VQManager reports
Happy recipients from the Sal's Shoes charity 
 
 
 

SkillWise News & Views 

VQManager reports
Happy recipients from the Sal's Shoes charity 

SkillWise News & Views    

Find out what's been going on at SkillWise HQ 
Aug 14th '19 - BTEC Results Day  
Today is the day that the bulk of the UK’s BTEC results are announced. This represents the culmination of a great deal of work by students throughout the UK across a broad range of qualification areas. 
We would like to congratulate all of the students who have achieved their desired  
gades, especially those who did so with the assistance of VQManager e-portfolio. 
 
Whatever your future holds for you, we wish you all the very best. Thank you, and good luck from SkillWise 
 
July '19 - The Knife Crime Epidemic – as a sector, could we be doing more? 
I often visit the senior staff of inner city colleges, and when they wake up in the morning their greatest fear is not the notification of an impending OFSTED inspection, but the news that one of their students has been the victim, or perhaps the perpetrator, of a knife crime. 
The good news is that finally we’re talking more openly about this – as Brits of course we’re quite inclined to skirt around these things - but until we’re more honest, how can we hope to properly address it? We’re finally acknowledging that it isn’t random. Rod Liddle, and before that David Lammy in 2012, were both quite clear in their views – it’s affecting a very specific sector of our society. Victims – and let’s be clear, in my opinion the perpetrators are victims too – are predominantly male, 12-22 years old, members of gangs and come from single-parent families. 
 
Let’s expand upon the single-parent family point – predominantly they’re living with Mum, and just to keep the household afloat she’s spending all her hours holding down two, sometimes three jobs. 
 
There has been a lot of research into the psyches of boys at the stage when they become young men. In his noted work ‘Raising Boys’, Steve Biddulph observes that these adolescent boys look for an older male role model to serve as a mentor. In our inner city context, if Dad’s not there, if the boy’s rarely at school, if they don’t have after school activities, then almost inevitably the role model or mentor they will be drawn to will be a member of a gang. 
 
I remember when I was growing up in West Yorkshire in the mid 1980s, and some of my friends were doing ‘old style’ apprenticeships, working as mechanics or paint sprayers and doing their day-release at the local technical college once a week. In the workplace they were clearly on the bottom rung. They made the tea, they were the brunt of the jokes and yes, they were sometimes sent to the stores for a ‘long stand’, which is exactly what they got. 
 
But, they were also inducted into an adult male world. They learned respect, they learned what was acceptable and what was not, they learned to be young men who could function in, and contribute to, society. They identified older positive role models, mentors, to whom they aligned themselves and those are the people from whom they learned their life skills and their personal standards. 
 
Back to the present, if we imagine a modern apprenticeship - or indeed any kind of education that involves work placement – what we need to realise is that as well as the qualification the young man gains, their exposure to positive role models is absolutely invaluable. Simply being in an adult male environment and seeing how mature adults interact and the values they hold dear, provides an incredibly positive template for the lives of these young men. 
 
As an industry, do we recognise that? Do we simply focus on funding and attainment – the traditional measures – or do we see that what we do can have a significantly more far-reaching and positive affect? 
 
I strongly believe that a way to help fix our ailing society is to bring more of these young men back into the workplace, to expose them to functioning adult environments and to give them a choice of selecting a far more positive mentor. Perhaps, as a sector, this is one way in which we can help. 
 
Paul Greenhalgh 
Director 
SkillWise UK Limited 
 
June '19 - No better news for Care Sector as DfE rejects Funding Pleas 
 
At today’s AELP Conference in London, representatives of the Adult Care sector were hoping for some better news in their ongoing fight for increased funding, but were left bitterly disappointed. 
 
Some key adult care standards are attracting funding of as little as £3000 per learner, forcing an alarming number of providers to either stop delivering care qualifications, or in worse cases, to become bankrupt. 
 
With an ageing population and a reduction in Local Authority funds for care, this is contributing to an emerging crisis in the care sector, as well as significantly affecting those providers active in this sector.VQManager, our flagship e-portfolio, is helping organisations just like yours to deliver work-based qualifications easily and efficiently. You will also find contact details – we would love to speak with you to provide any further information you require. 
 
