Apprenticeship Levy in UK – Type of apprentice (career starter, career changer or upskiller) impacted on the value and effectiveness of prior learning assessments

The apprenticeship levy was introduced in 2017 as part of wider reforms to improve apprenticeship quality and employer engagement.This research provides insight into the impact of the levy on employers’ decision-making and whether levy funds were used for additional training or to replace other forms of training. It also explores how employers and providers assess and account for prior learning amongst apprentices and how this affects apprentice experience.

Assessment of prior learning

Most apprentices had reportedly undergone some form of assessment of their prior learning, although a small number of both apprentices and employers did not recall any prior learning assessments having taken place. In contrast, all of the providers interviewed reported that they assessed the prior learning of their apprentices – though substantial variation was found in the breadth, quality and robustness of these approaches.

Some providers, and most apprentices, described light-touch processes, focused on an English and maths assessment, and a review of existing qualifications, mapped to standards. These approaches had a minimal emphasis on vocational behaviours and competencies. The most comprehensive approaches involved an in-depth assessment of behaviours and skills (in addition to qualifications), administered prior to selection by a specialist and skilled assessor. Key features of such good practice7 included the use of comprehensive assessment tools, delivery of high-quality assessor training and strong partnership working between employers and providers. An example of partnership working included tripartite meetings between the apprentice, their line manager and their provider. These meetings provided the assessor with a more robust and balanced view of the apprentices prior learning than more light touch approaches, which could be confirmed or challenged by their employer and reviewed in line with the content of the standard.
Providers reported a range of challenges that prevented them from delivering this more comprehensive model of assessment as standard practice:
• Prior learning assessments were better at recognising apprentice knowledge, but it was much harder to gain an accurate picture of skills and behaviours;
• Variations in an apprentice’s self-awareness, confidence and maturity, made it difficult to ascertain their genuine starting point;
• It was difficult to capture and evidence which qualifications an apprentice has already completed where certificates are lost or personal learning records out of date;
• It was sometimes challenging to map prior qualifications against standards;
• An assessment of prior learning required considerable time and financial investment, which could limit the depth of provider approaches and the extent of employer involvement; and,
• Employers lacked knowledge and awareness of standards and how prior learning can be mapped against standards, which could also limit the extent of their involvement in assessing prior learning.

The type of apprentice (career starter, career changer or upskiller) impacted on the value and effectiveness of prior learning assessments. Both providers and employers considered that assessment was relatively straightforward for career starters, who generally had less prior learning to assess. In contrast, career changers and upskillers were more challenging to assess, as they had more prior learning to account for. For career changers in particular, the assessment also needed to account for transferable skills, requiring judgements to be made about the level of transferability between sectors and occupations.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ Levy paying employer decisions and accounting for prior learning – GOV.UK

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