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Christopher Douce

Enhancing Practice in Tripartite Review Meetings - Off-the-job training

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On the afternoon of 18 June 24, I attended a continuing professional development event which was designed for practice tutors (PTs) that were supporting the university’s degree apprenticeship scheme. The aim of the session was to talk about off the job time (which is sometimes referred to by the abbreviation OTJ). It was for PTs from all faculties: health and social care PTs, nursing PTs, business school PTs and computing and IT PTs.

The session was to explore “effective strategies for supporting apprentices with off-the-job training logs” and it would be “practical and action-focused, drawing on the latest best practice. It aimed to “apply relevant techniques to effectively review learner progress against relevant standards”, to “develop proactive approaches to engagement and support” and to help PTs to “critically reflect on professional practice against the competencies in the Tripartite Meeting Standards”.

This session was a series of other PT “talk and share” CPD sessions that was all about “enhancing practice in Tripartite Review Meetings”. Tripartite meetings are meetings which take place between a practice tutor, an apprentice, and their employer. Here is a list of other related events that have been designed:

  • Setting Personalized Goals and Objectives
  • Embedding & Reviewing Skills Scans
  • Active Listening
  • Working Effectively with Employers
  • British Values

What follows is a set of rough notes from the off-the-job training time event that I attended.

Off-the-job training

Every apprentice must complete 20% of off the job hours, which is a part of the apprenticeship agreement. These hours take place within regular working hours, but are distinct from work that is carried out that relates to employment.

OTJ training can take place in different locations, and must help with learning of skills that relate to knowledge, skills and behaviours. Different apprentices have different patterns, but they should take place on a weekly basis. If apprentices can’t complete their off the job learning, they must take a break in learning; it is that important.

Some definitions from the Department of Education of Skills were shared, to help to understand what is and what isn’t off the top time. For example, is the work directly relevant to the apprenticeship framework? Is it teaching new knowledge, skills and behaviours? Is it taking place within the apprentice’s normal working hours? It is not off the job time if it is about induction or “on-boarding” process, English or maths training, or progress reviews; there are not off-the-job time.

Although the discussions within the session were dominated by definitions of what off the job training is, there was some discussion about the ePortfolio (which is referred to as the ePad), and graphical wheels which summarises the apprentice’s status – most notably in terms of what knowledge, skills and behaviours they have acquired. This relates to the competencies that are fundamental to the apprenticeship. It is important that apprentices keep a detail of what they have done. Practice tutors need to make sure this happens, and they must check to ensure what they are doing with off the job time. Also, the apprenticeship team within the university reviews the records to make sure that study and skills development is taking place.

In the session, there was a useful link to a Myths and Facts resource from the Education and Skills funding agency. A key point in all of this is that off the job time doesn’t have to be provided in a classroom. In the context of the OU, this could be study time carried out at home (through distance learning), or dedicated chunks of time at the workplace.

A final point I noted was about the Skills Scan, which is a document (and a process) which helps to guide the evidencing of the apprenticeship KSBs. It was mentioned that this should be something that is carried out every 6 months. With the apprentices I support, I’ve been encouraging them to complete before every quarterly review, so we can prepare for a discussion.

Reflections

I’m pretty familiar with the notion of OTJ time, since it has been drummed into me over an extended period of time. In advance of quarterly review meetings (and between those meetings) I review what time is being recorded in the ePortfolio system. It was, however, good to have a clear and direct reminder about what OTJ time is, and what it isn’t. This was a popular session, with over 30 PTs finding the time to come along.

I have to confess to missing the first PT CPD event, which was about setting goals and objectives, which might have been useful. Out of all the events that have been advertised, the one about skills scans and the one about working effectively with employers sound the most interesting. These seem to combine together both process and conversation, which strikes me as helpful.

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