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DTSP PT Training: KSBs, Skills scan, planning, action and impact

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On 9 September 22, I attended a Digital and Technology Solutions (DTS) degree apprenticeship practice tutor (PT) training event, hosted by Chris Thompson from the School of Computing and Communications. I attended this event as a degree apprenticeship practice tutor.

What follows is a brief set of notes from the event, which might be helpful to fellow practice tutors, or any other colleagues who play a role within the DTS scheme.

For reference KSB refers to: Knowledge skills and behaviours. 

PT job description

One of the first slides reiterated the PT job description. 

Key points of the role include: to support each learner; to be a key point of contact; to prepare and support learners to commence their studies; maintain relationships between different stakeholders; to conduct review meetings; to coach and develop each learner to integrate academic learning with their professional work; and to guide each learner to develop a portfolio of evidence to demonstrate their technical competencies as required by the apprenticeship framework. 

When speaking to apprentices and employers, I emphasise my role in very similar terms, referring myself as being a bit of ‘glue’ between the academic study, and the apprenticeship.

ESFA requirements

ESFA is an abbreviation for the Education and Skills Funding Agency. We were directed to the Further Education and Skills Inspection handbook (pdf).

A point was made that each progress review should cover points p60.1 through to p60.7. These relate to: checking of progress against agreed actions; gathering of off-the-job training evidence; checking progress against a training plan; provide an opportunity to update the training plan; discuss concerns; discuss changes of circumstances; and agree and document actions, and have the progress review signed by all parties.

Inspection

Each degree apprenticeship programme is potentially subjected to an inspection. We were directed to another resource: the education inspection framework (pdf).

Ofsted are particularly interested in the impact of education and will look to evidence of progress. One of the notes I made during this section was about looking for evidence of where the apprentice started, and where are they heading to. One aspects of the practice tutor role is, of course, to be the glue, and to integrate everything together.

Practice tutors need to know core skills apprentices should be working towards gaining, and what is being taught through the academic content. If the work that the apprentice is currently carrying out doesn’t relate to the academic modules, it is a responsibility of the practice tutor to speak with the apprenticeship team.

Skills Scan

The skills scan is a document. Some apprentices may have completed their skills scan when they have started, and this should have been uploaded to the ePortfolio system. If a skills scan document doesn’t exist, it is important that a practice tutor asks the apprentice, or the APDM, if one has been completed.

One of the roles of the PT is to take what has been written on skills scan and relates it to the modules they are studying and the work the apprentice is performing. The skills, in turn, are related to the KSB criteria, and the PT needs to check through a skills scan document to make sure that everything makes sense.

Module briefing documents

PTs have access to something called module briefing documents. These summarise what KSBs are taught in which module. There is also a mapping of learning outcomes to modules, since some LOs are repeated across the curriculum. There is also a summary of what happens and when. In any 12 week progress review, there will be some items that have been covered since the last tripartite review meeting.

Tripartite meeting preparation

The first tripartite reviews is to take place within 4 weeks of an apprentice starting the programme, and the second one is expected to be face-to-face (unless good reason not to), another one within the 12 weeks. Over a period of a year, there should be 5 progress reviews within a year (which are fully documented within the ePortfolio tool).

The university is going to be publishing some further guidance about tripartite meetings, and more detailed will be provided within forthcoming PT training. The expectation is that all PTs will be expected to carry out to cover the same kinds of topics.

I made a note of suggested agenda items for a review. These included: actions from previous review, TMAs and EMAs, recording off the job time, KSBs, and English and maths skills. 

Key actions during the meetings included: updating the skills scan based upon their development of the knowledge, skills and behaviours (ticking things off); encouraging the apprentice to reflect on their role, responsibilities and progress (to add value for the employer); clarification of agreed actions to be completed by all, before the meeting. Also, connect employer targets to the apprenticeship programme. 

Other actions during the meetings may also include discussing any changes to working hours, career development, leave and opportunity for reflections, and ensuring that timesheets are completed and signed off.

Main tasks of the tripartite meeting

The PT must understand what KSBs apprentice needs to demonstrate to become competent at work and find ways to enable them to do this. Specifically, a PT must ensure that everyone has a good understanding of what is involved. The skills scan is considered to be the apprentice’s starting point, and is a tool used by the PT to find out about the progress they are making. 

During the meeting, the review meeting, the role of the PT is to discuss with the employer about possibilities in which they may be able to apply the KSBs, and achieving these should be evidenced in the ePortfolio tool.

Induction materials

The Computing apprenticeship team has been updating the induction materials that are available to new apprentices. There is a new area called “your study plan” which emphasises what needs to be done within the first 12 weeks of study. It also offers an introduction to each year.

Summary

The takeaway points from this session reflects the title. The main takeaway point is about KSBs; knowledge skills and behaviours. These need to be demonstrated in an apprentice’s 80% of workplace time, rather than the 20% of their academic study time. This also connects to the point that PTs play a fundamental role in ensuring that academic study is linked to work-based learning.

Another point is that the skills scan document plays an important role in relating what is done to the KSBs. On reflection, I need to make sure that I bring the skills scan document into my own practice. This will help me to gain evidence of an apprentice gaining their KSBs, which then, in turn, must be recorded within the ePortfolio.

A couple of new things for me were the module briefing documents, and the new induction materials. Before my next tripartite review, I plan to look through all these materials, to make sure I can share these with both employees and apprentices.

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Digital Technologies Solutions Professional (DTSP) PT Training

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Wednesday, 27 Jul 2022, 11:21

In my capacity as a degree apprentice practice tutor, I’m invited to a regular professional development and update meeting which currently takes place on the second Friday of each month. At the time of writing, these meetings are hosted by two colleagues: Chris Thompson and Andy Hollyhead.

