Good news for the turf / grounds care industry in that the new groundsmanship apprentice standard, ‘Sports Turf Operative’, has finally been approved by the Government for delivery. What this means in practice is that there will be a period of transition from the old apprenticeship framework, giving training providers time to consider how they will deliver the new standard.
This should not prove troublesome to any training provider who is involved with apprenticeship delivery, although with any change there will be challenges, but personally I see these as not very challenging challenges actually.
The aims and objectives for the standard are clearly laid out in the requirements of the standard, which are expressed as knowledge, skills and behaviours and the accompanying assessment plan which provides more detail of how the standard is to be assessed.
Within the transition stage the involvement of assessment organisations (which might be traditional ones like City & Guilds, or others such as large colleges) in discussion with the Professional Body, the Institute of Groundsmanship, in setting acceptable and recognised criteria and parameters for the end point assessments will take place, one assumes.
The move away from assessment and confirmation of competence by the training deliverer is, I consider, a positive move by the Government when setting the guidelines for the new apprenticeship standards. The concept of portfolio based qualifications is sound and this is the approach taken for qualification that underpinned the old apprentice framework. The work-based diplomas, just like the previous NVQs, were created with the best of intentions. However, the application of the qualifications in the learning environment has not, on the whole, proven totally successful. It would appear that much anecdotal evidence and observation of many ‘qualified’ learners in the industry support the notion that they have been ‘ticked through’ the various requirements by a training provider. This certainly isn’t the case for the more established and recognised providers of turf and horticultural courses, but more so for a range of other training providers who aren’t established specialists in this field.
The criteria for the former NVQs and work-based diplomas were written from the National Occupation Standards which in themselves are more subjective than objective, so to say these were standards is using literary licence to stretch a point. Clearly the above opinions are just my own take on things and no doubt they might be contentious in some quarters, so I respect the variance of opinion this can create.
If an external assessment, or assessments, which were based on measurable and well recognised standards had also been built into the requirements of the work-based diploma then this would surely have addressed many, if not all concerns. We have now reached a stage where the new apprentice standard delivers the necessary end point assessment by third parties, unrelated to the learner, training organisation or employer and therefore without any conflict of interest, helping to maintain and raise standards within the industry.
There are still challenges in the creation of fit for purpose end point assessments by the assessment organisation, but the foundations have now been set to help facilitate a good quality standard, as one would expect from a craft level operative.
Chris Gray, September 24, 2016