Weighing up the options: Take on an EQA role, or become an EPAO?

Just over three years ago, I took on a secondment to map out what part the IMI would play in the apprenticeship reforms. As an organisation containing a professional body, awarding body and sector skills council, there were a couple of options… take on the EQA role for automotive standards, or become an EPAO.

Following extensive research, it became clear that working to become the leading EPAO in Automotive gave us a sustainable future, playing to our strengths in the marketplace and adding the most value to a sector we have been committed to since 1920. Given recent announcements regarding EQA, it looks like we made the right choice!

Fast forward to the present day, we are now approved for 18 Standards, with almost 8,000 Apprentices registered with us as the EPAO. This puts The IMI in a strong position to continue to lead the engagement and growth of talent and skills development, for individuals making a career in the automotive sector.

Along the way there’s been a lot to do, multiple submissions to gain approval as an EPAO, ever changing assessment plans, introduction of new systems, policies and procedures and more importantly, a high volume of recruitment activities. We are a small to medium sized organisation but now carry a dedicated EPA Team made up of co-ordinators and administrators based at our head office, along with EPA managers and lead EPA assessors travelling up and down the country.

We have been advertising for EPA assessors for the last two years and have received almost 2,000 expressions of interest during that time. Based on the growth of our EPAO portfolio and forecast activities, we have interviewed hundreds of people and currently utilise around 60 EPA Assessors across the country. We will need to increase that to 100 over the next 18 months. We seem to be very well placed to grow this number. Perhaps this is down to the sector we operate in, our position in the sector, or a combination of many factors, but I have full confidence in the ability to continue to grow our EPA capacity for the future.

Our assessors undertake EPA Accredited Assessor Workshop training and, once onboard, they are risk rated and receive regular standardisation and best practice updates. This coupled with observations, moderation and quality assurance activities, has given us confidence in our strong, talented assessor pool.

I realise that some standards can be difficult to recruit for, but planning is key. The education sector is full of talented, passionate assessors and industry also contain individuals that are driven to improve their sector and develop the careers of the next generation.  In our experience, this combination of talent and varying recruitment activities should result in appropriate volumes of staff to deliver EPA. In addition, training providers and employers can support by flattening recruitment activities across the year, rather than trying to schedule all EPAs within a few months. I’m certainly finding that training providers and employers in our sector are exploring all opportunities to spread the EPA windows throughout the year, resulting in us delivering multiple EPA Events almost every week.

It’s clear that there will be thousands of assessors carrying out tens of thousands of EPA events across all sectors in the years ahead. It sounds like a cliché, but preparation truly leads to success…Good Luck!

Mark Armitage PGCert FIMI

Head of Membership Products and Services, The IMI