For those of us in the logistics sector, apprenticeships could be key to filling skills gaps says David Cox, End Point Assessor Manager at the Road Transport Industry Training Board (RTITB).
The logistics sector is facing serious talent shortages. While apprenticeships are crucial to filling the void, increasingly we hear that transport and logistics training providers are struggling to fulfil delivery of apprenticeships due to a lack of suitable assessors able to carry out End Point Assessments (EPAs).
The EPA ensures that an apprentice can do the job they have been trained to do. It typically comes at the end of a 12-month training programme and experience in the job. The EPA must be carried out by an assessor from an independent organisation who is registered with the Education and Skills Funding Agency as an End Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO). The employer or training provider cannot carry out EPAs of their own apprentices.
What’s the problem?
Recently we’ve spoken to registered apprenticeship training providers who have been given lead times of three months by some EPAOs when they have requested EPAs for their LGV Driver apprentices. This is unfair on the apprentices who have worked hard to meet the gateway requirements and are ready for their EPA. What’s more, it undermines confidence in logistics apprenticeships.
Concerns about the performance of EPAOs were highlighted in 2018 following the introduction of the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy, which requires all organisations with a UK pay bill of more than £3 million to pay a levy at a rate of 0.5 per cent. Exam regulator Ofqual committed to starting “a programme of audits to help understand how the EPAOs we regulate are mitigating risks around the capacity and capability of EPA assessors.” However, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers has recently suggested there remains a lack of suitable assessors for certain apprenticeship standards which will lead to 12 months’ worth of leavers but only eight or nine-months’ worth of completions.
It is a worry that EPAOs are already struggling to fulfil demand when the volume of apprenticeships in our industry is far lower than it was before the introduction of the apprenticeship levy. This does not bode well for the future if apprentice numbers are to increase.
The right assessors are crucial
The Government established the plan to help reduce unemployment, boost the economy and close the skills gap. It aims to help train workers to a high standard, ensuring apprentices have the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to excel within their chosen roles. This simply isn’t possible if they are not being assessed by suitable people.
A further concern is that the lack of suitable End Point Assessors will cause training providers to turn to assessors that can assess apprentices to a minimum skills level but lack workplace competence and industry expertise. This is needed to conduct high-quality assessments that provide assurances to employers that apprentices have achieved the required levels of skills and knowledge. “As an employer, you should plan ahead and take time to choose the right assessor,” said David.
Choosing an EPA
If training providers use the wrong assessor, apprentices will not get the level of assessment they deserve after a year of hard work. So, as an employer, you should plan ahead and take time to choose the right assessor. It should not come down to availability, but whether the EPAO and assessors have the right knowledge and experience to accurately measure your apprentice’s progress and performance.
Employers should seek assessors that have genuine logistics experience and are used to conducting qualification tests and assessments in this industry. Better still, they should seek specialists that focus on conducting quality assessments, rather than adding this to an apprenticeship training offering.
Due to demand, some EPAOs are forced to rely on assessors who are external contractors, fitting EPAs in around other work. To ensure consistently high assessment standards, look for an EPAO which employs professional assessors so that quality can be monitored more effectively. For instance, RTITB is an approved EPAO for logistics apprenticeship standards which has its own in-house team of experienced industry assessment experts.
Use it or lose it
We urge employers to make the most of the Apprenticeship Levy. By using your funds, you can introduce new individuals into your business and set them up for a long career in our industry. Apprenticeships are also an ideal training and qualification opportunity for existing staff and can help your workforce bring their skills in line with industry standards.
With most courses only taking 12 months to complete, apprenticeships are a relatively quick investment that can help your business for years to come. Get the apprenticeship and the EPA right, and you can retain valuable, skilled staff for the future.