Now more than ever, it is becoming increasingly important to give apprentices the opportunity to develop the hands-on skills, knowledge and behaviours they need to deliver in their future career as a confident and competent operational firefighter.
As a leading End-Point Assessment organisation, at SFJ Awards we understand the importance of ensuring the hard work spent developing an apprentice pays off when it comes to their EPA. Read more about what to expect from the Operational Firefighter EPA in our Frequently Asked Questions below.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How do you make sure apprentices stay on track with their training?
Meeting milestones for apprenticeship training is critical to make sure they are prepared for gateway and for their End-Point Assessment (EPA).
Constant monitoring should take place by the apprenticeship team, as well as watch and station managers to ensure the quality assurance of their training is upheld. Remote monitoring of training can be managed using an online platform to see how often apprentices are logging into their learning and progressing their training. It’s key that it’s the whole organisation’s responsibility, not just one person to manage.
Why is early engagement with SFJ Awards important for preparing for EPA?
We can help you understand the requirements by providing guidance in advance of EPA, as well as providing site visits to agree ways of working, preferred terminology, and the process.
Early dialogue with different types of employers is important, for example for apprentice firefighters working in defence and aviation, not just in Fire and Rescue services. Different employers may use different terminology, so we meet with your team to understand your requirements, ahead of EPA.
SFJ Awards will provide guidance documents which should be shared with all staff involved in the EPA process, so everyone is familiar with the requirements and what to expect.
What is involved in a site visit?
During a site visit before the EPA, we aim to find out key information like what facilities are available for the EPA, where will the professional discussion take place, what equipment is available for the practical assessment. It is also an opportunity for employers to ask us questions and get advice from our experts on what to expect for the EPA process, who is facilitating and what is needed to facilitare the practical assessment.
Here at SFJ Awards, we can also provide information sessions with apprentices to help answer common questions.
Findings from site visits and information sessions are often photographed to help independent assessors understand the facilities available.
Who is involved in the EPA process?
Many individuals from across your organisation should be involved in the EPA process, as well as experts from SFJ Awards. These often include training staff, talent coaches, station base personnel, the watch management team, and the apprentices – of course – who are all involved throughout the End-Point Assessment (EPA) process.
Why are regular review sessions held?
Regular review sessions are held with apprentices and their employers to help collate evidence of an apprentices knowledge, skills, and behaviours, to help them progress through Gateway and be prepared for End-Point Assessment.
What is needed for an apprentice to progress through gateway?
The three requirements to prepare apprentices for gateway are; ensuring the apprentice is working above the occupational standard, they have achieved a minimum Level 2 in Maths and English, they have a portfolio of evidence to underpin the professional discussion and demonstrate they meet the required KSBs. Without these three things, apprentices should not progress through Gateway.
What is a multi-choice knowledge test?
The multi-choice knowledge test is a 60-minute multi-choice mock test under exam conditions, consisting of 30 questions, and can be paper based or online, to assess apprentices on their knowledge skills and behaviours (KSBs). Marked out of 30, a score of 18/30 is a pass, and a score of 24/30 is a distinction.
What is a practical assessment?
Apprentices are assessed on their practical skills as part of the End-Point assessment process.
- A practical assessment involves an independent facilities / incident commander, who must not be known to the apprentice.
- The practical assessment will need representation from the employer to confirm the correct procedures and safe working practices are being followed.
- The assessment is designed to assess an apprentice as an individual, working in a team environment, the natural environment for a firefighter.
- The tasks in a practical assessment may include a search and rescue within a structure using firefighting equipment – a breathing apparatus task with a demonstration of compartment firefighting branch techniques. This may also incorporate simple working at height skills.
- A practical assessment may include extrication of casualties from a situation of entrapment – which could be anything, but to recognise the diversity of service provision across the country, most likely to be a road traffic collision.
- The task may also be to resolve a small spillage of hazardous material and perform initial decontamination with resources from front line pumps only, including MDTs. Unless specifically requested, this will not involve gas tight suits due to logistics and timings required, but it has been done and is possible.
What is a professional discussion?
A professional discussion is a two-way conversation between the assessor and apprentice. Assessors will measure the responses of the apprentice against the required KSBs (Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours), based on the Operational Firefighter Apprenticeship standard.
Preparation for the professional discussions starts with the creation of the portfolio of evidence from the apprentice. An independent assessor will use the given evidence to discuss the areas known by the apprentice as part of the professional discussion.
It’s important for the apprentice to practice, prepare and own the professional discussion, to help evidence their knowledge, skills, and behaviours.
How do you engage with station managers throughout EPA?
Listen to feedback from station managers who are involved with developing apprentices, seek their views, and ensure their concerns are addressed. Managers know the training requirements better than anyone, so developing the courses to suit the needs of their service is critical to ensure the right knowledge, skills and behaviours are assessed for their future firefighters.
How do you make sure apprentices stay on track with their training?
Meeting milestones for apprenticeship training is critical to make sure they are prepared for gateway and for their End-Point Assessment. Constant monitoring should take place by the apprenticeship team, as well as watch and station managers to ensure the quality assurance of their training is upheld. Remote monitoring of training can be managed using an online platform to see how often apprentices are logging into their learning and progressing their training. It’s key that it’s the whole organisation’s responsibility, not just one person to manage.
How do you start planning for EPA?
By contacting SFJ Awards, you can start planning your apprenticeship strategy in advance and support your apprentices to prepare for Gateway and End-Point Assessment. We provide regular consultation, one to one support, guidance documents and access to our online portal to track your apprentice’s progress.
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Get in touch with us to start planning your EPA strategy today!
If there’s anything we have not answered, feel free to reach out to us directly, and we may even add it to our FAQs!
SFJ Awards is the trusted End-Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO) for public sector apprenticeships in England. Learn more about what we can offer as an independent organisation delivering your EPA.