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3 key takeaways: EPA and the future of apprenticeships

The penultimate live show in our #FutureOfApprenticeships series with FE News took place last week, exploring all things end-point assessment (EPA) and the impact that it’s had since being introduced into the apprenticeship framework in 2017. 

As recent winners of ‘EPAO of the Year’ at the FAB 2022 Awards, our Head of EPA, Sacha Finkle, co-hosted the conversation and shared some insight as an end-point assessment organisation (EPAO) regarding best practice and the challenges still to be faced within EPA. 

Alongside Sacha, the episode featured the following panel of expert speakers: 

  • Gavin O’Meara, Founder and CEO of FE News 
  • Jacqui Molkenthin, consultant and researcher 
  • Chris Cherry, Lead on EPA at Skills Development Network. 

Here, we recap three key points from the discussion. 

1. The impact of EPA 

In the five years since end-point assessment was initially introduced, many positive impacts have been seen as a result. One key benefit is how employers are now in the driving seat when it comes to apprenticeship assessment. Explains Sacha: “It’s a huge benefit that employers get to influence what knowledge, skills and behaviours are required of the talent they’ve got coming through in their industry.  

“They can also select the most appropriate assessment methods that are fit for the industry that they’re working in – whether that be an observation, professional discussion, presentation, etc – all of the different variations of assessment at the end are selected by the employer to be the most appropriate, and that is a key benefit that we didn’t have before.”  

Furthermore, says Sacha, EPA provides apprentices with the opportunity to showcase what they’ve learned: “Somebody completely independent who is an industry expert is coming in and validating that. It’s absolutely that seal of approval and confirmation that what the learner has achieved is validated, which is really powerful.” 

Jacqui also agreed that engagement with employers and providers had come on “leaps and bounds” since the introduction of end-point assessment. 

2. Ensuring quality within EPA 

There was much discussion in the episode around how we can ensure quality within EPA itself. Chris outlined how a “narrowing down of the range and interpretation of what an assessment should be” can help to build quality by ensuring that interpretation of EPA is standardised and rigorous across EPAOs.  

Chris also explained the importance of understanding the quality of EPAOs and their offering, suggesting that something in the public domain to clearly outline to customers the quality markers of the different EPAOs would be particularly helpful.  

Sacha expanded on this point, outlining how she agrees and believes that markers such as success rates should not be used as a tool to attract customers or as a sole benchmark of the quality of an EPAO, as this success rate belongs to the providers and the apprentices who have put in the work to achieve this. This is why NCFE uses other measures to promote our EPAO offering and service, says Sacha. Earlier this year, Sacha also authored a piece on the topic of why choosing an apprentice-centric EPAO is so important.  

3. Hopes for the future 

When asked about their one hope or wish for the future of EPA, our panelists gave their thoughts around achieving more alignment across the board for EPA; Chris answered that more compactness and consolation is required for EPA, whilst Jacqui wished for stability and Sacha for consistency. 

Explained Sacha: “Consistency would absolutely be what I would want [to see]. Consistency of delivery, consistency of assessment plans, and consistency across everything, so that everybody was absolutely clear of what was required, and the apprentices were getting the best no matter who was delivering the apprenticeship.” 

Jacqui also explained that alongside stability, the need for EPA to be responsive was also a key requirement – this is because the job market across the world is so dynamic right now, that we also need to ensure that assessment within apprenticeships can be flexible where required. 

Want to hear more from our panel as they explore EPA in more depth? Catch up on the full episode below:

Be sure to join us for our final episode in our Future of Apprenticeships series at 10am on Thursday 24 November by tuning in on the FE News website or YouTube channel. You can also join in the discussion using #FutureOfApprenticeships on social media. 


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