Apprenticeships are the perfect route for early years

Learning on the job enables people to put into practice the theory they are studying while hands-on engagement and day-to-day work rapidly build skills and confidence

Until recently, the most common entry point for early years apprentices was at Level 3 as they trained to be early years educators. This more senior role includes a supervisory element which some learners find daunting, especially if just out of school or with less life experience.

The Level 2 Early Years Practitioner standard is a more accessible way to enter the profession. Establishing a firm foundation on which to build a career pathway, this Level 2 standard brings early years training within reach for many learners. Meanwhile, for early years employers, this more accessible Level 2 standard is an effective recruitment tool, attracting those seeking a more manageable entry point for their career.

As the End-point Assessment (EPA) organisation for this Standard, Active IQ offers a robust set of resources to fully support the apprentice including:

  • Early Years Practitioner apprentice toolkit
  • Apprentice EPA timeline
  • eLearning support to prepare for the knowledge test
  • eLearning support to prepare for the professional discussion
  • KSB microlearning units
  • On-programme checklist
  • Mock knowledge tests
  • Gateway checklist

NMT spoke to Tad Chapman, Active IQ head of End-point Assessment.

What are the main challenges facing the early years sector and how can apprenticeships support the sector?

Like many sectors, recruiting and retaining staff in early years is a major concern right now. Indeed, even pre-pandemic there were significant challenges to the sector which have traditionally resulted in high staff turnover. Add to that the effect of the pandemic, which resulted in a significant decrease in demand during lockdowns as well as temporary and permanent setting closures (ref), and it was reported that 7% of staff voluntarily left the sector between August and November 2020 (ref) and you have the genesis of a staffing crisis. Apprenticeships can provide a clear career pathway, using the Level 2 as an entry point, Level 3 as progression and the newer Level 5 as an aspirational goal. There is even a Level 6 now in development.

What have been some of the positive outcomes from the training?

The Level 2 and 3 apprenticeships that Active IQ assess enable employers and employees to feel safe in the knowledge that both parties are committed to the role, with minimum durations of 12 months on-programme. Employers are more effectively able to pipeline their staffing levels with recruitment in mind, which means they can plan for new staff in good time, whilst developing and progressing current staff where required. The training – delivered by Active IQ’s expert training provider partners – continues to meet and exceed the expectations of employers up and down the country, and the ability of apprentices being assessed is wonderful to see. Apprentices themselves have been heartened by the prospect of starting a career journey, with opportunities for development and progression

What has the feedback been like from nurseries that have staff who have gone through or are going through the training?

Anecdotally, nurseries and other early years settings are turning in favour of apprenticeships (where previously just qualifications were requested in applying for roles) for the reasons above. Developing staff longer-term (and where they progress from Level 2 to Level 3) means more staffing consistency and nurseries are better able to cope with increased demand as lockdowns and the effects of the pandemic on early years settings are now easing.

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