How to become an EPAO
Access key industry documents and resources
Congratulations on applying to become an EPAO
Becoming an End-Point Assessment organisation can be an extremely satisfying and rewarding opportunity.
The ACE360 team is here to support you with your application. We’ve helped countless organisations through their journey to become an End-Point assessment organisation, so keep reading – you’re in the right place.
Your first steps to becoming an EPAO
You might think that getting on the register of EPAOs should be the first thing you need to do, but you might want to take a step back – it is important not to rush the process. Anecdotal evidence suggests that over half of all first applicants fail the initial early-stage application, and need to make significant amendments.
It is important to take your time and prepare well. We recommend you go through the following checklist – it may help you save time and money in the long run.
It is important to take your time and prepare well.
We recommend you go through the following checklist – it may help you save time and money in the long run.
1) Do Your Research
There is a wide range of available online resources – we’ve pulled together five key documents to help you get started.
The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has published the following pages:
- Introduction to End-Point Assessment Organisations
- Conditions for being on the register of End-Point Assessment Organisations
- Apprenticeship funding rules
The Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education (IFATE) has developed an online database of apprenticeships that will prove key to your success.
Furthermore, you can find key information on all standards approved for delivery -and their main components- on our free Apprenticeship Management Training Solution – ACE360 – you can request a demo to learn more on the subject by clicking this link:
Finally, you can take a look through our website, where you can find a lot of information on how how to best optimise your data management processes and information transfer.
2) Understand the Market
A key component of starting out as an EPAO is identifying which apprenticeships you want to assess. Not all standards are made equal, and some apprenticeships are more in line with your business plan than others.
A good starting point is the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education Standards table, which can provide additional information about standards, both released and currently in development. However, quite often the Assessment Plans can be complicated and confusing – ACE360 hosts the full database of standards and we have broken them down into their key gateway components and end-point point assessment components, detailing the requirements of each part.
The Apprenticeship Standards market is constantly evolving – there are new standards being created all the time, and in some cases there are urgent demands for end-point assessment.
As of 1st October 2019 the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) will not fund apprentices to start on a new standard until an End-Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO) has given an ‘in principle’ commitment to deliver the EPA – you can find a link to the relevant ESFA information page here.
The ESFA also provides a list of standards and opportunities available for EPA – you can use this resource to see details of each standard, the number of EPAOs in your region, and to find out which Apprenticeship Standards you may be interested in assessing. Becoming a successful EPAO can be easy if you take the right steps– do your research, establish a fair and competitive price and carve out a niche for your organisation.
Once you’re all set-up, your ACE360 Account Manager can support you by ensuring that you are ready to accept candidate registrations from your Training Providers from day one – why not start a conversation with an ACE360 Account Manager now – email them today.
3) Applying To The ESFA
During the initial stage, you need make sure you have completed the following steps:
- Be registered with the Information Commissioner’s office
- Have read the assessment plan for the standard you are applying for
- Have been trading for a minimum of 3 months
- Have read the requirements for organisations on the register of end-point assessment organisations
Further information from the ESFA about the process can be found here .
The official guidelines state that the following elements need to be in place within 9 months of being accepted onto the EPAO register – however, many organisations prepare to have these in place well in advance of their first EPA. Our platform -ACE360- can provide key support in meeting these six requirements.
Here is some information on the key areas that you need to know for your application to the register:
1. Administrative Systems
ACE360 provides a complete end-to-end apprenticeship management solution, from registration of apprentices, the storing of gateway and EPA evidence, scheduling and booking of assessments and automatically connecting directly to the certification service.
Your ACE360 Account manager will support you in setting up these processes and be available to support you through your whole EPA journey.
2. System Infrastructure
Within your application there is a section on IT infrastructure – this will vary from organisation to organisation, based on your specific software. If you are an ACE360 user, you can use the information found here, to fill out the specific section as required.
3. Internal Quality Assurance
Initially, as a new EPAO you may wish to consider conducting 100% Internal Quality Assurance (IQA) – this is completed at component level and then at an overall grade level. The IQA document can be an extended version of your assessment grading/marking sheet. This can vary greatly, depending on the standard, the type of component assessed, and the complexity of the assessment plan.
