My last post looked at some of the problems that have been created by the insistence that apprentices should apply for their own completion certificates. It gets better….
Let’s start by looking at where this requirement comes from. Sections 3 and 4 of the ASCL Act 2009 contain an innocent looking provision saying that a certificate will be issued to a ‘person who applies’, provided they provide such information and evidence as the certifying authority requires.
I originally thought the Sector Skills Councils were just being overzealous in interpreting this as meaning that the application must be made by – rather than on behalf of – the apprentice. It turns out, however, that it is deliberate. NAS wants to “put responsibility and power in the hands of apprentices” by giving them “ownership” of the application process. However, it does recognise that, in practice, training providers will “facilitate” this process on the apprentice’s behalf.
Quite how requiring someone to sign a form themselves, rather than asking their training provider to do it for them, consitutes a transfer of power and responsibility is not entirely clear. Down here in the real world, we all know that many learners will sign any form that is put in front of them. Even with the army of checkers who will now be employed to verify these forms for the planned 360,000 apprentices to be recruited each year, it will be impossible to tell if a signature is genuine, or whether the form was really signed after completion or signed at the start of the process but left undated.
Why is this such a problem? Simply that it introduces more paper and more delay at a time when all the rhetoric is about reducing bureaucracy. Not only that but, in many sectors, the apprentice’s real goal is not the framework certificate but the underlying skills and qualifications. An early years worker, for instance, who has completed a level 3 diploma, is now eligible to act as a room leader or deputy. Although s/he may have achieved the diploma as part of a framework, it isn’t the framework certificate that really counts and, if too many obstacles are put in the way of getting it, people will simply not bother. This will damage not only the provider’s success rate statistics, but also the achievement figures which NAS has to report to ministers.
But at least the new rules introduce clarity and consistency along with the paper? Well, let’s see. PBD deals with four different SSCs.
- TDA, who manage the learning support framework, either haven’t picked up on the signature point at all or have decided to take a very pragmatic approach. Their claim form requires only the provider to sign.
- CfA, who look after business and customer service, take – as you might expect – a businesslike and customer focused approach. The apprentice does not have to sign the claim form but the provider does have to confirm, on the form, that it holds a signed authority to act on the apprentice’s behalf.
- CWDC used to follow the CfA approach but now requires the apprentice to sign saying “I hereby request my certificate”. This is the hard line, literal approach and cannot be faulted, except that it makes a nonsense of the idea of providers ‘facilitating’ the claim. The CWDC form is quite simply a claim by the apprentice, with the provider’s role limited to one of countersigning to confirm that the requirements have been met.
- Which leaves SkillsActive, who operate the frameworks in playwork. With typical playfulness, the SkillsActive approach goes straight for the worst of both worlds by requiring the apprentice to sign the actual claim form, after completion, to say “I authorise the provider to claim on my behalf”!
And if you think all this is crazy, wait for my next post on guided learning hours.