Firstly, I hope all of you had a Happy Easter, even though I know many of you will have missed being with family and friends. I don't know about you, but COVID has meant that I've had to get up to speed with the kind of social media technology my children take for granted. These days our entire social lives are conducted remotely; with the highlight of Saturday night being a 'Zoom' quiz or Bingo, both online and with varying degrees of success.
I guess one thing this time is teaching us, is that we are all more adaptable than we might think we are, and that we human beings are natural problem solvers.
It's nothing short of remarkable how the food industry has adapted in response to the Coronavirus crisis, both in finding ways of scaling up production to keep supermarket shelves stocked and getting food out to those who can't safely shop in store. This week the BBC reported that Tesco have increased their online capacity by 103% in a matter of weeks, something which would normally take years to achieve. And while people are shopping less frequently, their basket size has doubled.
I'm also heartened by stories of our centres using IT creatively to deliver remote learning wherever and whenever possible. Shout out here to Jake Maddox from Shropshire Training, who worked with us on his plans to successfully deliver training sessions using online technology. If you also have innovative ideas for delivering training remotely please talk to us.
Although I know it's still frustrating times for many of you, after reading our newsletter I hope you'll agree that there are positive moves afoot for our sector. Both in my capacity as CEO of FDQ and Vice Chair of FAB I'd like to assure you that I am championing the cause of qualifications and end-point assessment at the highest level and will continue to do so, with you, our customers in mind.
As always, please don't hesitate to get in touch if you need any support or advice.
COVID-19 RELATED INFORMATION
FDQ given green light to develop COVID-19 compliant EPA for Level 2 Food and Drink Process Operator (FDPO) Apprenticeship
We're delighted to report that the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education has approved the application to deliver a modification to the current end-point assessment during the COVID period for the Level 2 FDPO apprenticeship standard. This will enable these 'key worker apprentices' in our hugely important food manufacturing sector to complete their apprenticeships and apply their new skills to the task of maintaining reliable food supplies at this critical time for our nation.
In recent days the Institute has issued a list of temporary discretions or flexibilities for around 70 standards. The FDPO approval is the first for the food industry and is expected to be added to the official register, available here.
FDQ is continuing to look at flexibilities and innovations that could make end-point assessment feasible during the COVID-19 period for some of our other apprenticeship standards. We will keep all our customers updated should this become possible. Ultimately, the final decision on whether to allow flexibilities rests with the Institute.
Already FDQ have developed a method for your apprentices to complete their MCQ/knowledge tests online. We'll be talking to centres about the roll-out of this service in the coming weeks. In the meantime Joe Seddon may be able to answer any queries. Contact him at fdq@FDQ.org.uk.
Department for Education relaxes functional skills rule for Level 2 apprentices
Ofqual have confirmed that due to COVID-19 the requirement for Level 2 apprentices to attempt level 2 Maths and English functional skills before taking their end-point assessment is now 'temporarily suspended.' The relaxation only applies to apprentices on level 2 standards and will apply to those due to take their EPA before 31st July. This means we can accept your apprentices into Gateway without evidence that they have attempted the Level 2 test.
Providers will need to supply an explanation in the form of a dated note added to the evidence pack stating that the test was not taken due to revised guidance during the COVID-19 period. Please note that Level 2 apprentices will still need to have achieved level 1 functional skills before completing their apprenticeship.
There is no change to apprenticeships at Level 3 or higher. Apprentices will, as currently, be required to have achieved the level 2 functional skills in Maths and English before completing their final assessment.
Ofqual publish consultation on exceptional arrangements for assessment and grading of 2020 Vocational Technical Qualifications (VTQs)
This much awaited guidance on qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales was issued on Friday 24 April as a set of proposals, which Ofqual are consulting on with stakeholders. The stated aims of these proposals are:
to ensure students can receive grades in vocational and technical qualifications this summer so they can progress to the next stages of their lives without further disruption
that the grades will be as valued as those of any other year
that the approach will be fair
For FDQ centres the focus is on students who were expecting to complete their qualifications between 20th March 31st July 2020.
Our Quality team, who are now back to full strength, are reviewing the proposals in detail and considering the implications for each FDQ qualification. Once Ofqual finalise their requirements we'll be issuing our own FDQ guidance to centres, in relation to the qualifications offered, as soon as possible. In the meantime, anyone with concerns can contact us at fdq@FDQ.org.uk and we'll do our best to help.
