11th February 2020

Framework or Standard? Apprenticeships 2020

2020 is the year old-style apprenticeship frameworks are being replaced. This is something the Institute for Apprenticeships has been working towards for the last three years. The idea behind this is to raise the overall standard of apprenticeships for those taking part in them, and the employers apprentices go on to work for.

Why is this happening?

Apprenticeships are something the UK Government has been looking to increase the profile of, and the number of people applying to take part, for a good few years. It sees them as a way of offering more young people a way into an industry or profession without going to university or having to fund it themselves if they decide to continue further education.

However, it was acknowledged back in 2017 that a rethink was needed.

The problem with frameworks

Previously, apprentices had to gain qualifications in frameworks, which were usually something like an NVQ or a BTEC, for example. These qualifications are fine in theory, but many employers were finding they were having to carry out further training for apprentices once they were in the workplace.

Apprentices would learn a ‘unit’ in the classroom and do what was required to pass it but wouldn’t be tested on the subject again. By the time they had to put the skill to practical use, they’d more than likely have forgotten it.

A standard solution

To solve the problem, a new set of standards was introduced to all apprenticeships. These standards shifted the focus on learning from assessing. Apprentices are assigned a mentor-like tutor, whose job is to plan what the apprentice will do, provide feedback and offer support.

Standards are basically a list of skills and behaviours needed in a particular apprenticeship or occupation. Each standard is short and concise (it can’t be longer than two sides of A4 in size 12 font) and must be completed to finish the apprenticeship.

How do standards differ from frameworks?

The key differences are how the standards are delivered. Instead of being assessed continually throughout, all apprentices have to pass a number of end-point assessments (EPA) on each unit. An EPA is designed to test whether each apprentice has gained the skills, knowledge and behaviours outlined in the standard, and grade each learner based on their performance.

The EPA can be a test, assignment or exam, professional discussion, practical observation or output produced, or a portfolio the apprentice has created. A grade is given at the end of each one to give an overall apprenticeship mark.

EPAs have a strict set of rules to follow and can only be delivered by an independent organisation.

Another difference is that all standards now include 20% off the job training. Yes, that’s right: off the job. What this means is that all apprentices need to undertake learning outside of the normal working day environment. Examples of this include theory work (lectures, online learning), practical training (industry visits) and learning support (assignments or assessments).

What’s in it for employers?

Employer-led groups have developed and written the standards, so they can put the skills and knowledge needed for their occupation into them. They can also become a provider and deliver the training in-house.

The advantages to this are clear. It means the standards are relevant for the workforce and apprentices can be shown exactly what they need to know to success in their chosen career. Conversely, this also means employers can align training to their business and culture.

Click here for more information about apprenticeships and standards.