Apprenticeships and EPA

This page covers:

  • What is an apprenticeship?
  • Trailblazer groups
  • Apprenticeship standards
  • Assessment plans
  • End-point assessment (EPA)
  • Useful weblinks

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a job with training. It enables someone to develop and demonstrate the knowledge, skills and behaviours they need to perform effectively in a particular occupation. This is defined in the apprenticeship standard (scroll down for more information). 

Apprenticeships (in England) aim to:

  • give employers control in designing the apprenticeship programmes
  • increase the flexibility of delivery
  • simplify the funding system
  • increase the effectiveness of training.

Apprentices are aged 16 or over and will have a contract of employment. They will be employees of the company which takes them on. They must be paid at least the appropriate rate of the minimum wage for the duration of their apprenticeship, although many employers pay more.

Apprenticeship programmes must last a minimum of 12 months, with 20% of the time as structured off-the-job training (for example one day per week at a college - known as on-programme training). The apprentice must be knowledgeable and competent in their occupation before end-point assessment (EPA) takes place.

On-programme training is learning which is undertaken outside the normal day-to-day working environment and contributes towards the achievement of the apprenticeship. Although this can include training that is delivered at the apprentice’s normal place of work, it must not be delivered as part of their normal working duties. The on-programme training must be directly relevant to the apprenticeship.

Resources and guidance from the Education and Training Foundation are available: 

Trailblazer groups

Apprenticeships are developed by trailblazer groups. These are groups which:

  • have a wide range of employers who are committed to working actively on the development of a new apprenticeship standard, and intend to use the apprenticeship standard once it’s been approved for delivery
  • have at least 10 different employers as members (in addition to any professional bodies, trade associations, who want to be involved)
  • reflect the range of companies which employ people in the occupation – including size, geographical spread and sector. Any trailblazer group should normally include at least 2 employers with fewer than 50 employees. 


Apprenticeship standards

Each apprenticeship training programme will have an apprenticeship standard, produced by the Trailblazer group for the particular subjectThe standard will be used by the person training the apprentice on behalf of an organisation which is on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers to ensure all aspects are met. 

The apprenticeship standard outlines details of:
  • the occupation/job profile
  • the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to perform the job role
  • entry requirements
  • the level of the programme and the typical time allowed to achieve it
  • whether any qualifications are also included which must be achieved prior to the apprentice taking the end-point assessment, along with any other subjects such as English and maths
  • links to relevant professional association registration and progression (if applicable)
  • when the standard will be reviewed.

The standard should not be treated like a list which is ticked off when the apprentice has achieved something. This is often referred to as the tick box culture, i.e. ticking things off and then moving on to something else. Whilst the apprentice might feel they have achieved something, they might not be able to competently do it again in a month’s time, or when they will be formally assessed (by end-point assessment) at the end of their training programme. The apprentice will need to demonstrate their competence over time, not just on one occasion.  

You can view various Apprenticeship standards at this link:

Assessment plans

In England, the term assessment plan for an apprenticeship programme is not the same as an assessment plan for a learner working towards a qualification. An apprenticeship assessment plan outlines the way in which the full programme will be delivered, assessed and quality assured for a particular occupation. It might or might not also include a relevant qualification. If it does, the normal qualification requirements of formative and summative assessment will apply.

Whilst the nature and methods of assessment will differ between occupations and job roles, all assessment plans will focus on the end-point assessment process.

The assessment plan will set out measures for internal quality assurance which each Apprentice Assessment Organisation (AAO) will need to undertake to ensure quality and consistency. This may include assessor experience and qualifications, training and checks.

External quality assurance will be by one of the following: 

• Employer-led 

• Professional body  

• Ofqual 

• Institute for Apprenticeships 

You can view various assessment plans by clicking on the relevant standard at this link:

End-point assessment

End-point assessment (EPA) is carried out at the end of an apprentice's training programme. It is performed by someone other than the person who has been involved with training the apprentice. It often takes place at an Apprentice Assessment Organisation (AAO) away from the usual work place.


If you are the apprentice’s trainer, you will need to prepare your apprentice for end-point assessment and will need to see the assessment plan (see section above) to find out what’s involved. For example, ensuring your apprentice knows how to take part in a professional discussion, prepare for a test or give a presentation. Your training organisation will need to liaise with the apprentice's employer and the end-point assessment organisation to arrange assessment. You will need to know when your apprentice is ready to progress to the end-point assessment process. This is known as the 'gateway'. Formative assessment should take place throughout the training period, to ensure the apprentice is progressing. All training organisations must be on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers.

Most apprenticeship programmes are graded pass, merit, distinction or not yet achieved (NYA) and the apprentice must pass the end-point assessment to achieve their apprenticeship. It might be possible for them to re-take an assessment if they fail.

The EPA organisation must be approved by the Education and Skills Funding Agency and be on the Register of Apprentice Assessment Organisations.

If the apprentice is also working towards a qualification, it’s probable you will be able to train as well as assess, providing you meet the requirements of the qualification’s assessment strategy. This can be found in the relevant awarding organisation's qualification specification for the subject. However, you will only be assessing towards the qualification, not the apprenticeship programme.

End-point assessment occurs at the end of the apprentice's training programme and is based on the content of the assessment plan, which will:

  • explain in detail what will be assessed (i.e. the knowledge, skills and behaviours which the apprentice must be able to demonstrate.)
  • state how the apprentice will be assessed (i.e. which method or methods will be used to judge competency at the end of the apprenticeship programme).
  • indicate who will carry out the assessment (i.e. who will be the assessor(s) for each aspect of the end-point assessment) and who will make the final decision regarding the competency and grading descriptors. Grades of distinction, merit, pass and not yet achieved (NYA) will be used.
  • propose quality assurance arrangements to make sure that the assessment is reliable and consistent across different locations, employers, training and assessment organisations.

If you are an end-point assessor, your role will NOT include training your apprentices towards the aspects which you will assess. You will therefore be working for an apprenticeship assessment organisation (AAO) and should never have met the apprentice prior to assessing them. 

If you are thinking of becoming an end-point assessor, you can find free online courses and information here:

Resources for end-point assessment can be found here.

Useful weblinks