Autocare apprentices gear up for career success

New College DurhamThis year four level 2 apprentices from New College Durham successfully passed their Autocare Apprenticeship end-point assessment (EPA) - the first ever autocare motor vehicle EPA in the country.

Apprentices Tony Breeze (Maddison’s Autos), Arek Szymanski (Frankie’s Motors), Clayton Blake (Croxdale Fast-Fit), and Lewis Blackett (Henley Gardens Garage) succeeded with their assessment, despite the current national pandemic.

We spoke to Curriculum Manager Liam McGurk and Motor Vehicle Engineering Lecturer Ian Sturdy from the College to get some insights on the learning and assessment experience.

Autocare is a relatively new apprenticeship standard and the New College Durham apprentices were the first to go through the EPA process. The on-programme learning period and EPA assessments fell during the national lockdowns due to Covid-19, making their achievements all the more impressive.

“Keeping the learners progressing during lockdown was a real challenge. However, through a combination of our own engagement with our apprentices and the digital resources provided by City & Guilds, we felt confident that they were always on the right track.” said Liam McGurk.

Ian Sturdy added; “With EPA it’s a bit like a driving test, you have to keep the learning going right up to the assessment or the apprentices could lose some of that crucial learning and skills. The digital resources such as SmartScreen were really beneficial, and we used this alongside the e-portfolio solution Learning Assistant that helped us set tasks virtually so they were not disadvantaged”

Towards the end of 2020 Liam McGurk asked the College Principal and Chief Executive if they could undertake some socially distanced workshops in a Covid-19 secure way. The request was granted and ensured that practical learning and assessments could take place despite the ongoing restrictions. This ensured that there were no gaps in learning.

Ian Sturdy liaised with the Independent End Point Assessor (IEPA), Lewis Jay, and City & Guilds Technical Advisor, Paul Tunnicliffe to discuss, amend and develop the paperwork used during the assessments.

“Standards are a different animal” comments Ian Sturdy. “As EPA becomes more familiar, we can take all of the lessons learned and apply them to future teaching and learning. Paul Tunnicliffe, the Technical Advisor at City & Guilds really helped us – and we were in regular contact. It really felt like we were all part of the same team working towards the same outcome.”

New College Durham has invested in some high-tech facilities, designed specifically for Autocare learning. The investment in the facilities supports the learner and provides a first-class learning experience.

Ian added; “All of our apprentices were able to showcase their acquired knowledge, skills, and behaviours during rigorous practical tasks within the college’s new, fully modernised motor vehicle workshop.”

Lewis Jay, Independent End-Point Assessor, was pleased with the outcome; “I received great support to set up the practical tasks for the assessment from New College Durham, and the workshop resources are fantastic. It was a proud moment for all involved.”

The apprentices were delighted with their results and reflected on their experiences.

Arek Szymanski, apprentice at Frankie’s Motors, said: “I would not have achieved my grade without the immense support of my tutor Ian Sturdy. I have been given knowledge beyond the expectations of the course. This has enabled me to put said knowledge into practice and learn theory alongside practical work. I am very privileged to be part of the first group to go through the Autocare qualification and I can’t thank the New College Durham staff enough for the support they have given me and I am looking forward to future education with New College Durham and City & Guilds.

Lewis Blackett, apprentice at Henley Gardens Garage, commented: “I felt very privileged to be one of the first students in the country to undertake this qualification and have thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the course. With the help of tutors guidance from the beginning and throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to achieve the qualification. I am very proud to have succeeded in the end-point assessment.”

Download our EPA summary guide