This blog post shares a set of notes that were made during a PT training meeting that took place on 8 July 22. The key points on the agenda were, broadly:

  • The OU Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) and our response
  • F2F meeting update
  • Good academic conduct for apprentices

ePortfolio update

The university is introducing a new ePortfolio tool, moving from the current system, which is called OneFile, to a different product. Accounts are currently being created, and training will be provided in September 22 with a view to using it from the beginning of October, when new groups are created. Files and records, such as timesheets will (I understand) be moving between the systems.

Quality improvement plan

A quality improvement plan has been put together by the university following the production of an OU annual self-assessment report (which is an internal evaluation about the quality of the degree apprenticeship provision).

Some key points that are to be looked at as a part of the plan include:

  • Targeted CPD throughout the year, which includes the further development of a supportive observation process to help develop practice, to ensure all PTs and ALs are provided with development opportunities to enable others to become outstanding. Practice tutor meetings are being observed.
  • An intention to link observational practice and improvement to the tutor CDSA process to ensure all apprentices are identified (or presented) in terms of having a RAG status (red, amber, and green), and have individual action plans.
  • Increasing the frequency of contact for learners who are red or amber: If an apprentice is flagged as being amber or red, there’s an additional meeting (which can be claimed back as an additional support session) and there is an action plan that is to be completed, and another follow up meeting in a month’s time.
  • Review all apprentice progress monthly, including a review of individual plans where apprentice progress is rated red or amber.
  • Ensure practice tutors use ‘starting points’ to inform learning plans: the next intake, aim to get a skills audit and commitment statement early, so students can speak about them during the early meeting, to gain a detailed understanding of the needs of students.
  • Practice tutors will begin to discuss ‘next steps’ with apprentices, to understand what their intentions beyond their apprenticeship. I have noted down the point: start picking up at each progress review, to facilitate a career related discussion.
  • Upskill practice tutors to ensure that knowledge, skills and behaviours are reviewed throughout all stages
  • Ensure attendance of apprenticeship mentor (line manager/supervisor) at all Tripartite Review meetings: someone who represents the organisation, needs to be at the meeting. If this doesn’t happen, there should be referrals to the university apprenticeship programme delivery managers (ADPMs).
  • Improve the recording of off the job training: apprentices are told to record their timesheets. This is known to be a contractual obligation. The employer line manager and apprentice has to know that timesheets need to be recorded. If they are no doing this, this needs to be escalated, through the APDMs. If no responses, then the processes for removal from the programme may be instigated. There needs to be an entry every 4 weeks, to show that the apprentice is in learning.
  • Ensure all apprentices receive the minimum number of reviews regularly: every apprentice must have 4 reviews. The only exception is if they have a break in learning.
  • Enhance supportive measure to keep apprentices in learning: develop better monitoring of apprentices, between modules.

A return to face-to-face review meetings

From 1 August 2022, practice tutors are allowed to return to face to face reviews. There should be one face to face every year, and a maximum gap of 15 weeks between each review, and evidence of the planning of the next review (which should be captured on the ePortfolio).

Apprentices returning following a study break

A study break is, simply put, a period of time when an apprentice is not studying their academic of work-based modules. A break in learning might occur due to personal commitments. Apprentices should have the review within 4 weeks of returning to study. Also, a conversation is needed early on during the apprentice’s study of a programme to ensure they are on the right programme.

For the formal part of the meeting, the apprentice, line manager, and the practice tutor must be present. If it is a face-to-face meeting, and there isn’t a line manager, try to find a delegate. It is a funding requirement that these meetings take place. They should, ideally be scheduled two weeks in advance.

If there are students returning from a break in learning, get in contact with them two months before their restart, to make sure they feel they are ready to start learning. Also, ensure they are recording on the job timesheets to provide evidence of study.

Lone working guidance

The university has now prepared some new guidance about lone working, which is appropriate for when practice tutors visit an employer. There’s a checklist, and an accompanying risk assessment, for visiting locations. Practice tutors must review this official guidance when planning a first progress review meeting.

Good academic conduct for apprentices

Good academic conduct is important. In the apprenticeship context, a group of apprentices might start working at an organisation at the same time. Whilst it is certainly okay that peers gain support from each other, and collaborate closely on work tasks, peers should not collaborate with each other when it comes to working on and submitting academic assessments (unless group work is specifically required on an assessment task).

During this session Andy Hollyhead shared a number of slides from a fellow Practice Tutor, Stewart Long. The presentation (which could be shared with apprentices) covers the topic of plagiarism and the difference between collaboration and collusion.

Further information about study skills is available through an earlier blog post and also from the OU Study Skills website, which provides links to some really useful booklets.

Reflections

One of the good things about this session is that it offered reassurance about the things that I am doing well and also offered some helpful guidance about what I should be doing, and ought to be doing more of. 

A particularly interesting point is the link between the apprentice, the employer, and their wider career aspirations. I’m very much a subject specialist, rather than a careers specialist, but I’m certainly draw on my own knowledge of roles and opportunities with the IT and Computing sector and bring them into discussions with apprentices. This said, I do feel that this is an area that I need to develop, or get a bit more knowledgeable about.

I was particularly encouraged that I was doing the right things, in terms of planning for review meetings with employers and apprentices. One thing I do need to do is expose more of the actions that I am taking. Just as the apprentice must record off the job training, in the form of timesheets, I also need to make sure that the scheduled review dates are recorded within the ePortfolio, to ensure that colleagues within the apprenticeship team can see what is scheduled. I have all the dates in my Outlook calendar. I need to transfer them to OneFile (and, eventually, the new ePorfolio system, when it is introduced).

More information about the OU degree apprenticeships are available through the OU Apprenticeship pages.

Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 30 Jul 2022, 06:11)
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