June '19 - A Quick thought about Disabled People in Education 
If we think about disabled learners (or for that matter, tutors), we often think about people with physical or mental issues that prevent them from being considered as mainstream. It’s the person who is disabled, and this is manifested by their difficulty in fitting into a traditional work or home environment. That’s the traditional medical view  
 
But let’s just pause a moment and challenge that. 
 
Think about a wheelchair user. In your office, perhaps there’s a disabled parking space, a lift up to the third floor, and perhaps there is a disabled toilet facility. In that environment, the person can function perfectly effectively and give of their talents – they are not in any way disabled. But think about that same person visiting a shopping centre where the access is via three steps. In such an environment, that person is indeed disabled. But the important thing to understand is that it’s not the person who is disabled, it’s the environment that’s disabling them. 
 
Many technologies exist that enable disabled people to operate very effectively in a traditional work environment. These might include magnifiers, speech to text technology and text to speech technology. Using these technologies, as an example, allows individuals to function very effectively – they can perhaps even utilise their unique talents. 
 
So perhaps it is time to reconsider what we understand by the term ‘disabled’, and ask ourselves whether it’s the individual who is disabled, or whether it’s our preconceptions and the environment around them, that is disabling them.would welcome a greater number of opportunities to communicate with each other and with us. 
 
May '19 - OFSTED provides clarification around new inspection framework 
Speaking today at a meeting of SCTP training providers, Dr Richard Benyon of OFSTED provided some very useful clarification around the format and requirements of the new inspection framework. 
Dr Benyon described how inspections will be carried out using a much softer  
approach. Rather than an inspector spending hours with a senior administrator asking for various records, or sitting in a class observing, the emphasis will be on speaking with students and using their responses to gauge the quality of the learning, the student’s clarity in terms of current progress and their next steps and other areas such as when they last received careers guidance. 
 
As the student sits at the centre of the Standard, the training provider and the employee, interviewing them will provide a really clear picture of the quality of the whole student engagement. 
 
When gauging the quality of a provider’s internal processes, OFSTED will consider questions such as the frequency with which assessors receive training and the size of their workloads. 
 
For users of VQManager there is good news – VQManager already tracks metrics such as assessor CPD and workloads, it’s able to prompt assessors when safeguarding training should be provided and refreshed (for example) and it will shortly be able to track and chart the learner, assessor and employer’s periodic assessment of learner progression.So that we can focus our development time on building functionality that will have the longest possible life expectancy, during the final 12 months of any browser’s life we do not guarantee that all new SkillWise development will be compatible with the outgoing browser. 
 
VQManager will of course continue to be fully supported for all of the most common current browsers (including more recent versions of Internet Explorer), of which there are many. 
 
If you have any functionality issues which are related to your use of IE8, we would be very happy to advise you of alternative browsers. 
 
March '19 - AAC Conference Highlights 
It was a great pleasure to attend the AAC conference in Birmingham at the end of March. As well as reuniting with some old friends and customers, it was an opportunity to catch up with all the latest industry news. 
Some of the statistics from the last year’s sector performance were not too  
encouraging – the worst being the fact that at Ofsted inspection, 40% of providers achieved a grading of less than ‘good’. Also – if you believe that the recent drive within the Apprenticeships sector has been to provide viable alternatives to 16-18s and to generate industry skills for the UK – it was not good to hear that apprenticeship funding has been shifting significantly away from Level 2 and 3 qualifications, and towards higher level qualifications, especially in management. 
Whilst these higher level qualifications are undoubtedly valuable, many people won’t see that as the apprenticeship budget being spent in the right places. The scale of the shift shows that this is not just occurring in a few rare cases – it’s endemic to the industry. 
There was bad news around funding too – it seems that the current funding pot for non-levy apprenticeships is running dry, with stories of certain providers having to turn potential Apprentices away. This is clearly a big problem and one wonders how the Government targets for new Apprenticeship starts can ever be reached under these circumstances. 
On a brighter note, there were some current Apprentices present at the conference and their enthusiasm interest and energy served as a great reminder of why we’re all proud to contribute to this sector. 
 
