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

From my years of experience in both the employability and skill sectors, I’ve seen how Initial Assessments (IAs) have provided a vital step in thousands of apprenticeships. Conducted prior to the beginning of the programme, they aim to help training providers and colleges 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. By completing an IA, educators are forming the essential building blocks of the learner’s individual programme, the foundations for success.

For training providers and colleges, 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 problem for the provider, as well as quality concerns in relation to the delivery model of the apprenticeship. While it is imperative that educators discover each learner’s RPL to stay on track with the funding rules, the equally crucial 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 easier to see the distance travelled as their apprenticeship progresses - clearly showing the value of the programme in real time to the individual, and to their employer.

The possibility of training duplication is greatly reduced, as the IA will identify and evidence the training still required by the apprentice to become occupationally competent in their role.

Likewise, the correct use of IA and RPL will help to determine if the apprenticeship route is suitable and also helps to plan the duration, milestones and objectives that need to be met.

This accurate mapping of milestones and objectives helps to better ensure success, and so that learners can achieve more quickly and enter their careers sooner than if they had to retake elements of their assessments.

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.

How can training providers and colleges accurately assess RPL?

Where some educators deliver IAs solely in English and maths, learners may miss the opportunity to have their RPL reflect relevant course content before commencing their apprenticeship. And commonly, IAs are tracked through internal spreadsheets which do not guarantee standardisation or quality.

The Skills Review platform from NCFE can help learners and educators 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 and colleges 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 solution works to ensure apprentices are fully supported and set up for every success.

For more information, visit www.skillsforward.co.uk/skills-review or email [email protected].

IA Infographic