‘No-surprises’ EPA – A Q&A with Jessica Fowler, Head of Client Relationship at Innovate Awarding

Skilltech Solutions talks to Jessica Fowler of Innovate Awarding about how better EPA management platforms can streamline the apprenticeship journey.

In the time since it was launched, epaPRO has grown to become a trusted EPA management tool among End-point Assessment organisations and training providers across the UK.

The fact that it’s now a well-known platform among training providers, End-point Assessors and even bodies such as Ofqual has made it even more seamless to onboard – letting users concentrate less on admin, and more on improving apprenticeship journeys.

It’s vitally important to an EPAO like Innovate Awarding, who have built strong relationships with training providers to deliver a reassuring ‘no surprises’ approach – both for apprentices, and those guiding their journeys.

We talked to Jessica Fowler, Head of Client Relationships at Innovate Awarding, about how their experience delivering EPA across 15 sectors has been intricately linked to the development of epaPRO.

Jessica, could you tell me about your role at Innovate?

I have been managing relationships with Training Providers and Employers at Innovate for 5 years. It’s a role that has grown over time, as I now manage a team who all work to ensure our Training Provider and Employer partners have the support and guidance they need to work with Innovate for a seamless EPA journey.

My role is largely about helping these groups to deliver exceptional End-point Assessment preparation to apprentices. It’s a busy job: since starting, we have certified 40,700 apprentices across 15 sectors.

Could you tell us more about those sectors?

Certainly. You should know that we have two ‘strands’ to the business: one for qualifications, which has existed for a decade; and one for EPA, which is the more recent.

Broadly speaking, they both align, and we work across diverse sectors, including business admin, professional services, and health and adult social care - as well as areas including logistics, hospitality and education.

We work with many exciting employers across sectors, but the newest sector we have started working in, creative & digital, is particularly notable, with standards such as content creator, and even Level 7 Game Programmer.

What do you enjoy the most about working in EPA?

It’s the variety of people and ambitions that our work supports. We support thousands of apprentices to complete End-point Assessment and being the final step of their apprenticeship journey, supporting them to advance their career.

It’s also personal for me: I undertook a Science Degree at University, but recently completed an apprenticeship in management, and it was so valuable to have that upskilling opportunity available, regardless of my prior experience.

Innovate has a ‘no-surprises’ approach to EPA – can you tell us what that entails?

‘No surprises’ is what we embed across all aspects of our operational process and our relationships with customers – everyone involved in the journey should have absolute clarity on what lies ahead.

For example, apprentices need to know what to cover in a professional discussion, or what to expect from an exam (because we provide mock assessments).

For training providers, it’s just as important that they know who they can come to at Innovate for questions and guidance, so each client we work with has a specific point of contact within my team who is there to guide them and ensure they have no surprises while working with us.

Did you start using epaPRO to help provide that ‘no-surprises’ commitment?

epaPRO has provided that clarity and customisability to both us and the training providers we work with.

However, that’s not surprising, since we had a hand in influencing what it looks like today.

How so?

Innovate Awarding has worked with epaPRO from the very start, we helped shape the original vision for the product and had the opportunity to influence features as part of the user group.

Without getting too deep into the discussions we had, we agreed it needed to provide 100% clarity on every single detail of the apprenticeship journey.

That being said, we still have the opportunity, just like other Skilltech customers, to feed into new developments to ensure the system evolves to meet our changing needs.

What kind of things did it need to provide clarity on?

For example, one problem was assessor-apprentice allocation: matching an apprentice to the appropriate assessor for their location and assessment needs.

epaPRO turned that from a time-consuming manual task into a seamless, bulk functionality – saving countless hours and avoiding a lot of mistakes.

We didn’t have to ask the dev team for that. They really did their homework, which has helped epaPRO solve a lot of ‘hidden complexities’ of EPA.

What other kind of hidden complexities does it solve?

This bulk functionality has been critical when updating standards and onboarding apprentices and training providers in a compliant way – as you know, regulations matter in our field.

What is more personal to me, however, is reporting, which is vital for both internal and client visibility.

Could you tell us about reporting?

epaPRO gives us and our partners incredible insight into the apprenticeship journey, and our clients in particular value detailed apprentice reports greatly.

A good example of this is seeing how much time an apprentice has spent in EPA.

That info can help you target an individual to support them, but if you have those details on all of your apprentices, you can identify trends –and make changes at a macro level to support all of them.

Ensuring that we have reporting allows our customers to continually review trends, and it’s equally important for them to be able to identify strengths and areas for improvement, too. In that way, we are an extension of their business - a true partner.

Have training providers in particular found this valuable?

Absolutely. Training providers are very keen to benchmark how they perform against other training providers (anonymously, of course), and the data epaPRO collects lets them do that, with support from my team to provide comparison data

No government portal provides this info, so data from epaPRO is their best option to understand how their EPA outcomes compare to others.

What else have they fed back on?

They appreciate the fact that they can use the platform so easily, which lets them really focus on apprenticeship delivery.

Likewise, when we welcome a new training provider for a new standard, many will have already used epaPRO, which makes onboarding incredibly simple and lets us both hit the ground running.

How has your relationship with Skilltech grown since you started?

They have been supportive throughout. Like us, they have a strong drive for continuous improvement. That’s why having an ongoing feedback loop with the team has been pivotal to developing helpful features and improving what we can offer our partners.

Fundamentally, we trust epaPRO as our single source of truth: it helps us have a clear view of the journey, adapt to change… and it directly supports our no-surprises approach.

We would like to thank Jessica for her time discussing Innovate’s unique epaPRO story.

When apprentices have greater certainty about what’s expected of them, they navigate the journey with greater confidence – reducing drop-out and improving outcomes.

If you have a strong drive to improve your apprenticeship delivery as an AO or training provider, but multiple platforms and admin burden are holding you back, it takes just 30 minutes to see how epaPRO can transform your EPA management: don’t hesitate to book a demo today.

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