If you are using a grading sheet, the IQA can take the form of an added column, with notes, signature, and name of assessor at the end of each section. As your assessors become more and more familiar with EPA and your organisation-specific processes, it is common to reduce the number of second reviews undertaken to a percentage sampling basis. This is usually based on a risk-analysis of each assessor; the higher the risk, the higher the number of assessments reviewed.
It is recommended to conduct an initial assessment of any new assessor, and assign a risk scoring – this will allow you to determine what percentage you will need to sample in the short to long term – you may want to conduct a 100% analysis during an assessor’s probationary period.
If your assessments are face to face, or take the form of an online test with an invigilator, you may want to conduct random surprise visits. If the discussions/observations are recorded, you may also choose to review the recorded evidence and marking sheets/grading documents.
You can use ACE360 to access all assessment-based grading decisions and evidence – once you review them, you can store supporting IQA decisions and evidence, in order to improve the quality of your assessments. Furthermore, by using our report section, you can monitor the percentage pass rate of each assessor, and alter your risk profile accordingly.
4) Resonable Adjustments
The Equality Act (2010) and various other pieces of legislation mean that at times you may be required to make reasonable adjustments to your assessments, and assessment methodologies, in order to remain compliant with legislation.
These adjustments may include things such as:
- The location & time of the assessment
- The type of assessment activity
- Making extra software, hardware and/or specialist equipment available as/when required
- Making support personnel available as/when required
- Changes to wording or format
The Reasonable Adjustment process is an important consideration for any End-Point Assessment organisation, in order that you provide a high quality service to any candidate that requires reasonable adjustment to be made. IFATE has published a relevant resource on the subject which can be found here.
ACE360 is able to store individual apprentice data on the system, and allows Training Providers to request reasonable adjustments for their Apprentices as and when required.
5) Managing Your Pipeline
Training an apprentice is a process that can last anywhere from 12 to 68 months (depending on the Standard) – both employers and training providers will need to know how much advance warning you’ll need before assessing an apprentice, and the length it will take to deliver each assessment. ESFA instructions state that you need to be given at least 3 months’ notice before reaching gateway.
Your ESFA Pipeline provides basic data about how many apprentices to expect direct from the ILR (ULN, number of apprentices and expected month for EPA). ACE360 allows you to see an Apprentice immediately from the start of a program. Our team will work with you to help your Customers upload their Apprentices onto the system, giving you increased visibility of your Apprenticeship pipeline.
6) Data Security
EPAOs choose to use the ACE360 system for managing apprentice records for their End-Point Assessment activity and detail the following IT Security information in their ESFA application.
“ACE360 is the industry leading apprenticeship standards management software, that has been developed by the Federation for Industry Sector Skills and Standards (FISSS). FISSS have been trusted to manage the contract for Framework certification and have stored evidence for over 2 million apprentices since 2012 in their ACE, ACW and MA online systems. The data centre for ACE360 is ISO27001 and ISO9001 certified and the Federation hold Cyber Essential Plus certificate for their cloud services. ACE360 is hosted on the Federation Private Cloud within a Tier 3 certified data centre.
“The system should only go down for routine, planned maintenance. Notice of which will be sent out to users. ACE360 is backed up in two secure UK locations using VEAM, the storage it uses is set up in RAID 10. The servers are failover tested twice a year to ensure failover acts as expected. The storage arrays have 4 hour mission critical support. Penetration testing is undertaken annually by an external partner, and vulnerability scans are undertaken on a weekly basis of the Federation network. In Addition, ACE360 has a tested business continuity plan was a disaster recovery site, ensuring that in the event of the disaster recovery plan requiring to be implemented all systems and staff can be operational within four hours.”
7) Promote Your Business
Whether it is through digital or traditional marketing, promotion is important. Your future customers will need to become familiar with your brand before they’re willing to entrust their apprentices to your care. Building sufficient brand awareness takes time and effort, and the sooner you get started, the sooner you can reap the rewards.
Something to note – your choice of Apprenticeship Management System plays an important part on how your brand is perceived by the market. The ACE360 EPA process is well-known and trusted the industry.
While you are encouraged to directly promote your End-Point assessment service to employers, you must only do this once you are approved for the register and only for the standard and assessment plan you are registered to assess against.
You can also promote your organisation through various EPA and LinkedIn groups, which you can use in order to discover possible networking opportunities with potential key industry stakeholders. Make sure to tag ACE360 and we’ll do our bit to help.