9c - Apprentice assessment

 Apprentice assessment in on-the-job training

The purpose of assessment is to give the apprentice grades that affect the final certificate or diploma. 

Notice that, in some countries, it is usual to give apprentices grades for the on-the-job training. In other countries, no official grades are given. To find out the practices in your country, please consult your VET organisation!

Click here for details and download a comparison between three different ways of timing the assessment.

 Who is responsible for what?
Responsibilities have to be clear. Always consult the VET organisation in case of uncertain matters.

Responsibilities are typically important matters to clarify in contracts / agreements between company and VET organisation. You should at least know who is responsible for the assessment and how it should be arranged.

It’s crucial to prepare the apprentice properly in regards to the situations and tasks being assessed before the official assessment. Methods should be simple and clear.

Some tips for a good assessment:
  • Make clear where, when and how the apprentice will be assessed.
  • Make sure the apprentice knows the criteria and conditions for assessment.
  • Make sure there is clarity about standards (pass / fail).
  • Give the apprentice the opportunity to prepare for the assessment.
  • Make clear who should be consulted in the case of problems and disputes.
  • Always discuss results after an assessment with the apprentice. Speak in a way the apprentice understands. Keep your attention on the apprentice.
  • Always agree on targets for improvement and points that need attention. Discuss the progress that has been achieved.
  • Report results in the portfolio.
  • Finish with a compliment.
 The assessor's tasks
The quality of assessment of the apprentice depends largely on the quality of the assessor.

You have to consider judgements on work assignments, but you also have to assess the personal competencies of an apprentice. Does the apprentice fit into the training company? Does he/she have the right professional attitude?

Assessment is the judgement of a performance, based on predetermined criteria and standards. The assessor assesses the apprentice during the training process on:
  • Suitability to the work
  • Availability of competencies (knowledge, skills and attitude)
  • Quality of work
  • Ability to pass the final test.
Other aspects of assessment 
  • The apprentice receives information about his functioning at work (social and technical skills).
  • The apprentice understands the importance the assessor attaches to the aspects to be assessed.
  • The assessor gets insight into the effectiveness of instruction and guidance of the apprentice.
  • The assessor and the apprentices also learn to address problems or barriers by discussing.
 Pitfalls in assessment

Be aware of the fact that an assessor also has his own prejudices and subjectivity. An assessor has earlier experiences that influence him. That’s why his assessment will be coloured!
The assessor has to be familiar with and understand his/her qualifications and training profile. Of course he/she must know what competencies mean and how they should be assessed.

Pitfalls that an assessor can fall into:

  • The assessor bases his judgement on one specific aspect of the apprentice. For example, a certain type of behaviour. Thus, the the apprentice's competence as a whole can be judged as inadequate.
  • The assessment of the apprentice is coloured by previous apprentices. Suppose that, prior to the apprentice, an excellent candidate was assessed. This may affect the judgement.
  • The assessor has a self-interest in a negative or positive assessment. For example, the number of successful apprentices per company should be as high as possible ("in my department all apprentices succeed").
  • The assessor may take his/her own level as a benchmark, instead of the established standard.

It is, therefore, important that an assessor regularly checks himself!

  • This can be done by taking part in training.
  • Or through regular meetings with other assessors.
  • Or by regular contact with a training institute, where the assessor evaluates himself.
  • Discussion with assessors of former apprentices can provide useful information as well.
 Assessment discussion

After the assessment, discuss the results with the apprentice. Here you have to take into account how the apprentice has performed the assignment(s):
If your apprentice has carried out various tasks, you will have judged several times. You then have a wider view about the work that the apprentice delivers and the way he does the work.

Please note attitude, understanding, knowledge, skills and motivation and assess all these aspects.

Always provide apprentices with challenges they can work with. As much as possible, make sure apprentices can say at the end: "Look, this is what I succeeded at today." This way they can gain motivation from their own work and new challenges. 

An apprentice's portfolio can include the following components:
  • Development Portfolio
    focuses on the development of certain competencies/skills of the apprentice. These competencies and skills are usually determined via the training programme, but an apprentice could also identify, describe, develop and monitor certain competencies for himself through the portfolio.
  • Showcase Portfolio
    is similar to the portfolio of artists and architects. This is an overview of what the apprentice has performed, such as machinery, transcripts, presentations, reviews. A apprentice gives a teacher or advisor insight into his/her productive past and the quality of these products.
  • Assessment Portfolio 
    The portfolio may also play a role in assessment of training. The training programme can set some requirements, such as documentation of development, presentation of products, but also a record of previous judgements, gradings, reflections on education and on the results achieved, etc.

A portfolio can also be:
  1. The personal logbook
  2. A presentation folder of the apprentice's results.
The logbook includes the apprentice's personal education plan. It also includes the apprentice's, teacher's and trainer's evaluation of the training and of the apprentice's performance.

The presentation folder contains descriptions and documentation of the apprentice's work results: For example, photos of products, sound recordings of service situations, work/product descriptions, etc.
 Examples: Finland and Denmark
Here 2 examples of assessment methods, one used in Denmark and the other in Finland.

The journeyman's test in Denmark is a triple-part assessment of the apprentice's final masterpiece and his/her reflections. The test takes place at the end of the education.

The assessment board consists of representatives from employers and employees in the trade, as well as one of the apprentice's teachers. 
The journeyman's test may take place in the training company or in the school's workshop.

Click here to download further information.

All Finnish vocational educations operate with so-called 'skills demonstrations', which are carried out during the apprentices' training periods in their training company. Thus, an apprentice experiences in average 3-5 skills demonstrations during his/her education.

The apprentice is assessed on his/her skills by both the in-company trainer and his/her teacher from the school. The basis for the assessment is the apprentice's self-evaluation on, among other things, his/her technical skills and personal development.

Click here to download further information.

9 - Assessment / evaluation