February '19 - Giving Something Back 
At SkillWise, we recognise the great importance of ‘giving something back’ both as a company and as individuals. 
During the last year, whether as a result of a simple donation or through some blood sweat and  
tears type of sponsored activity, we have raised funds for the following worthy causes: 
 
Children with Cancer 
Fat Boys Charity 
Ichthyosis Support Group 
Cancer Research UK 
Luna Animal Rescue 
Facial Palsy UK 
Mercy Central 
Sal’s Shoes 
 
We will keep doing this over the year ahead – we hope that you approve of us investing a little of what we make into these thoroughly worthwhile causes. 
 
The picture below shows some of the happy recipients from the Sal's Shoes charity. 
 
November '18 - User group - Thanks 
Another successful User Group meeting with our clients took place in London recently and we would like to thank all those who came along. It is always a pleasure to meet with our friends and to welcome our newer clients. This is our opportunity to catch up with users of VQManager, review  
enhancements made over the past year, share experiences and hear your thoughts and ideas about developments you would like to see and to vote on their usefulness. This enables us to prioritise the developments so that you have the functionality you require. 
 
As these enhancements are released we invite you to a webinar so we can demonstrate the development and give you the opportunity to ask questions. Thanks again for attending.stimulating. We’ve now distilled all of those ideas into a prioritised list of work – we will let you know as the functions start to become available. 
 
Thanks once again – it is only your participation in the User Group that allows us to ensure VQManager keeps providing the utility you require, year after year. 
 
November '18 - VQManager User Group Meeting 2018 
We have great pleasure in announcing our 2018 VQManager User Group which will take place in London on Thursday 29th November. 
At SkillWise, we believe the best way to ensure that VQManager continues to provide the best  
possible support, is to ask our users. At this popular annual event we review the many system developments that we have carried out over the past year and have an open forum session during which our users can identify, prioritise and vote for the enhancements they would like us to develop over the forthcoming months. This means that our users are entirely in control of the system’s functionality, ensuring it continues to support their changing needs. 
 
It is also a great opportunity for VQManager users to get together, share experiences and enjoy a good lunch! 
 
June '18 - Discontent at AELP Conference 
We were please to attend the AELP conference earlier this week, where we took the chance to meet many of our customers and potential new customers. 
 
Although much of a positive nature was discussed, the overall feeling was one of frustration  
around the roll-out of the new apprenticeship standards and the provision – or not - of end point assessment. The peak of the frustration perhaps came when Sir Gerry Berragan, CE of the Institute for Apprenticeships, refused to give details of the number of EPAOs that had been appointed, instead offering to provide the figures to AELP ‘in private’. 
 
One can only conclude that this blatant lack of transparency masks continued shortfalls behind the scenes. Amongst the providers that SkillWise spoke with, the overwhelming feeling was that if they are expected to deliver the new standards, it’s high time that the government did their bit and provided the necessary infrastructure to allow the process to succeed. 
June '17 - Congratulations DA Training 
When you see the high quality of their delivery, and realise that they have qualified over 600 learners, it's hard to believe that DA Training is just five years old. 
It was my pleasure yesterday to travel to Eastleigh to attend their annual awards ceremony, which  
also coincided with their fifth anniversary. 
 
The venue, filled with very enthusiastic and complimentary employers, and very motivated and impressive learners, reminded me how proud I am of our association with DA, and how genuinely excited I am for the prospects of the excellent young apprentices they produce. 
 
A recurring theme within the apprentices' stories was one of them not just gaining a qualification, but also of making huge gains in their own confidence and rapidly becoming high performing and valued team members. 
 
What a great testimonial that is - DA Training we wish you all the very best for the next five years! 
 
Aug '19 - Worldskills 2019 – Good luck UK Apprentices! 
The 37-strong Team UK has departed for Kazan on the Volga River, Russia, to compete in Worldskills 2019 against 62 other countries, in 56 skills. 
Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE, CEO of WorldSkills UK said: “We are ready, and we are proud. These young people are the high flyers of their generation. In front of a global  
audience they will champion the focus on skills, foreign investment and trade, demonstrating that the UK is a world-class place to do business and create jobs.” 
 
