Hurdles and potholes on the road to apprenticeship nirvana

Shaun Wadsworth, training manager, CFA

BACK in December 2018 a meeting was held between all parties associated in delivering the new apprenticeship standard for floorlaying. This included training providers, CITB, members of the CFA council who were on the trailblazer committee and potential End Point Assessment Organisations (EPAOs).

During that meeting the standard was formally introduced and a six-month notice was given on the current apprenticeship before it would be switched off. At that time, it meant that the last starts on the old apprenticeship (framework) standard would be taken at the end of July 2019. After that, everyone would be working on the new standard for apprenticeship starts. Following a recent Educations and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) statement released in mid-July, it’s now clear this process will be delayed.

At the beginning of July, ESFA announced it would stop funding apprenticeships standards that didn’t have an EPAO. This is in response to ongoing criticism of the ESFA going back to 2016 relating to apprenticeships standard being delivered without an EPAO being confirmed at least ‘in principle’.

In the case of existing standards already available for delivery, the ESFA said it will ‘work to get in principle agreements for standards where no EPAO is already in the market for a standard and are working towards full coverage of standards on the Register of End-Point Assessment Organisations (RoEPAO)’.

The statement also said that if this isn’t possible, ‘we’re prepared to temporarily stop funding new starts onto apprenticeships on that standard if necessary and appropriate but will give notice if that is the case’.
In terms of our Floorlayer Standard, there’s been involvement from EPAOs throughout the period of writing the Trailblazer standard, but at the point of it being ready for delivery (January 2019) there was no EPAO formally attached. This has now changed with one EPAO – Chief Assessments Ltd now registered to the Floorlayer Standard.

The CFA met recently with Chief Assessments Ltd to discuss the standard and talks were positive, they’re already building relationships with training providers, sourcing assessors and working with CITB to be ready to formally support and assess the apprentices by 2020.

But this news from the ESFA does now create issues elsewhere within the training sector. Not long after the ESFA statement, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) which acts as the external quality assurance for the floorlayer standard announced that it would not switch off the current framework apprenticeship stating: ‘CITB’s primary concerns in taking this decision are to ensure individual candidates aren’t disadvantaged and that the end-point assessments delivered ensure a quality outcome for learners and industry.’

This means we continue to have two apprenticeships available with two separate funding structures, duration times and assessment methods which regrettably continues to make apprenticeships confusing for employers and potential apprentices alike.

Having spoken to flooring training providers, this doesn’t change their immediate plans as they continue to work towards the new apprenticeship standard having spent lots of time and money to develop courses fit for delivery. These training providers have worked exceptionally hard to adjust to the biggest shake up in apprenticeship delivery in recent years including a complete overhaul in the funding model also.

Ultimately, I’m concerned this will undermine confidence in apprenticeships and the new standard. We’re now approaching a year since the new standard was signed off and deemed ready for delivery and yet despite a lot of work and input from your trade body, the employer’s group and their chairman Alan Gayle, there are still lots of unresolved issues - mainly around end-point assessment. Some (CITB) will argue that retaining the old framework in the short-term acts as a security measure to ensure continuation of availability of delivery of a flooring apprenticeship.

Detractors might simply say it’s confusing and we need to place all effort and trust in the new standard and ensure it alone can be delivered.

The CFA has been working hard to try to ensure there’s a positive outcome to all this upheaval. In the short-term the CFA will continue to work closely with the chief assessments (and other EPAOs), employers and training providers to help ensure confusion in options for apprenticeship training are minimised.

We’ll also continue to keep the industry updated through various medias from articles like this to our own publications. Finally, the CFA will continue to lobby CITB to serve notice on the old framework apprenticeship and work with other potential EPAOs that intend to register to deliver the new standard.

The flooring industry can take solace in the fact it was a fast-acting and forward-thinking trade in construction to see the need, and be able, to establish a new apprenticeship standard when other trades buried their heads in the sand.

Lots of trade apprenticeships including construction trades may well be in trouble in 2020 as the push is made to turn off all remaining apprenticeship frameworks, not just flooring. The employers that formed the Trailblazer group did a fantastic job to produce this apprenticeship standard and it’s now for the various corners of the floorlaying trades and CITB to back it and ensure it’s successful.

If the meantime, if any CFA member has a training need, wants more information, or support in taking on an apprentice, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
0115 9506836