Sallyann Baldry, Independent consultant specialising in apprenticeships

SWITCHING YOUR #EPAO 

Why it might be time to check your current situation and review the available options.

There are plenty of money wise guru’s out there telling you to switch your electricity or gas supplier, switch your car insurer, change your bank, or telling you to upgrade, re-finance, cash-in etc. etc.

Indeed, switching has pretty much become the norm in our domestic lives, yet when it comes to work, changing supplier is less routine.

If you deliver apprenticeship training your choice of end point assessment organisation (EPAO) is stated when first registering your apprentices on the Digital Apprenticeship Service (DAS).

So, should you switch?

The selection of an EPAO may well have been made rather hastily in order to complete the field within the registration process. The registration is hooked up with the Apprenticeship

Assessment Service. This is the system used by EPAOs to claim apprentice certificates and apply for ESFA approval to offer End Point Assessment (EPA). The system informs your stated EPAO of your choice. Most EPAOs will subsequently make contact with you to provide information on their gateway processes.

However, well before Gateway it is good practice to look at your choice of EPAO again. It could be several years since you made your choice of EPAO. Since then, new EPAOs are likely to have entered the market. It is also possible that the EPAO you originally selected has either chosen to withdraw their approval or had it removed.

The EPAO sector is in a transitional phase, due to a change of the inspectorate body for external quality assurance. EPAOs are evaluating their provision and dropping some EPA out of their portfolios.

  1. Firstly, look at the “Find an end-point assessment organisation for your apprentice” website; enter the title of the apprenticeship and you will be provided with a list of the EPAOs who are approved to offer that standard. Links to their respective websites are included in the listing.
  2. Next, go to the “Find an assessment opportunity” website to check that the EPAO offers assessments in your region. This site also provides interesting regional statistics on the number of active and completed apprentices.
  3. Lastly, check the Register of End Point Assessment Organisations website to confirm that the EPAO is on the register and to obtain their EPAO registration number. You can also check to see what other EPA they offer. On this site you will find a contact name and an email address which can be useful when first approaching an EPAO.

You will now have a list of potential EPAOs who offer the apprenticeship standards you deliver.

We have created a comparison grid to help you collate your findings and inform your decision.

Macro Considerations

There are macro and micro considerations, and risks, to switching EPAO. The macro considerations are the bigger picture aspects of procurement. Your standard due diligence checks will include checking company status to ensure that they are an entity with whom you can do business. Also important is their reputation and track record. For example, are they well-connected to the sectors where they offer EPA?

Other considerations might include:

  • Has the EPAO been Ofqual recognised? Over the next two years, all EPAOs will require Ofqual recognition. Is there a risk that the EPAO will fail to achieve recognised status and thereby be removed from the Register?
  • Are they a specialist EPAO? Will they understand the setting and context of your industry? Knowing how important a suite of apprenticeships is to the EPAO is a good indicator of their commitment to a sector and the likelihood of them having the right contacts to recruit sector competent independent assessors and their ability to offer knowledgeable technical support.

Micro Considerations

Take a look at the information you have been sent by the EPAO that you originally listed on the Digital Apprenticeship Service.

  • Have they been in contact?
  • Have they assigned, or will they assign a named account manager for your cohort of apprentices?
  • How easy has it been to communicate with them so far?

This is a vital indicator of the quality of customer service you are likely to receive. Some EPAOs rarely offer face to face meetings, even if run remotely. A dedicated account or case manager who can take you through the end-to-end process, who answers calls and responds to emails in a timely manner is a great asset!

If you have already registered apprentices, have you asked the people who undertook the registration how easy it was? Does the EPAO registration system require any integration work to sit alongside your own learner management system? Will you need to adapt how you collate apprentice information to ensure compatibility?

Do you have sufficient information to prepare your apprentices for the different components of the EPA? For example, has the EPAO provided an end point assessment specification explaining how they intend to carry out the EPA? Do they have specialists to explain technical processes of EPA to either employers or training providers? Do you know whether the different components of the EPA must be delivered in a particular order? Ensure you have a really clear picture of the EPA timeline.

Most of this information can be found in the assessment plan specific to the apprenticeship standard you are delivering. This is available on the IFATE website, but there may be differences around interpretation and service levels so a comprehensive specification from the EPAO is important. For example, if it is a requirement for the apprentice to pass a project before being permitted to progress to another part of the assessment, how long will you have to wait for the interim result to enable you to book your apprentice for the next part of the EPA or re-submit where they have not passed the project?

Are there mock tests or sample assessments available? Do they provide a familiarisation session to help your apprentices navigate their way through an on-line platform? How easy is it for your apprentices to upload a portfolio of evidence? Do they provide an apprentice handbook?

The EPAOs attitude to customer service is often revealed by how easy it is to make requests, for example, if you have apprentices who require additional support or the accessibility of their complaints or appeals process.

One factor that may impact your decision to switch EPAO is whether or not you have already paid a registration fee. You should not expect this to be refundable if you choose to transfer your apprentices to an alternative EPAO. What is far more important is the EPAO’s approach to transfers. Is there a notification timeframe? Request a copy of their cancellation policy.

These are micro considerations; the practical aspects of transferring apprentices. Additionally, there is another important consideration; if you are a training provider, have you spoken with your employers about the transition and are you able to articulate the benefits of the switch so that they understand the choice they are making? If you are an employer you will want to know what is expected of you in terms of on-site assessment. What facilities are needed for the EPA; for example, an observation? If you are unable to provide the appropriate location or resources for the EPA, does the EPAO offer alternatives? Does the EPAO have flexible arrangements, for example to enable dispensation as a result of the pandemic?

Finally like all switchers, the price, when weighed up against the many other considerations listed here, must be right. Check whether the headline price is the actual price that you will pay as some EPAOs have varying prices depending on the specific circumstances. Just as in moving your bank account, EPAOs are required to facilitate switching. Ask the questions, do the maths, weigh up the pros and cons of sticking or switching. Working with the right EPAO will benefit your apprentices, your success rates and timeliness of completions; factors that could affect the funding received for your apprentices and, ultimately, your business performance.

Either way, you will have the assurance of knowing that your choice of EPAO is based on sound information and due process.

Sallyann Baldry, Independent consultant specialising in apprenticeships

Sally's particular expertise lies in the end point assessment of apprenticeships, but she also provides consultancy for levy paying companies on apprenticeship strategy and RoATP applications.

A former nominee for the Inspiring Woman in Apprenticeships, she is also an ambassador, championing apprenticeships, for the Global Equality Collective.

Acknowledgement: EUIAS has independently commissioned this article. Any views contained therein are those of  Sallyann Baldry, and do not necessarily reflect those of the EUIAS.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter 2 days ago

The Environmental Impacts of Remote Work: Stats and Benefits: Working from home is a necessity rather than a luxury… https://t.co/NEJrovahxg
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page