Those interested in responding to the consultation can do so here. The consultation ends on 8th May.
In recognition of the huge challenges facing the training sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, a support package has recently been announced for training providers delivering to non-levy paying employers. The window for applications is short, but at least the deadline has now been extended to midnight 3rd May.
The relief scheme will be available initially for April-June to support cash-flow during this period. Funding will be based on a three-month average taken from the ILR submission for January to March.
There are several criteria providers must meet to access the scheme. One of the most important is that they must un-furlough staff and make every effort to have contact with and continue delivering training for their apprentices. They should also have submitted their latest financial accounts to the ESFA on time and be able to demonstrate qualification achievement rates of above 40% for 2018-19. Any providers interested in applying for this relief package must do so today, as the short window for applications closes at midnight on 30th April. Find more information, including application templates here.
Department for Education updates COVID-19 guidance
Hopefully our COVID update in this month's newsletter will have answered the majority of your questions, but for anything we haven't covered you may find the answer in the DoE's updated guidance. The guidance includes more information on calculating furloughed apprentices wages, collecting signatures, flexibilities for EPA and a useful FAQs section.
Just to remind centres that certification runs will be operating us usual every Thursday, though for the time being certificates will be offered in PDF format only. Claimed PDF certificates can be downloaded on FDQAwards from Thursday evening. Printed certificates will be issued as soon as it is possible to do so (due to COVID-19 restrictions).
Owing to the COVID-19 restrictions apologies but we've had to postpone the following events. We will look to reschedule them as soon as possible, though if not practical we will plan to hold webinars instead. Of course, we love meeting our customers in person, but even despite COVID this isn't always practical. Webinars have proven to be a successful means of keeping us all up to date in these times of social distancing, and are likely to continue to be used in the future where appropriate.
9th June - Northern Ireland Briefing
18th June Bakery Briefing (if possible, to be re-arranged in conjunction with the ABST conference as before)
A belated 'Thank you' to Thwaites Brewery who hosted our EPA Business Manager, Kevin Meades alongside Kathy Merrett, our Quality and Performance Manager and our first team of examiners at their brewery near Preston back on 4th March.
Thwaites Head Brewer, Mark O'Sullivan was kind enough to allow our examiners to 'walk-through' a practical brewing assessment which gave us useful 'real life' practise of the examining materials we have developed.
We look forward to accepting applications for this EPA later in the year. Anyone wanting to register an interest and be first in the queue for when we re-start bookings for end-point assessments please email us at EPA@fdq.org.uk.
Congratulations to our Quality Officer, Kiera Stones, who has just completed the Level 3 Business Administrator Apprenticeship Standard and the Level 3 Diploma in Business Administration, passing her end-point assessment with a Distinction. As an EPAO we are always keen to hear about EPAs from a learner perspective, to help us refine and improve our services. Here's what Kiera had to say about hers:
'The independent examiner made me feel really at ease. I found the experience challenging in a good way as it allowed me to show off my strengths. I was nervous on the day of my EPA, but I had practised my presentation a few times before to ensure I knew exactly what I was going to say. My assessor was really helpful and gave me confidence to do well on my EPA date. I think it's extremely important to give yourself a lot of time to get to the EPA so you are not rushing as it causes excess stress that is not needed. Being confident in yourself matters because this will come across to the examiner in the EPA. I also think it's important to talk to your examiner beforehand as this will make you more at ease. If I had to do my EPA again I would revise more for the MCQ part as that's the part I found most challenging on the day.'
Approval received for Level 3 Food and Drink Maintenance Engineer EPA
As part of our strategy for expanding our food industry end-point assessment service we have successfully applied to deliver EPA for the Food and Drink Maintenance Engineer Standard and now appear on the IFATE's register of approved end-point assessment organisations for this standard. We're now working on further developing our assessment instruments and plan to be in a position to deliver this as soon as it is practical to do so.
We'd like you to join us in welcoming our newest team member, Helen King, into the FDQ fold. As Quality and Compliance Manager, Helen will be supporting FDQ's quality assurance team in making sure our products comply with regulatory requirements. Her responsibilities also include the design, development and implementation of new qualifications and supporting materials as well as supporting quality assurance of our all our centres.
