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FE apprenticeship reform – quality assurance and responsibility

Posted by  Ricky Prota

Over the next two years the Government is reforming the way Apprenticeship Training is handled in England. Control wil be taken away from training providers, colleges and awarding bodies, and employers will be put in the driving seat. 

With regards to apprenticeship quality assurance (QA), there are two areas to consider. The first applies to the delivery of training, and it seems that this will not change with the reform. The second relates to the delivery of end-point assessment, and it’s here that significant confusion arises.

It is understood that The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) will run two registers;

1. The register of training organisations (ROTO)

This is not a new entity, and any college or institution that receives government funding from the SFA is already on the register. That said, ROTO is going to be adapted significantly to become much more robust, and so colleges must also adapt in order to meet additional requirements.

2. The register of apprenticeship assessment organisations (RAAO)

RAAO, on the other hand, is new and any organisation can seek to join the register. So far, it mostly consists of awarding organisations, but some individual colleges and college consortia have successfully applied to join.

Government funding for apprenticeship delivery and/or assessment will only be available to those providers on the ROTO and RAAO during the reform transition period, and also via the levy when it comes into operation. Colleges therefore need to be flexible to adjust to QA changes in the end-point assessment of apprenticeships under the new system.

Standards, frameworks and increasing responsibility

Employers’ expectations are, understandably, set to change with the reform, and it’s vital that FE and training providers adjust accordingly to meet these higher standards - if not, they will struggle to attract students.

Currently there are gaps in the development of new policies, which has led to apprenticeship standards being incorrectly deemed ‘ready for delivery’. A lack of adequate assessment organisations to undertake the end-point assessment is the main cause, as well as a need for assessment documents for training providers to reference, and so transition is not likely to be a smooth one.

Colleges must make strategic decisions about their position regarding apprenticeships, with some likely to cease delivery altogether. Without defined policies, it’s difficult to assess how they will cope with the changes, but simply shifting an existing apprenticeship offer into the new standard style format, when it does exist, is not likely to be enough. The changes necessary, to make courses and programs appealing to students seeking employability, could prove too much for some institutions. Those that continue in their delivery of apprenticeships should be prepared to update their courses, and those that do not must adapt to ensure their offering still encourages a student’s employability.

Be warned of growing demands - and competition

As with all new procedures and policies, we should expect to see new administrative procedures that colleges must follow. Every apprentice, for example, will need an evidence pack consisting of personal data and assessment records, written agreements, commitment statements, learning and development plans, and other training evidence.

Support functions within a college will need to consider how to accommodate the increase in demands of this new approach to apprenticeships and adjust accordingly. A drop in allocations could impact financial planning and income generation to support the apprenticeship offer.

Right now, colleges are free to develop their own apprenticeship offerings and their methods of delivery as they wish. They’d do well to act now and get ahead of their competition, not only to attract and retain students, but also to attract and retain employers that are willing to engage with the college.

With these reforms, the further education market becomes increasingly competitive. For the first time ever, colleges will need to address and adjust their plans in light of other providers’ offerings and strategies.

To learn more about how Unit4 can help your college prepare for the apprenticeship reform, please visit our FE hub

Ricky Prota

Ricky Prota joined the Unit4 Education team in 2016 taking an active role within the further education sector. He has a passion for providing people centric solutions to colleges going through major change, helping institutions achieve their goals amidst challenging external pressures.

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