Can training providers become end-point assessment organisations (EPAOs)?
The short answer is: yes. There's just a few rules to follow.
All new apprenticeship standards include an end-point assessment (EPA). As a training provider, you'll support learners with their on-programme learning and makes sure they're ready for the gateway. The EPA must then be delivered by an approved, independent end-point assessment organisation – not the training provider. Both the organisation and the assessor completing the assessment must be independent and have no affiliation with the apprentice, employer or provider involved – if they do, it's seen as a conflict of interest.
Okay, so that's the first rule out of the way.
Up at number 2 is competence.
To become an EPAO for a specific standard, you'll have to show that you're competent to assess it. You'll need to demonstrate competence as an organisation – such as industry projects or involvement in developing standards – and hire assessors with occupational competence, qualifications and experience.
Some assessment plans state specific assessor requirements, and some don’t mention it at all.
Number 3– approval.
All EPAOs must be approved by the ESFA – the Education Skills Funding Agency. To do this, organisations need to complete an in-depth application process and be accepted on the Register of Apprentice Assessment Organisations (RoAAO). The Register opens and closes every month for new or updated applications.
Number 4 – staff planning
This rule combines lots of other rules. We already know organisations have to prove they have independent staff and that are competent to assess before they can join the Register. For some providers, this could be a bit of a catch 22. They can't apply to assess the standard until they have competent staff – but they don't want to hire staff before they know they'll definitely have work to give them. It's tricky, but it leads us nicely onto rule number 5.
Number 5 – contract staff
Okay, this isn't strictly a rule, but many providers are choosing to hire contract staff on an annual basis. This gives organisations ultimate flexibility – they can get assessors in to assess as and when they need them, without committing to hiring a full-time member of staff.
Number 6 – designing assessments
The new assessment plans are very different from what we're used to. The plan will state the assessment method, but it will be up to the EPAO to design each assessment for each standard. You'll have to show evidence of how you'll develop the assessment to apply for the Register.
There's a lot to think about – so much, that 50% of all first applications to the Register fail.
To make sure your application is right first time, download our step-by-step guide on how to register as an EPAO. It explains each stage of the application process – from registering interest to quality compliance.