Probably like many of us in Training and Competence I have spent much of my time working with colleagues who are already experienced professionals already in the firm or experienced joiners from another firm. So when I was offered the opportunity to work with young people starting their Financial Services career through a comprehensive training programme I jumped at the chance to experience their road to success as an End Point Assessor (EPA).
The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) offer a growing number of apprenticeship standards creating opportunities in Financial Services to not only become qualified through the programme but also to attain a recognised accreditation of competency in the selected role.
As a professional assessor I’m really pleased to see that there are a lot of young people either joining the industry or progressing their career through the various programmes that are available such as individual standards including administration, compliance, para-planning and financial adviser as well as the longer term opportunity to progress from one standard to another.
portfolio can consist of written or project work, performance reviews, Continued Professional Development, witness and reflective statements, case studies and professional conversation records
For those of you not familiar with apprenticeship standards these are programmes usually lasting between twenty-four and thirty-six months during which the apprentices (we refer to them as learners) undertake a series of validation criteria ranging from industry examinations through to building a substantial portfolio evidencing their accomplishments. The learner’s firm will sponsor the programme which includes both on the job training and external support from a training provider.
The sheer amount of work involved is astounding, but then many of the learners will have not been too long out of higher education and therefore more accustomed to working for and sitting examinations than most. For example an apprentice para-planner will need to sit at least four CII examinations to attain the Level 4 certificate. Then they need to construct their portfolio for their final assessment in the programme which will include a lot of evidence drawn from their day to day work. And of course they also have to do the day job as well.
The apprenticeship standards cover a range of learning outcomes set out in three categories for Knowledge, Skills, and Behaviours. The learners’ portfolio can consist of written or project work, performance reviews, Continued Professional Development, witness and reflective statements, case studies and professional conversation records. Witness statements are made by somebody other than the learner who has observed the leaner do something. Reflective statements are made by the leaners themselves and are similar in nature to the reflective statement made in a CPD entry but have to include additional evidence i.e. photocopies, screen prints etc. This is on top of studying for, attaining and including the relevant qualifications in the portfolio. The training provider will collate everything (a considerable amount of paperwork) and when everything is ready the entire portfolio is sent to the EPA who will then check and grade the leaners evidence of accomplishments against the standards as a final assessment, and award them with their certification.
The role of the EPA covers a variety of T&C and compliance skills such as file checking, regulations, monitoring, observation, conversation and feedback. The EPA has to check each piece of evidence to ensure they meet the set criteria against the standards, and there has to be more than one piece of evidence. Recorded professional conversations need to be reviewed. For some standards a professional conversation is carried out between the EPA and the trainee to verify or clarify elements of the trainees’ portfolio, however this is by telephone or skype as the EPA does not meet the learner. Written interim feedback may be given by the EPA where there is insufficient or missing evidence but the EPA cannot tell the trainee what to do, only what is needed. The whole process relies on a three way communication set-up between the learner, the training provider, and the EPA.
There are benefits for all involved. The learner gets a recognised accreditation of competency in the selected role. The sponsoring firm gets a huge amount of assistance from the training provider in getting the learner into a qualified position. The training provider gets credit for successful outcomes. The EPA gets to employ their skills and knowledge against a variety of cases, and give something back to the industry as a whole.
Some might, I suppose, put forward a case for the lack of credibility for so young a financial adviser, at least from an experience perspective and also how clients might react, for example how would a sixty year old client with half a million pounds to invest feel if the adviser was in their early twenties? Certainly the case could be accepted for lack of field experience. However there are many advisory positions that don’t require meeting clients, and certainly the learners won’t lack technical ability whilst building experience, if that’s the route they choose to go.
Whatever your thoughts these learners are the industry’s future, and in my personal opinion a hugely worthwhile investment by all involved. So why not get involved yourself?