26/6/2020 - Posted in: General news
Firstly, I hope you are all safe and well. So much has happened in the three months since COVID first impacted all of our businesses.
Now, as it was then, our priority is to support you in every way we can. As we ease carefully out of lockdown, I wanted to write to you again, to outline how we're working to help get all of us back to business in a safe and sustainable way.
Full operational support
Like you, during lockdown we've been working on how to make our office safe whilst continuing to provide you with a seamless service. I'm happy to report that we've managed to do this, and the team is back to full strength. Charlotte too is back from maternity leave next week and is looking forward to taking your calls. Some of the team members will be home-based, but their usual contact numbers remain the same, as calls are automatically re-directed.
For those of you awaiting certificates we are onto it. Certificate approvals are taking place as usual on Thursdays. As some centres aren't yet back in the office full time, to avoid them going astray please can you email email@example.com by close of play Wednesdays to request a certificate for printing the next day.
Technology here to stay
Although face to face contact with our customers will always be important to us, COVID has meant we've all needed to find new ways to stay in touch and provide services. Microsoft Teams has proven to be the next best thing to meeting in person. We can now quickly schedule meetings and in some cases end point assessments when attendees are spread around the country. We've also invested in RealWear headsets to enable us to deliver a range of based video based services such as remote pre-site visits for EPA plus the ability to live stream observations to remote examiners and moderators. They'll also enable us to deliver live training sessions for our people more often and more efficiently so our end-point assessment services can be continually improving for your apprentices.
End-point assessment innovations
On that note innovation and problem-solving is also at the heart of getting EPA back up and running during COVID. We're so proud to be the first awarding organisation to have successfully delivered remote EPAs for the Food and Drink Process Operator Apprenticeship (FDPO). The positive feedback we've received from our customer, a multi-national manufacturer, has made all the effort worthwhile. As hopefully you know, at FDQ we like nothing more than a satisfied customer!
Temporary EPA flexibilities have also been granted for the L2 Baker and Butcher apprenticeships, and hopefully soon Fishmonger as well. These allow for assessment to be delivered remotely in many cases, where that's the only option. In such cases, a 'competency-based scenario interview' has been developed to replace direct observation. This is optional and clearly won't suit all apprentices, but does offer a route to get end-point assessments done where direct observation isn't possible.
The temporary 'Remote EPAs' should not be viewed any differently to normal EPAs in terms of quality. They have been developed with care and attention, to ensure the assessment is robust and every bit as valid as previously. If you're interested, contact James at EPA@fdq.org.uk or call him on 0113 3970321 to discuss.
Where we can though we're delivering assessment in person. In times like these experience counts. We've successfully delivered hundreds of end-point assessments – especially in Butchery, which together with our sister company, the Institute of Meat, we helped design. Already our team of experienced Independent Examiners have delivered 15 EPAs this month and we're working 24/7 to clear the backlog. All government guidelines on working safely and social distancing are being followed, and full PPE is provided. Of course, we understand that each of our customers will have their own COVID measures in place. We're always willing to work with you to create a bespoke assessment that meets your specific requirements.
If your apprentice is ready for EPA please contact the team at EPA@fdq.org.uk who can help with any administrative 'gateway' enquiries and schedule their assessment as soon as possible.
Assessing and grading qualifications during COVID
Thank you for the praise we've received for our guidance issued in response to the 'Extraordinary Regulatory Framework' developed by the regulators to enable learners to complete their qualifications and move forward in their careers. It was a huge task for Jo and the Quality team, so your kind emails are much appreciated. Moderation will begin from next month, so colleges and providers may be contacted by their EQAC in the coming weeks.
I'm sure you're as delighted and relieved as I am to see the economy opening up again and are looking forward to enjoying the new freedoms this brings. Providing we're all sensible, hopefully we're now heading towards a return to 'normality.' As always should you have any questions or need to discuss anything at all, myself and the team are just a phone call away.
Keep in touch and stay safe,
(Chief Executive and Responsible Officer)