Getting your apprentices EPA ready

Rebecca Hollamby, City & Guilds and ILM EPA Partnership Manager, shares her experience on how providers can best support their apprentices, so they can succeed at end-point assessment.

08 December 2021

Apprenticeships bring huge value to many sectors and play a vital role in the development of skills and industries, in multiple ways:

  • Apprentices are often able to progress up the career ladder into quality employees, team leaders, project managers and roles of senior leadership.
  • Apprenticeships help businesses to address skills challenges, especially those arising from the ageing workforce heading toward retirement.
  • Quality apprenticeship programmes help to keep organisational skills up to date with fast-changing environments and technology.
  • Apprenticeships contribute to equality, diversity and inclusion by enticing diverse demographics to enter industries that are historically male- and/or caucasian-dominated, such as engineering, construction and technology.

Perhaps the most critical part of the apprenticeship journey is the end-point assessment (EPA), which determines the ultimate success of the programme. And yet, many apprentices fail to adequately prepare for their EPA, resulting in delays in achieving their goals.

What is end-point assessment and how should apprentices prepare?

We spoke to Rebecca Hollamby, End Point Assessment Partnership Manager for City & Guilds and she elaborates: “The EPA assesses the holistic Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours (KSB’s) that have been acquired during the apprenticeship. KSB’s are assessed against a pre-set standard, regardless of which employee is providing the apprenticeship opportunity.”

What many apprentices neglect to understand is that their EPA is not simply a test that falls at the end of their programme, but it forms part of the journey as a whole. According to Hollamby, this is the most common pitfall that apprentices succumb to, and is easily avoided through the following measures:

  • Apprentices should spend time familiarising themselves with their apprentice resource pack to understand the requirements of the EPA and what they will need to prepare along the way.
  • Learners should ensure that they can access the resources needed to achieve the EPA. These could include departmental experience, mini-assessments, case studies and success stories.
  • It’s essential for apprentices to understand how the assessment platform works, such as City & Guilds’ apprenticeship platform, E-volve.
  • The wise apprentice will set aside regular time with their employer to reassess and manage expectations around their performance in their role and evaluate the upcoming requirements of the apprenticeship.
  • Apprentices should practice their final presentation thoroughly, gathering feedback from “mock professional discussions”, prior to their actual EPA evaluation.

“The greatest success stories materialise when employers or mentors work closely with the apprentice to manage timeframes well, drawing out their own planner, process map and goals in advance,” says Hollamby.

“This is what City & Guilds needs from apprentices to ensure that we can block out best times to deliver course materials and provide the support that helps each apprentice reach their individual goals along their journey.”

How can City & Guilds help providers and apprentices?

To help learners feel more at ease and more confident about their EPA, City & Guilds proactively provides support through the following:

  • Exemplar materials – Examples of actual assessment components to help the learner understand the standards and requirements of their EPA.
  • Sample tests – These tests provide insight into the questions that the apprentice should be preparing for.
  • Portfolio guidance – Technical advisors are made available to offer guidance on what to include in the apprentice portfolio for the best possible results.
  • Profession discussion – These are ‘practice rounds’ which give tutors and learners an opportunity to better prepare for the final EPA.
  • EPA Pro – An online bank of supporting documents and resources to enrich the apprentice’s journey and provide support in EPA preparation
  • LIEPA Reports – Lead Independent End-Point Assessment reports focus on EPA key objectives, sharing feedback from previous assessments.

Tips for Employers to Provide Support to Apprentices

According to Hollamby, apprenticeship programmes, resources and technical advisors provide only about 10% of the overall apprenticeship and EPA process. The journey itself, through employment and developing pre-defined KSBs through experience, is where most of the learning happens in any apprenticeship.

It remains the responsibility of the learner to set goals and understand requirements but, in order to obtain optimum value from the apprentice while employed, the employer can provide incredible support in any of the following ways:

  • Review job descriptions to ensure that the skills and experience required are applicable to the programme and do not unintentionally create hindrances to the apprentice’s progress.
  • Employers should endeavour to provide as much information as possible, applicable to their learnership, as well as resources and relevant contacts within the organisation that add value to the apprentice’s portfolio.
  • Provide opportunities to accomplish project tasks in order to collate a portfolio of success stories that will form part of the final EPA.
  • Employers or apprentice mentors should make themselves available to the learner, to manage expectations and reassess areas where the apprentice may need further experience.
  • Create an apprentice-friendly community environment within the workplace by encouraging managers and colleagues to support the apprentice as they learn.

To find out more about support available for you and your apprentices, visit our apprenticeship hub.