Helen has over 20 years' experience in vocational education and work-based learning. She has developed a range of qualifications, assessment products and apprenticeship frameworks, across a variety of industries; working for and with training providers, employers, awarding and end-point assessment organisations.
An advocate of lifelong learning she also recently completed an MA in Technical Communication and E-Learning, which will be put to good effect developing usable, learner friendly documents and assessment materials for FDQ.
When not at work Helen can often be found taking long walks in the North York Moors and stopping off to sample some Yorkshire food and drink along the way!
Worldskills Butchery Competition entry deadline looming
Butchers wishing to enter this competition have just a few days to get their applications in, as entries close on 5th May. Regional heats are likely to be delayed until September owing to Coronavirus restrictions.
"Our number one priority is the safety of all," said Katy Godsell, Marketing Manager for pan Wales training provider Cambrian Training who co-ordinates the butchery competition for WorldSkills UK.
"We appreciate that butchers across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are very busy supporting the heroic work to keep us all fed throughout this crisis. Hopefully, they can spare the time to complete their free competition registrations before the May 5 deadline."
Butchers can register online at Worldskillsuk.org and more information about the competition can be found at here
Terry Fennell took part in Skills World LIVE debate: 'Should the skills sector get its own bailout?'
Sponsored by FE News, our CEO contributed to this topical debate which took place last Friday. You can listen to it here.
Extensions to Operational End Dates for FDQ qualifications in Northern Ireland
FDQ is pleased to advise centres that we have extended the Operational End Date (the last registration date) of the following qualifications until 31 December 2023 in Northern Ireland.
The Proficiency qualifications are included in the NI Level 2 Food and Drink Apprenticeship Framework pathways. FDQ have extended these qualifications to align them with CCEA requirements and to allow centres to continue to offer these qualifications to apprentices in Northern Ireland.
Operational End Date
FDQ Level 2 Certificate for Proficiency in Meat and Poultry Industry Skills
FDQ Level 2 Certificate for Proficiency in Baking Industry Skills
FDQ Level 2 Diploma for Proficiency in Baking Industry Skills
FDQ Level 2 Certificate for Proficiency in Food Industry Skills
FDQ Level 2 Certificate for Proficiency in Food Manufacturing Excellence
FDQ Level 2 Diploma for Proficiency in Food Manufacturing Excellence
FDQ Level 2 Certificate for Proficiency in Fish and Shellfish Industry Skills
FDQ Level 2 Certificate for Proficiency in Brewing Industry Skills
FDQ Level 2 Diploma for Proficiency in Brewing Industry Skills
FDQ Level 2 Certificate for Proficiency in Dairy Industry Skills
FDQ Level 2 Certificate for Proficiency in Fresh Produce Industry Skills
FDQ Level 2 Diploma for Proficiency in Fresh Produce Industry Skills
FDQ Level 2 Certificate for Proficiency in Food Team Leading
The extensions also ensure all FDQ qualifications in the NI Apprenticeship Framework have the same Operational Date, as we previously extended the following four qualifications:
Operational End Date
FDQ Level 2 Diploma for Proficiency in Baking Industry Skills
FDQ Level 2 Diploma for Proficiency in Food Industry Skills
FDQ Level 2 Diploma for Proficiency in Fish and Shellfish Industry Skills
FDQ Level 2 Diploma for Proficiency in Fish and Shellfish Industry Skills
As part of our review process we are considering whether to request the same extensions to the qualifications in England and Wales. We will update centres on the final decision in a future newsletter.
In February's newsletter we announced that James Richardson, our Butchery EPA Manager, had been awarded Institute of Meat accredited Master Butcher status and that we were now lucky to have two Master Butchers within the business. Well, rightly so we have been corrected on this. We actually have three! Our External Quality Assurance Consultant and Butchery EPA Chief Moderator, Dave Clapham, is also an IoM accredited Master Butcher of many years standing. Apologies Dave!
WHY FDQ: "We believe in the power of the food industry to drive the UK economy, and are tenacious in our commitment to fill skills gaps. We do this through qualifications and training; bringing young people into the industry and up-skilling existing teams"
We'd like to stay in touch, please let us know if any of your contact details change and if you have any feedback or suggestions for future features we'd love to hear from you.
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