If you work as part of an EPA delivery team at an EPAO, you will know that the start of the academic year is when your organisational skills are most in demand.
It’s not just a case of attending to your apprentice’s immediate priorities - nor do you ‘simply’ have to ensure their path to gateway is clear.
You also need to remove ‘big picture’ barriers in your operation that are stopping you from delivering the best experience to your apprentices.
Whether you handle some issues well or are struggling to fight fires on all fronts, this start-of-year review will help you pinpoint your trouble spots and offer proven strategies to resolve them.
1. Remove your booking barriers
Department in focus: Operational Bookings Team
Why: maintaining and improving bookings, as well as upskilling assessors to deliver standards, is vital to ensure you can scale and diversify your apprenticeship offer.
How: Some EPAOs may organise to gather feedback from their operational booking team, and this may only be via email.
While this can deliver top-level insights, the time invested in getting deeper feedback is paid back in dividends when you find an inefficiency that can be rooted out. That’s why it’s vital for you to organise a thorough reflection workshop for those who work on ‘the front line’.
We recommend that you gather everyone in office (where practical) and invite every participant to reflect honestly on successes and failures in the previous twelve months: especially those where admin or communication feel like the only barrier to achieving goals.
Not only does this give everyone a chance to have their voice heard, but doing so at the start of the year gives you concrete actions to work on before the pre-Christmas peak period, as well as time to organise training sessions with assessors before EPA. Speaking of which…
2. Assess the assessors
Department in focus: Training
Why: one of the most important ways to ensure an apprentice’s success – and their satisfaction – is to deliver thorough, consistent feedback on their work.
How: Without any standardisation, it’s likely that assessors will have different ways of delivering feedback.
Holding ‘standardisation’ workshops – by anonymising a working standard and asking assessors to follow a set of guidelines to mark it – will give you visibility over the way assessors will really mark your apprentices at EPA.
These findings might help you pinpoint topics for training, improve assessor capacity or rewrite assessment plans.
Remember: standardising all quantitative assessments will help an apprentice to learn from their mistakes – and support them to re-take their assessment, rather than drop out.
epaPRO-tip: Feedback forms in epaPRO make this process easier – you can customise your own feedback form according to your marking criteria and desired KSBs for the apprentice’s standard.
3. Replace manual processes with smarter software
Departments in focus: Development and Operations
Why: Automating as many manual tasks as possible can improve your apprentice’s EPA experience and lift the burden on your administrative staff.
How: Whilst large software functionality launches are best left until after you have made your bookings (to avoid bugs), you can start the process by taking feedback from multiple teams, as well as training providers and apprentices to identify what parts of the journey need urgent streamlining.
Once you have defined what those are, you can start to put them in place for the upcoming academic year.
Changes such as ‘appeals tracking’ or ‘file upload’ features for supporting materials to your EPA management software may seem small - but they remove manual processes and significantly free up time for your admin staff, all whilst streamlining your apprentice’s journey.
epaPRO-tip: epaPRO has these features built-in. A customisable ‘news’ feature lets you keep track of standard changes from IFATE as soon as they are published, and an easy-to-use support desk lets you pass the responsibility of keeping software up to date to us: you can even request features and be notified when they are implemented into epaPRO.
4. Don’t lose sight of gateway
Departments in focus: Operational Bookings and Operations
Why: Gateway is the stage where the most stakeholders in EPA are active at any one time – hence why miscommunication happens. If you aren’t aware of where apprentices are at the expected gateway time, it stops you from booking assessors and slows an apprentice’s journey to completion.
How: If you don’t already have the number of apprentices and the date that they are expected to reach gateway from your partner training provider, start those communications as soon as you possibly can, and use your EPA management software to make a record of the dates to forecast effectively.
epaPRO-tip: epaPRO can serve as your hub for organising gateway. Not only does it validate the gateway process when all necessary information is uploaded, but you also can provide access to your training provider. Within the platform, you can both organise calls via Microsoft Teams, and have joint oversight of all data related to your apprentices’ completion of the gateway process.
5. Don’t ignore your social calendar
Departments in focus: Sales, Marketing
Why: Outreach is one of the important tools in an EPAO’s marketing arsenal.
How: The approach is up to you - whether your network, sell, sponsor… or even host an after-party.
However, at key events such as FAB, EPA Conference and AAC, showing potential partners that you have the ability to streamline an apprentice’s journey, significantly reduce admin burden when managing EPA, and improve communication between all stakeholders – all within a single platform - is a powerful way to earn the trust of those considering trusting you with their apprentices.
Having worked extensively with EPAOs, and with a team that includes EPAO veterans, we are aware of the challenges that you face when trying to streamline your admin burden and improve apprenticeship delivery.
This understanding is what makes epaPRO such a powerful tool for EPA management. It’s one universal, easy-to-use platform with thoughtful features and in-depth customisation.
We know you are short on time, which is why a short demo tailored to resolving your EPAO’s biggest barriers is the best way to help you immediately understand the time you can save.
To learn more about epaPRO, book a demo here.