The efforts of the Groundsmanship Trailblazer employer group are progressing well: I notice that the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills has today (29th April 2016) published the ‘Apprenticeship Assessment Plans – April 2016’ which includes the Assessment Plan for the Sports Turf Operative https://bisgovuk.citizenspace.com/apprenticeships/copy-of-apmarch
I’ve had a lot of input into formulating the core content of this Assessment Plan and am relieved it has reached the stage it has so far. Mind you it’s been a long journey as the Standard itself was approved last year (21st August 2015). https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apprenticeship-standard-sports-turf-operative
The full documentation for the draft Assessment Plan can be download here: Assessment Plan Sports Turf Operative Final Version April 2016
My thoughts on this are that it provides the means to significantly raise the standard of a craft operative (i.e. at level 2). One concern has been that apprentices following this new approach might end up failing the end of course assessments. The reason being that there are a range of written and practical assessments that are carried out by an external examiner/assessor who has no relationship with the employer, apprentice or training organisation that has delivered the training to the apprentice.
This is significantly different from the current approach (called the Apprenticeship Framework) where learners gradually complete units to a qualification, as a portfolio, and are signed off by the training organisation only when they are supposed to have achieved the required outcomes. Unfortunately, the assessor for the training organisation has a mutual interest in signing off units, almost irrespective of the actual competence of the learner during, so called, assessments. Maybe a little cynical, as clearly there are good training organisations delivering training, but unfortunately there are numerous questionable ones.
If this approach is continued for the new Apprentice Standard then poor performing training organisations will be easily shown up and will not be able to cover up their inadequacies. Part of the reason for the lower quality of organisations in the industry is the limited number of qualified and experienced trainers in groundsmanship; something which commenced with a downward spiral probably around the late 1980s to early 1990s at the time of CCT: Compulsory Competitive Tendering, within Local Authorities and the introduction of the NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications) in Amenity Horticulture (turf pathways) in about 1992.
Training organisations, especially the quality colleges, will see that there is greater flexibility in delivering the new Apprentice Standard (subject to approval of the draft Assessment Plan). There is a wide range of recommended training courses and qualifications which can be used as the ‘vehicle’ for the apprentice’s learning journey, with there being no compulsory qualification. It is recommended that a qualification is used to aid the apprentice on their way, as this can also act as helping the apprentice gain a credit, if not a full qualification if they are unable to achieve the standard itself. This is a concern by some in the industry, however, whilst this is an understandable position, the industry really needs to invest in the quality of the recruits and the training being delivered to ensure the prospects of achieving any supporting qualification and the assessments for the Standard itself are significantly increased. There does appear to be a little bit of talking down the industry and the technical skills actually need to maintain the range of surfaces. Maybe this is a reflection of the limited knowledge and skills of senior managers who make such comments, but I think this is not helpful to young people and actually does them a disservice.
I’m really looking forward to the Assessment Plan being given the go-ahead and the rolling out of the new Apprentice Standard. The industry now has an opportunity to demonstrate the high quality skills and knowledge needed to maintain and manage sports turf surfaces.
I’ll reflect more on this after the Assessment Plan is given the go-ahead!