SkillWise is proud that a large number of UK apprentices achieve their qualifications with the help of its world class e-portfolio, VQManager. 
 
Late last year in Budapest, the 22 strong Team UK returned from the Euroskills Finals with 1 gold, 1 bronze and 7 Medallions of Excellence earning them a top 10 position. Let’s hope they can repeat that result and showcase the wonderful skills existing in the UK, at Worldskills 2019 in Russia. Go Team UK! 
 
July '19 - What are we doing about the post-Brexit skills shortage? 
In all likelihood, one way or another, within the next year we will have left the EU. 
Whilst the exact details of what the divorce agreement will look like are still largely unknown, one very likely outcome will be that foreign workers will find it significantly harder – or less attractive - to work in the UK. 
In December 2018 there were an estimated 2.27 million EU nationals working in the UK (Office for National Statistics). Of this number, it is likely that those who have been resident for more than 5 years will have the option to remain, should they so wish – although the final rules will not be known until the separation terms have been finalised. 
 
One distinct possibility, though, is that either through statute or choice there will be far fewer EU citizens working in the UK over the forthcoming years. 
 
The sectors likely to be most affected (in order of impact) are food & drink manufacture, warehousing, accommodation & hospitality, construction, retail and residential & social care (Migration Advisory Committee). 
 
So, given this impending vacuum of suitably skilled and experienced labour in those sectors, how are we reacting? As an industry we know that the numbers for new apprenticeship starts are woefully low and well below the targets set a couple of years ago. According to Department for Education statistics, there were only 285,000 apprenticeship starts between August 2018 and March 2019, compared with 362,400 in 2016/17 and 346,300 in 2015/16. 
 
At the same time, barely a week seems to pass without news of another independent training provider ceasing to exist. 
 
It seems obvious that for the UK to prosper in a post-Brexit environment we will need to be increasingly self-sufficient, and for that to happen we desperately need to be increasing our capacity in skills like manufacturing, warehousing, construction and hospitality - to name but a few. 
 
Surely now is the time for our industry to lobby government even more loudly to address this issue, before the skills shortage becomes a crisis and tangibly restricts the UK’s future ability to prosper.Click on this text to edit it. 
June '19 - VQManager and Sustainability 
 
There can be few providers who are not seriously considering issues of sustainability, or their ‘green agenda’. 
Whether it’s driven through corporate accountability, or simply wanting to do the ‘right thing’, your attitude towards sustainability is becoming more and more important. 
So here’s the good news – as a VQManager user you already tick many sustainability and environmental boxes. 
 
Your paper savings will be significant. Think of those rooms full of cardboard files crammed with paper evidence that you used to have – taking up valuable space and all destined to be thrown away after 5 years. Then consider all the paper you used to use for reporting. If you care to add it up, you’ll probably find you’re saving a very considerable amount of paper and pulp products. And then you might want to consider the environmental cost of posting those files up and down the country. 
 
What about fuel? Every time an assessor uses the e-portfolio to process evidence, provide steering or log an update - rather than physically visiting a student - the fossil fuel savings are clear, as are the consequent reductions in polluting gases. 
 
We would never advocate removing important face to face visits altogether – but if one or two visits per learner can be avoided without detriment to the learner, isn’t that a good thing? You’re also making assessment available to learners who may live in remote locations, or who may experience mobility problems, too. 
 
So next time you write your green statement, think about the benefits that simply using VQManager is bringing to your organisation and the environment we all share. 
 
April '19 - The Qualification Debate – prior learning 
One of the more interesting debates around the coffee stations at the recent AAC Conference, was around the purpose of apprenticeship qualifications. 
One sentiment followed the belief that if, on initial assessment, a learner was deemed to already have much of the knowledge and experience required to complete an  
Apprenticeship, then they should not be eligible to commence. The justification for this was that even if a reduced funding model was agreed (to account for the reduced training period), the fact that this learner would need to receive relatively little training and experience was not consistent with the fundamental ethos of an Apprenticeship. Fair enough. 
However, the others argued that an Apprenticeship is not just about the learner journey, it’s also about the attainment of the qualification upon completion. So, is it fair, in the case of an employee who may already be close to reaching the required standard, to deny them the ability to sit EPA and achieve a qualification that may be vital for their progression and career? 
It’s an interesting debate… where do you stand 
 
December '18 - The Human Firewall
Most organisations spend much time and effort ensuring that they have good technology to protect themselves against cyber attacks. But did you know that probably the biggest risk to security is the organisation’s own people? 
 
