How a mentor impacts apprentice progression

How a mentor impacts apprentice progression

In this month’s column, Gemma Westlake explores the role of the mentor and how it relates to the progression of an apprentice.

Well, what a crazy start to the year we’ve had! I hope you are well and have managed to stay safe and happy. It feels like a lifetime ago, but last month we looked at the Apprenticeship Levy, trying to understand what it is, and what it could mean for you and your business. This time around, we are looking in a little more detail at the role of the mentor and what to expect of our apprentices.

You may have experience of workplace assessors. Previously, their job was to visit your apprentice on a regular basis and assess their progress through the observation of set tasks. I remember the day my assessor turned up to watch me remove and replace a timing belt on a Transit (I started my career in a van centre), although my assessor was lovely and did everything to put me at ease – as a level one learner I was extremely nervous. He arrived with the Automotive Head of Department from my college and the EQA (External Quality Assurer), and it remains a day that I remember well when I visit apprentices.

There is a bit of an art to making someone feel comfortable while you are scrutinising how they work, and this was a critical aspect to the job of the assessor. However, the role has changed. Over the last few years, employers have become much more involved in the outcome of their apprentice, and after discussions between the government and several employers, new standards were introduced that changed the role from ‘assessor’ to ‘mentor’.

With the new standards, apprentices are allocated a mentor who maintains regular contact with the learner. However, the mentor no longer carries out the assessments. Instead, apprentices are given access to an online logbook. Through this system, learners complete questionnaires and upload photographic evidence, along with job cards signed and dated by both the learner and employer (or allocated workplace mentor/supervisor) to cover tasks set out by the awarding body. Alongside the practical elements, exams are also taken.

You see, it is now the employer’s responsibility to decide when their team member is competent and ready to move forward. This makes a lot of sense considering it will be their business and reputation on the line when the apprentice becomes a qualified technician. A mentor today is there to ensure that the learner has completed all the tasks correctly, taken and passed any relevant exams, and uploaded evidence of this. They are a means of support for both the learner and employer, liaising with the garage in order to agree when the learner is ready to take a gateway assessment.

So, what tasks can an apprentice expect? As a newbie, they will be expected to show soft skills and behaviours such as effective communication and working as a team member. After that, they will start to gather proof of simple workshop tasks such as servicing. Moving forward will then involve simple remove and refit tasks, as well as simple diagnostics and repair, before completing complex processes. There are gateway assessments to complete along the way, and when all the evidence is gathered, including F Gas, English, and Maths, an agreement can be made between the mentor and employer for their apprentice to be booked in for their EPA (End Point Assessment).

Please do join me next time where we can look at the EPA in more detail along with the impact that COVID has had/is having on apprenticeships. Until then…stay safe!

Gemma is a lecturer at Basingstoke College of Technology. To find out what goes on there, click here.

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