Much of the United Kingdom is seeing profound changes in vocational education, with new apprenticeship standards, a levy for many employers and the introduction of new vocational qualifications for young people. Federation of Industry Sector Skills and Standards Director of Policy Ana Cavilla explains how her organisation is helping to provide information and safeguards for all stakeholders.

The vocational education and training landscape appears to be in a constant state of change. There is plenty to keep training providers and employers busy with:

  • new Apprenticeship standards
  • the introduction of an Apprenticeship levy on employers, and 
  • new tertiary qualifications (‘T-Levels’) coming online in 2019.

However, some of the basics don’t change – communication between employers and training providers remains vital. For employers it is simple – they tend to have two questions:

  • Is this training right for my workforce? 
  • How do I keep track of what is going on?

But it is not always possible or desirable for training providers to answer these.

The Sector Skills Bodies remain closely involved with the development, design and delivery of the reformed apprenticeship programme in England. They provide the basis for formal discussions to take place between many employers and training providers. They work with them on the new Trailblazer Groups and they ensure that the new Apprenticeship standards reflect, where appropriate, National Occupation Standards. This aids transferability and portability for employees. They can help to answer the first question.

With the introduction of the Apprenticeship levy for larger employers and expected co-investment of 10 per cent from the non-levy payers, employers are demanding consumers of training and want to be heard. Employers are now active purchasers of both training and assessmentin the reformed Apprenticeship programme, which is an added complexity.

This throws up a whole different set of questions:

  1. Which is the best organisation to assess my apprentices effectively? 
  2. Do they work with my preferred training provider? 
  3. How often do they run assessment centres or offer assessments locally?
  4. How will I know that they have competent, qualified staff that understand my industry?

A new professional body has been set up in the UK, The Assessors Guild, which is the Professional Body for Assessors. It aims to ensure that assessment and assessors of all training reach the high standards expected by learners and employers. It is a membership body that will ensure that its members are competent to do their jobs, providing standardisation in the UK.

The second question about what training is taking place can be answered by using ACE360. It is a secure data warehouse that links together many data sources and presents unique views dependent on the user. So, an employer can track the progress of their apprentice, no matter the study content.

While the problem of effective employer engagement remains a thorny one, the Federation for Industry Sector Skills and Standards (through its network of Sector Skills Bodies, The Assessors Guild and ACE360) remains confident that it can help both training providers and employers through this period of change in order to deliver both quality training and rigorous assessment.

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