Criminals are becoming far more creative and the only way to combat them is to become far more cyber-savvy. Follow the link to see a presentation by Rob May, a specialist in cyber issues www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpdcVfq2dB8of 
 
March '18 - Off the Job Training (OTJT) 
The Apprenticeship Standards include a 20% Off the Job Training requirement within the apprentices employed time. This is the mandatory minimum amount of time that should be spent doing Off the Job Training during an apprenticeship and must be properly planned for and recorded. Training providers and employers will need to work together to plan learning activity 
outside of the apprentice’s normal working duties. This requirement applies to apprenticeships at all levels. 
 
Off the Job Training is defined as ‘learning which is undertaken outside of the normal day-to-day working environment and leads towards the achievement of an apprenticeship’. This can include training that is delivered at the apprentice’s normal place of work but must not be delivered as part of their normal working duties. The Off the Job Training must be directly relevant to the apprenticeship framework or standard. 
 
Off the Job Training could include: 
 
 The teaching of theory: lectures, role play, simulation, online learning or manufacturer training 
 Practical training: shadowing, mentoring, industry visits and attendance at competitions 
 Learning support and time spend writing assessments/assignments 
 Induction so long as this includes actual training and skills development (eg. technical training) 
 
Off the Job Training does not include: 
 
 English and Maths (up to Level 2) as this is funded separately 
 Progress reviews or on-programme assessment 
 Training which takes place outside the apprentice’s paid working hours 
 
For further information please go to the Government website here
 
Dec '17 - Are you prepared for the new funding requirements? 
In a recent City and Guilds briefing, the importance was highlighted of being able to create Learner reflective accounts (which back up claims of off the job training) and for these accounts to be counter-verified. 
In VQManager’s Reflective Diary functionality, there is the ability for a  
Training Provider (or Employer) to authenticate a Learner’s reflective account, or vice versa in the case of the Provider/Employer logging the learning hours. At SkillWise we strive to stay ahead of your requirements in terms of both the NAS and the new funding structures. 
 
If you want to see the full City and Guilds slide deck, follow this link
August '17 - Why should you use an independent e-portfolio? 
Increasingly, Awarding Organisations (AOs) are not only offering their own e-portfolios, but suggesting to their customers that these are the only e-portfolios they should use. 
But what happens if you deliver qualifications from a number of different AOs?Providers are faced  
with a potential situation where they will need to run multiple e-portfolios, to satisfy the different AOs. That means people having to be trained on different systems, some people being trained on multiple systems and the technical integration with your learner management system, that will have to be solved multiple times too. 
 
Even if you only use one AO, what happens if you want to switch to a different AO? Your users will all need to learn a new system and you may also be ransomed by your previous AO because you’re relying on them to commit to provide you with ongoing access to your historic learner data. 
 
Clearly either of these would be a very unsatisfactory situation. 
 
VQManager is entirely independent and has been accredited by all the major AOs. Independent means that we can load qualifications and standards from any AO, or even programmes designed by yourselves. If you use VQManager and decide to change your AO, you keep your existing e-portfolio and you keep your data. Isn’t that a better solution? 
 
July '19 - What are we doing about the post-Brexit skills shortage? 
In all likelihood, one way or another, within the next year we will have left the EU. 
Whilst the exact details of what the divorce agreement will look like are still largely unknown, one very likely outcome will be that foreign workers will find it significantly harder – or less attractive - to work in the UK. 
In December 2018 there were an estimated 2.27 million EU nationals working in the UK (Office for National Statistics). Of this number, it is likely that those who have been resident for more than 5 years will have the option to remain, should they so wish – although the final rules will not be known until the separation terms have been finalised. 
 
One distinct possibility, though, is that either through statute or choice there will be far fewer EU citizens working in the UK over the forthcoming years. 
 
