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The Importance of Initial Assessments and Recognising Prior Learning in Apprenticeships

Dan Howard Operations Director of Learning for Work at NCFE

Dan Howard, Operations Director of Learning for Work at NCFE, delves into the importance of Initial Assessments and the benefits these bring to learners.

Initial Assessments (IAs) are a vital step in every apprenticeship. Conducted prior to the beginning of an apprenticeship, they aim to help training providers better understand the learner’s abilities in line with the proposed apprenticeship, as well as assess their starting point to better set them up for success.

Completing IAs helps to inform the building blocks of the learner’s individual programme.

For training providers, IAs are vital as they formally recognise prior learning (RPL) and ensure that the programme content, duration, and price is appropriate for the learner. If the RPL is not recognised, issues around funding, course content and more can arise, creating a costly issue for the training provider, as well as quality issues in relation to the delivery model of the apprenticeship.

Furthermore, whilst it is imperative that training providers discover each learner’s RPL in order to stay on track with the funding rules, the benefit of RPL on the learners themselves cannot be emphasised enough.

So, how does Recognising Prior Learning help learners?

By establishing the starting point for the learner, it becomes much clearer to see the distance travelled by the end of their apprenticeship - clearly showing the value of the programme to the individual, and their employer.

Any chance of training duplication is greatly reduced, as the IA will clearly identify the training the apprentice still needs to undertake to become occupationally competent in their role.

Likewise, RPL can identify where apprenticeships could be shortened or altered so that learners can pass faster and enter their careers more quickly. Alternatively, IAs may reveal that the individual requires significant new knowledge, skills and behaviours to be occupationally competent in their job role.

Ultimately, completing an IA can ensure that the content tailored to the learner is more engaging, leading to higher participation, retention, and achievement rates as well as onward progression – whether that be into their careers, or onto another apprenticeship or further study.

Supporting learners and ensuring that they are getting the most out of their apprenticeship is of the utmost importance, which is why training organisations must accurately recognise prior learning.

However, a great deal of training providers tend to only provide IAs in English and maths, with no customisation to apprenticeships or course content. And, for the majority of the time, IAs are tracked through internal spreadsheets with no standardisation or quality.

How can training providers accurately assess RPL?

Skills Review software from NCFE can help learners and training providers with IAs, document RPL, document and evidence adjustments to duration, content and funding, and also help to keep employers up to date on their apprentice’s progress throughout their training.

Skills Review offers a detailed self-assessment skills gap analysis of the knowledge, skills and behaviours within the apprenticeship standard, and is employer and provider validated to accurately capture an individual’s true starting point.

Our IA process goes beyond English and maths competency by assessing against the skills, knowledge and behaviours of the standard.

Going further than the IA, Skills Review also helps training providers to keep the employer up to date on the apprentice’s progress throughout their apprenticeship by continuously monitoring gateway readiness.

At NCFE, the learner is at the heart of all that we do, which is why our Skills Review software works to ensure apprentices are fully supported and set up for every success.

For more information, visit https://www.ncfe.org.uk/skills-assessment/skills-review/