Libby, what is your background within the industry?
I used to work for a major awarding organisation, where I was fortunate to hold numerous roles, from managing an assessment service to working with an associate management team, before eventually becoming the resident epaPRO specialist.
You first came into contact with epaPRO as a customer. What was it like going through the process of migration?
City and Guilds is one of the biggest awarding organisations for apprenticeships, so there was a lot of behind-the-scenes planning and preparation for our migration to epaPRO.
To be honest with you, the whole project itself was seamless. There were a few challenges you would encounter, obviously, but they were very quickly overridden and we completed it within our timeline.
The experience has been very useful for me coming into this role at Skilltech, too, as I can pinpoint what worked well, what doesn't work well, and provide a really streamlined process for new customers who are going through the same thing I did.
Connecting with customers and helping them achieve their goals is one of my favourite parts of the role.
How else has your experience and your previous role helped others with epaPRO?
Simply put, I can relate to the day-to-day challenges that organisations go through. With that mindset, I can put a hand on the issues that new customers face, and get a real understanding of the best ways of working together.
I had experience from my previous role working alongside Skilltech and building that relationship up, so it’s important for me to relay that experience back to our customers. Making sure that customers are supported with the platform, and that they understand all its functionalities and best practices are critical to my role.
So tell us a bit more about epaPRO: why do you love it so much?
Because it's amazing.
epaPRO took a lot of the heavy admin work, such as having to send out manual emails, and allowed us to focus on what’s really important: our apprentices.
Personally, I’ve trained and upskilled hundreds of assessors and QA professionals to work with epaPRO on a brand new platform with new ways of working because the platform is streamlined, efficient, and it’s that easy to navigate.
So for me, as it is for customers, training providers and the apprentices that do get access to epaPRO, it's a simple platform, but it does everything that you need it to do.
The platform is constantly improving. Our developers continuously take on board feedback from our customers, which means that the platform is constantly evolving to suit our customers and their needs.
As someone who has worked within many different areas and with many people, what kind of pressure is the apprenticeship world facing at the moment?
Even though there's been a lot of work done to improve the apprentice journey, I think we're still missing some additional support for them.
Apprentices go through this massive journey on their programme; they have their endpoint assessment; and then they go on to the next stage. And, obviously, with the rate of dropouts that we have for apprentices, it's really something that we want to be able to support them on from Skilltech’s point of view.
There's nothing worse than having to go through your journey and having the test bit at the end where nerves come in and everyone's a bit anxious about it. What we want to do is actually make that experience as enjoyable as possible (at least, as far as exams go!)
But, yeah, I think at the moment, more focus is needed on the apprentice and their journey, and on providing support where possible. But, everyone needs to work together for that.
What do you think the barrier is that's stopping everyone from working together to support apprentices?
I don’t think it’s necessarily a barrier, but problems do happen right at the beginning. We have some amazing training providers, employers, and apprentices who have all gone through this journey.
But, where some have had the best support from their training provider and employer, others have had little, if any. I think an apprentice needs to understand what their plan looks like right from the beginning, all the way through to the very end. There’s nothing more frustrating for a training provider than apprentices dropping out, and I just feel for the apprentices themselves.
So, you have to go back to the root cause and make sure that we’re doing everything we can to support the apprentice to make their journey as streamlined as possible for them, from their awarding organisation to their training provider.
Do you think schools could do more to help support them, especially 16 to 19-year-olds?
My son is 16, currently doing his GCSEs, and his school has put on numerous events about apprenticeships. He's come back and it's like talking to somebody at work!
He's telling me about apprenticeships now, and all the good ones to get into: he mentioned Carpentry and Joinery to me last week. It’s funny, but I do think we have the right approach by introducing it at that level.
When I was a young girl, we never had those opportunities when we left school. For me, it was university or bust. Even though I was in an industrial area, if it wasn’t a university, you had to go out and get a job. There were definitely young people doing A-Levels who would have been better doing an apprenticeship.
Nowadays, children have the pressure of GCSEs, but there are so many different apprenticeship opportunities now for a school leaver - and you can even take apprenticeships if you’re not a leaver. They've really spent time educating the children about their opportunities, so the schools have taken a handle on this really well.
How is epaPRO going to revolutionise the industry in your opinion?
With the partnership we've got with risr/, we’re combining Skilltech’s industry-leading endpoint assessment platform and risr/’s game-changing assessment types, which should provide a single, centralised environment for all assessment needs.
The risr/ integration will allow all assessment methods to be taken in epaPRO, so an EPAO won’t have to manage multiple platforms any more. The goal was to have one platform where all assessments could be taken, and we’re well on our way to delivering this.
We are all really excited about the partnership with risr/, because, when I was talking to the risr/ team, we were instantly on the same wavelength.
We both understood that it’s about the journey and the experience: how can we really enhance it? How can we make it streamlined for the user? Straight away, there was an instant connection, so watch this space.
If there was one thing that you couldn't live without on epaPRO, what would it be?
Automatic communications, without a doubt.
I wasn't working with Skilltech when it was developed at all. I remember going to a user group meeting, and the presenter ended a demo, and he showed us a preview of these communications. I remember coming off the call so excited, thinking about how it would reduce so much of the day-to-day admin burden.
If you are an assessor who is juggling multiple EPA management platforms and losing vital information about your apprentices’ journeys, your platform needs to be streamlined. epaPRO keeps everything you need in one place with automated communications, saving you time, and saving candidates and employers stress.
There’s no one better to talk to than Libby to understand your particular needs, so get in contact with her at: email@example.com.