group 4

Group 5

This was more of a high level view of the regulatory landscape. Trailblazers are at the start of the process as nothing can happen until apprenticeship standards are set and funding models are in place. Employers and training providers both need a way to track the apprenticeship and prepare for endpoint assessment.

Pain points:

  • apprentices lacking motivation, recognition and confidence (could badges help?)
  • Complicated funding model depending on a range of factors such as age of apprentice, whether any incentive payments apply to this apprentice, whether the employer is a levy payer or non-levy payer etc
  • unanswered questions about who will quality assure the whole process
  • lack of clarity about whether OFSTED will quality assure on employer premises
  • lack of endpoint assessment organisations in place
  • need to ensure that endpoint assessment is cost-effective
  • question of who certificates endpoint assessment (role of IfA?)

Group 5

Group 6

This version is a learning journey illustrating the six things we want apprentices to demonstrate. The key transition is from a college focus to a rounded self. Every apprentice is working to a learning contract. This is about personal learning spaces so is very e-portfolio focused. Technology is becoming more personal. Behaviour is moving from passive to active. The pain points are associated with the behavioural change.

Group 6


Group 7

This group focused most on the pain – it is a horror movie. The choice at the beginning and commitment to a particular vocational pathway is very difficult. There are challenges relating to actual ways of learning and the working culture. It can be very lonely. This is meant to be simulating what life as a professional will be like. Why do we think a 16-year-old can make a lifelong vocational choice? There is an opportunity for learning providers to give more pre-choice support to help apprentices make more informed choices.

Group 7


Group 8

This group started from the perspective that we need to start with the employer first not the learner.

Apprentices are different to learners in full-time academic programs. These learners have already made a choice. The correct starting point is the job role of the employer, mapping this to the most relevant standard and linking standard and job role. This can be done totally digitally.

The process is driven by the employer needs but the MIS system starts with the learner. Every learner applies for a vacancy that is advertised online. Instead of asking for CVs why not collect the information for the ILR/ILP directly? CVs can often be written by schools and parents. By collecting the information direct you take out this link. A spell check in the system can identify dyslexia immediately. The system can also screen learners who aren’t eligible for the apprenticeship.

This group sketched out a fully digital lifecycle suggesting that technology can address most of the pain points.

Group 8

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