The sectors likely to be most affected (in order of impact) are food & drink manufacture, warehousing, accommodation & hospitality, construction, retail and residential & social care (Migration Advisory Committee). 
 
So, given this impending vacuum of suitably skilled and experienced labour in those sectors, how are we reacting? As an industry we know that the numbers for new apprenticeship starts are woefully low and well below the targets set a couple of years ago. According to Department for Education statistics, there were only 285,000 apprenticeship starts between August 2018 and March 2019, compared with 362,400 in 2016/17 and 346,300 in 2015/16. 
 
At the same time, barely a week seems to pass without news of another independent training provider ceasing to exist. 
 
It seems obvious that for the UK to prosper in a post-Brexit environment we will need to be increasingly self-sufficient, and for that to happen we desperately need to be increasing our capacity in skills like manufacturing, warehousing, construction and hospitality - to name but a few. 
 
Surely now is the time for our industry to lobby government even more loudly to address this issue, before the skills shortage becomes a crisis and tangibly restricts the UK’s future ability to prosper.Click on this text to edit it. 
April '17 - SkillWise supports Capita at annual conference 
In late March SkillWise was proud to support Capita at its annual Further & Higher Education Conference. Unsurprisingly, much of the discussion amongst the delegates focused on New Apprenticeship Standards and SkillWise was pleased to be able to offer advice and share some of  
the experiences of its clients. Many of the attendees were in agreement that whilst not all of the new Standards’ Assessment Plans specifically required portfolios of evidence, an e-portfolio was essential in providing the Training Partner with the confidence that the learner was ready for end point assessment. 
 
April '16 - New Apprenticeship Standards update 
As we are all aware, there is currently significant activity in our industry associated with the impending transition to New apprenticeship Standards. 
At SkillWise we are committed to continuing to provide a tool that supports our customers, 
whether they are delivering current style qualifications, New Apprenticeship Standards or a combination of the two. 
 
As the ‘shape’ of the New Standards - and particularly the Assessment Plans associated with them - have become clearer we have monitored Government, Representative Bodies and end users to gather their thoughts and opinions. It has become clear that the e-portfolio required to support the delivery of the New standards has a different set of requirements to the traditional e-portfolios we have become used to. 
 
Over a year ago we developed a solution for an organisation delivering qualifications that are structured in exactly the same way as the New Standards. The feedback from that project has been consistently outstanding, so we have effectively had the opportunity to trial our New Apprenticeship Standards solution ahead of the broad Standards roll-out. We are extremely pleased that we are in this fortunate situation, where we can offer a tracking solution that doesn’t just look good, it comes with excellent industry in-use credentials. 
 
We will keep you updated in terms of our progress – but in the meantime we’d really appreciate input from as many different sectors as possible. If you would like to offer suggestions, or if you would like to trial our new solution, please just let us know and we will be delighted to hear your thoughts. 
 
January '15 - Electronic signature or digital signature? 
There's a lot of discussion at the moment about electronic signature, and its acceptability in a wide range of certification and funding scenarios. 
However, there is also an awful lot of confusion about what electronic signature actually is, and 
how it differs from digital signature. 
 
Electronic signature is in fact nothing more than a facsimile of an ink signature. Whether created on-screen or by scanning a real signature, electronic signatures are a means of attaching a facsimile signature to a document. 
 
By their nature, electronic signatures are particularly weak - how easy is it for a waiter to obtain a copy of your signature, for instance? Accordingly, they are in many cases not deemed to be valid for legal purposes. 
 
A digital signature, however, is quite different. These use typically two components to create an electronic 'fingerprint'. A good example is a bank card's chip and PIN - the PIN is known exclusively to the card owner and so the bank is comfortable authorising substantial transactions for the holder of both the chip and the PIN. 
 
VQManager also employs the use of digital signature - once a user has logged into VQManager using their unique username and password, every interaction they subsequently make during their session effectively has a digital signature attached to it. 
 
So when the topic of electronic signature next crops up, perhaps it's worth checking that everyone really understands the difference between electronic and digital signatures. VQManager's use of digital signature is designed to offer you the very best authentication possible. 
 
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