Apprenticeships: 'Challenging points for improvement'

Apprentices want changes in end-point assessments and off-the-job training – IfATE's Jennifer Coupland says they will be listened to

Jennifer Coupland

Apprenticeships: 'There are challenging points for improvement'

There is a huge amount to celebrate from the results of our first major survey with apprentices.

The vast majority of around more than 1,000 apprentices who took part (87 per cent) said they would recommend their apprenticeship to others wanting to train in their occupation.

Most (81 per cent) also believe they have been equipped with skills enabling them to adapt to future developments within their industry, while 82 per cent felt satisfied their apprenticeship has laid the foundation for a successful career.

However, it’s really important to also recognise where improvements need to be made.

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Challenging recommendations for improvement

Apprenticeship policymakers give serious consideration to all the different groups involved with earning and learning.

The apprenticeships programme is employer-led so we go to great lengths to gather views and feedback from them. We also engage a lot with training providers and awarding organisations.

But as far as I’m concerned, apprentices should always be the most important group of all.

Our panel of 27 talented apprentices represents the views and concerns of the people actually doing the training to the Institute and central government.

That is why we put them in charge of this survey and asked them to report back.

They recognised that the broad story being told by respondents was very positive but also published a list of challenging recommendations for improvement. The Institute has responded to all of these.

A key point flagged was that more needs to be done to ensure apprentices are prepared for their end-point assessment (EPA).

We agree it is essential apprentices have a good understanding of what will be expected of them and have committed to improving things. 

To support with this, we are looking to routinely develop short summaries of EPA plans whenever new ones are published and planning videos explaining how different methods of assessment are carried out in a typical EPA plan.

Another issue is that a significant minority of apprentices (38 per cent) say they are not receiving at least 20 per cent off-the-job training.

In one sense it’s a good thing that around two-thirds of respondents reported their apprenticeships were meeting this key indicator of quality introduced three years ago.

It’s worth remembering that before the 20 per cent rule was introduced in 2017, apprentices reported they were only getting around three hours off-the-job training per week. Now the majority of apprentices say they are spending at least the equivalent of a full working day.

We have come a long way, but there is clearly more to do.

We think this can be tackled through a clearer commitment statement, which needs to carry more authority with providers and employers. We will work with the Education and Skills Funding Agency on making this happen.

Jennifer Coupland is the chief executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

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