We all know it’s not fun repeating the same tasks over and over. Anyone who has had to learn by rote, simply by repeating a fact or a theory until it ‘sticks’, will testify to how tedious a task it can be.
We’re trying to avoid this in our apprenticeships today. If apprentices have already proved they have learned a skill, we don’t want to make them repeat this learning. The content of an apprentice’s training is designed to be purposeful and dynamic, ensuring the apprentice is fully occupationally competent at the end of their apprenticeship. Where an apprentice already has existing skills and proven experience, it is important that the apprenticeship is adapted to reflect this.
Recognising prior learning is key to this. Prior learning can be previous education, training, qualifications and work experience, considered against the knowledge, skills and behaviours set out in the apprenticeship. To take these into account, the training provider must carry out an initial assessment on all apprentices before the apprenticeship can begin. This initial assessment will establish the baseline for the apprentice. No-one wants the apprentice to spend time duplicating past learning and a robust initial assessment will mean the apprentice can then be both challenged and supported accordingly to learn the new knowledge, skills and behaviours required to reach the required level of occupational competency.
Where an apprentice has relevant prior learning, the content, duration and cost of the apprenticeship must be adapted by the provider to recognise this. Apprenticeship funding cannot be used to pay for, or to certify, any existing knowledge or skills.
The initial assessment will confirm that the apprentice requires substantial and sustained new learning and that the job role is aligned to the apprenticeship standard or framework. This will ensure the apprentice has sufficient opportunities to use their training as part of their day-to-day duties. The results of the assessment are shared with the apprentice’s employer which helps them to build a picture of the employee and enables them to focus efforts on filling in the knowledge gaps. Initial assessment of prior learning applies to all apprentices, whether they are new to the employer or not.
The prior learning must be logged by providers in the apprentice’s evidence pack and commitment statement. This evidence is vital for Ofsted inspections: inspectors use the individual’s baseline level to determine the ‘distance travelled’ during the apprenticeship, and this feeds into their assessment of the quality of training providers.
Although the responsibility for the initial assessment lies with the training provider, apprentices and employers can play their part. Employers can ask the provider to confirm they have fully evidenced the apprentice’s prior learning. New apprentices can also make their training providers and employers aware of all their prior learning, providing certificates and other evidence as required.
Not all an apprentice’s education and skills will be applicable to their current training. But where they do have relevant experience, it is important that this holds currency, so the achievements of our apprentices do not go unnoticed.