Are plans to change assessments in the best interest of apprentices? Over the past year or so the UK has made real progress with bridging the skills gap. The Apprenticeship Levy has been introduced and there were 904,800 people on an apprenticeship in 2015/16, up from 871,000 the year before.
However, the term ‘one step forward, two steps back’ comes to mind when considering the plans to change apprentices’ final assessments. And it’s not only us that thinks that. According to John Coombes, IAC member and toolmaker at Ford Motor Company, “More than 90 per cent of apprentices oppose the removal of mandated qualifications, and there is unease about the focus on the End Point Assessment (EPA) as the primary measure of an apprentice’s achievement.”
Furthermore, with the introduction of the Trailblazer Apprenticeship Programme, employers would dictate training according to their needs. From the perspective of enhancing the performance of businesses, this makes sense. However, is it really in the best interest of apprentices? If an employer requires a specific task be completed, they can train an apprentice to do it. But if the apprentice isn’t trained properly in other areas – because the employer doesn’t have a need for it – the apprentice won’t gain a full understanding of different techniques and processes. They therefore won’t develop the skills they need for a fulfilling and successful career.
When all is said and done, the objective should be to train the best engineers we can. Placing the needs of businesses ahead of apprentices can prevent this.
The feedback we’ve had from our own apprentices is that the comprehensive and varied approach of our training scheme results in a better understanding of engineering as a whole. In the long term, this is best for our apprentices and for our business.
Regardless of the changes made to apprentice assessments, we recommend all businesses keep apprentices at the heart of every decision made. After all, better training breeds better engineers.