Quality fears placated

Posted on 22 Mar 2011 by The Manufacturer

Semta has moved to appease fears over the quality of apprenticeship frameworks caused by SASE

In January the Government released a Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (SASE) in an attempt to create a common standard for apprenticeship schemes across disciplines. However, flaws in the SASE approach quickly came under attack in industry circles where they seemed to highlight a lack of understanding among those responsible for developing apprenticeship administration and policy for the needs of engineering and manufacturing.

The key failing of SASE in relation to engineering and manufacturing apprenticeships was its omission of the Performing Engineering Operations (PEO) NVQ Level 2. As industry training experts were quick to vocalise the removal of this important qualification put apprentices in danger of violating basic health and safety procedures through lack of knowledge and raised the possibility of them representing a hazard to both themselves and colleagues.

In addition, as Anne Watson, MD of qualifications body EAL, pointed out in a TM news piece, the SASE framework threatened the equality of qualifications standards across the UK since the PEO NVQ 2 was still required of Scottish and Welsh engineering apprentices.

Moving to alleviate such fears about the consistency and quality of engineering and manufacturing apprentices, the sector skills council, Semta, revealed yesterday that it has taken decisive action. Semta is keen to reassure employers and training organisations alike that it has developed a solution which will enable the delivery of vital foundation training to continue and so give trainees the fundamental skills needed to operate effectively and safely in the industry.

Semta acknowledged that the action they have taken was absolutely necessary to the maintenance of quality and safety standards in industry and they are now confident that the agreed approach will be fit for purpose for employers, colleges and other training providers.

The agreement specifies that:

1.Foundation skills are achieved through the completion of a Level 2 Industrial Applications Apprenticeship utilising the PEO Level 2 NVQ as the competence component. Successful candidates can then progress onto an Engineering Advanced Apprenticeship.

2.In order to facilitate direct access to a Level 3 framework, Semta will produce 14 new Level 3 NVQ Diplomas and 1 Level 4 NVQ Diploma that include the knowledge and skills currently delivered through the PEO Level 2 NVQ. Clearly candidates progressing from Level 2 to Level 3 will be accredited for these elements and so will not need to repeat them.

3.To ensure continuity of delivery the current Frameworks have been extended until the end of June with dual running of old and SASE compliant frameworks from June through to July to allow Awarding Organisations to get their centres up and running with the new qualifications.

Philip Whiteman, chief executive of Semta, said: “Apprenticeships are critically important to the future success of this country’s engineering and manufacturing base so we must have frameworks which inspire employer confidence in their content and quality. The essential knowledge and skills components of the current frameworks are highly valued by employers and we believe that the processes agreed will offer continuity sand opportunity for progression. My thanks go to National Apprenticeship Service and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills who have helped enormously in arriving at this solution.”

Responding to this David Way, chief operating officer of NAS said: “This will enable full compliance with the requirements and the spirit of SASE whilst retaining the essential knowledge and skills components of the current frameworks. The quality and appropriateness of the apprenticeship framework is of paramount importance and we are pleased to have worked with Semta on reaching an agreed solution that will meet the needs of the sector within the overarching new arrangements created by SASE. This work demonstrates Government and NAS commitment to responding to the demands and needs of employers.”