EPA – Spotlight on Portfolios

By Karen Egan

Having delivered over 10,000 EPAs now (across the City and Guilds Group) most of which include a portfolio of evidence within them, I thought it might be worth sharing with you some of the great practice we have seen and also challenges we have experienced along with some guidance to help your apprentices pass first time.

We’ve had some experience of excellent Portfolios and generally they include the following: 

  • Submissions are a showcase, are fully referenced and include just the amount of evidence to meet the Assessment Criteria and no more.
  • Clear referencing (ideally using the one supplied within the Customer EPA Guidance Pack. 
  • Folders within the Portfolio are accessible, opening without passwords or a need specialist software. 
  • There is a balance between knowledge and product evidence to demonstrate apprentices’ application of skills and this has been validated by a Manager or Peer Witness Testimony. 
  • Relevant product evidence demonstrates the level of the role and correct claim for competence. A range of evidence types are used throughout the Showcase Portfolio.
  • A good portfolio will have a balance of work product, professional discussion and witness testimony to demonstrate sufficient skills, knowledge and behaviours across the standard. 
  • If the apprentice is not responsible for managing a budget, the apprentice will have been given the opportunity to work within the finance team or to shadow a member of the finance team. They will have had opportunity to manage a limited budget themselves and be responsible for it so they can relate the management of that budget to governance and compliance in the wider organisation. There is often a witness testimony or observation submitted to evidence this against the standard and this reflects on the impact of the budget on the wider organisation.
  • Apprentices who have not been able to provide live data have used a case study wherein a budget spreadsheet is produced with a report to outline how this meets with governance and finance for an organisation. The apprentice will have included a reflection to support how they would manage it going forward.

So conversely where Portfolios are not demonstrating the above,  they are struggling to achieve a pass as the IEPAs can only mark the evidence that is available to them. And remember there are no compensating marks that can be picked up in the Competency Based Interview – it must stand on its own merit.

Here are a few pointers to help your apprentices to gain that first-time pass:

  • Remember this is a showcase portfolio – we only need the apprentice to show the criteria once – we don’t need to see the ‘journey’ they have taken.  Make sure all evidence is clearly referenced – we have provided a matrix for you to use – not mandatory but without a clear reference to where the evidence can be found it can be difficult to locate the evidence.
  • Increasingly within the portfolio documentation we’ve seen external links embedded. This is fine as it helps with document size; however please make sure that these links still work once they have left your systems.  IEPAs can only award marks for evidence they can  access and we are having portfolios fail because of this issue. 
  • Product Evidence – what do we mean by this?  Work products, Reports, Presentations, Agendas, Minutes/Actions from meetings the Apprentice has chaired etc.  Professional Discussions, Witness Statements and Reflective Statements are great but need to be supported by actual documentary evidence.
  • Witness Statements – can be weak making comments like “the Apprentice managed the meeting well” this does not show how the Apprentice met the specific criteria. Statements should include:
    • What the meeting was about
    • What the apprentice did
    • How they did it
  • Tutor Judgements – again similar to witness statements it is important that if tutors are undertaking an observation that they clearly describe what they observed and without a judgement– it is for the IEPA to make the judgement at EPA and they need to be able to see within the portfolio that it is the Apprentice that is demonstrating the KSBsof the Standard
  • Take a holistic approach and take a real work activity to show where the apprentice demonstrates the KSBs – an example might be managing a meeting, where activities could easily demonstrate skills in Leading People, Managing People and Communication etc.
  • And finally Begin (the Apprenticeship) with the End (point assessment) in Mind!  (Stephen Coveys Habit No2 of highly effective people!) Ensure you are clear from the beginning of the requirements of the EPA and encourage the Apprentice to gather their evidence while on programme that will meet the requirements if the EPA so that you are not duplicating effort.

Don’t forget to register for the reminding Apprenticeship / EPA events hosted by Karen Egan.

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