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Managing Apprentices: How to Get Initial Assessments Right

What is an initial assessment and why is it important?

An initial assessment is the assessment of an apprentice’s prior learning that takes place before they begin their apprenticeship. Training providers who carry out initial assessments are much better equipped to deliver great apprenticeship journeys and high-quality learning programs.

Gone are the days when an apprenticeship training provider could simply dust down a unit-based apprenticeship framework and deliver this to a learner. Nowadays, providers who deliver apprenticeship standards must assess every learner before they start their apprenticeship. This is because thorough and correct assessments will help the provider to develop a program or curriculum that’s tailored to the apprentice’s individual development needs, as well as avoiding wasting time and resource on unnecessary training.

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Managing Apprentices: How to Get Initial Assessments Right

Increasing scrutiny from Ofsted and the ESFA

How apprenticeship training providers carry out initial assessment and recognise prior learning is coming under increased scrutiny from the ESFA and Ofsted.

The Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is the guardian of apprenticeship funding, and therefore has a responsibility to ensure training delivery by approved providers is cost effective. Providers who carry out initial assessment are better equipped to recognise prior learning and remove any unnecessary training delivery, not only to ensure value for money, but also to protect themselves against future funding clawbacks. In doing so, providers focus apprentice learning where it matters most and deliver higher-quality training programs. Not to mention that having an approach to initial assessment that’s robust, transparent and clearly evidenced is a vital part of remaining compliant.

Can’t an apprentice assess their own prior learning?

Apprentice self-assessment is useful, but it’s not enough. Many apprenticeship training providers still allow potential apprentices to assess themselves - if this is part of an initial assessment process, it’s no bad thing, but if it’s what providers rely on when determining prior learning, it’s fraught with danger. Self-assessment alone relies on the potential apprentice’s ability to interpret and benchmark themselves against the knowledge, skills, and behaviours (KSBs) outlined in the apprenticeship standard, which they will likely not be equipped to do.

What should be included in the initial assessment? 

The initial assessment must identify and recognise prior learning against the competencies of the apprenticeship standard and confirm that the learner requires 'significant new knowledge, skills and behaviours to be occupationally competent in their job role' in order to justify the value of the apprenticeship. Otherwise, the apprenticeship must not go ahead.

And who should be included in the initial assessment?

At Rubitek, our advice is to always carry out a three-way initial assessment, involving the training provider, the potential apprentice, and their employer (preferably their immediate line manager). These three parties, together, will have sufficient combined knowledge of:

  1. What the apprentice does, or will do, on a day-to-day basis.

  2. What level of competence they can already demonstrate.

  3. What competence, or partial competence, looks like and how best to score the apprentice based on this.

By conducting a complete and thorough initial assessment, training providers can determine whether the apprenticeship is suitable for the learner and can apply appropriate adjustments to the apprenticeship standard delivery plan, including the duration of the practical training period, and the price for training delivery. It also serves to ensure that the employer understands what knowledge, skills, and behaviours the apprentice will be working towards during their training, and raise any concerns they might have about any potential gaps.


It's so easy to simplify initial assessments with Rubitek...

The Rubitek apprentice management platform features a robust initial assessment calculator, so that providers, potential apprentices and their employers can identify prior learning, and apply any necessary adjustments, without the need for complex calculations.

What’s more, the adjustments pull through to the apprenticeship paperwork, saving both time and money.

If you’d like to find out more about our experience and knowledge, not to mention our all-in-one learning management platform, and how we help you simplify initial assessment, get in touch.

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