The role of the employer

At the latest Education and Professional Development Committee meeting we discussed the recent end-point assessment success and received feedback from John Moody on the content of the portfolios, the strength of the professional interviews and the material covered by the technical projects. John and the other assessors were singing the praises of each apprentice who had successfully completed their apprenticeship and highlighted that the individuals were operating at a high level, performing critical technical duties on a daily basis, and on their way to creating successful careers.

However, one element that was highlighted was the responsibility of the employer to ensure that all elements of the apprenticeship standard are fully satisfied and supported. Therefore, I thought it was an appropriate time to reiterate and raise awareness of this subject within this month’s 'Update on Apprenticeships'.

The employer must provide an apprentice with real-life work experience and allow them to follow a structured learning framework driven by the training provider. In turn, this provides an excellent opportunity for employers to grow their own talent, which they can mould and develop to work in line with their own operating procedures and non-destructive testing (NDT) techniques. I have outlined below a number of key elements that employers should be aware of while taking on and supporting an NDT apprentice throughout their structured training programme.

Pay and conditions
Employers must pay their apprentices at least the minimum wage rate. If more guidance is needed on this matter, the national minimum wage calculator, which works out the exact amount that must be paid to an employee, can be accessed online at:

Apprentices usually work for at least 30 paid hours a week and must work more than 16. They must be paid for time spent training or studying for a relevant qualification, whether while at work or at a college or training organisation. Finally, apprentices must be offered the same conditions as other employees working at similar grades or in similar roles. The chosen apprenticeship training provider will be able to arrange any training service agreements required to outline the funding regulations, delivery content and specific employment conditions.

Managing the apprenticeship
Before commencement of the apprenticeship, there will be a need to identify key personnel within the organisation that will aid the apprenticeship programme and support the apprentice in all their duties and required activities. As a minimum, the key personnel will include:
  • The employer’s main representative, responsible for liaising between the training provider and the apprentice
  • The lead provider’s representative, responsible for the delivery of training for the apprentice
  • The independent assessment body’s representative, responsible for conducting the end-point assessment
  • The apprentice’s mentor or supervisor for on-the-job training, responsible for the daily progress of the apprentice to ensure that the 20% off-the-job requirement is met.

Before the apprentice begins the apprenticeship, the employer should also consider the apprenticeship journey, focusing on key elements around health and safety, allocating correct personal protective equipment (PPE) to carry out certain tasks and performing site inductions/risk assessments where relevant. BINDT also provides a start-up pack, which will include a log book, a guidance document, basic NDT literature, a copy of the Engineering Council’s UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence and Commitment (UK-SPEC) and additional information on how to register as an Affiliate member of BINDT (the minimum membership requirement as part of the apprenticeship).

As the successful completion of each of the three NDT apprenticeship programmes requires industry-recognised qualifications, there is a significant emphasis on the chosen NDT/condition monitoring (CM) techniques. This is where an employer can really plan to develop their own organisation by choosing specific NDT and CM techniques for the apprentice to conduct that meet immediate and future business requirements. From magnetic particle and dye penetrant inspection to ultrasonics, thermography and phased array, as long as the chosen NDT technique is recognised by ISO 9712 or EN 4179, the technique can be utilised within the apprenticeship.

Planning the chosen NDT techniques during the early stages of the apprenticeship journey is important, as it allows the training provider to deliver these elements in a structured manner and ultimately gives the apprentice the best opportunity to successfully pass the examinations required, when the time comes. Further work activities and projects can be planned into the apprenticeship journey using a Gantt chart, bolstering the structured training requirement of the apprenticeship programme and giving the apprentice a clear plan moving forward.

Another key consideration for the employer is to assist in selecting an appropriate technical NDT project, which is required as part of each NDT apprenticeship programme. Again, if the employer is looking to develop their business, then the technical project is a perfect opportunity to do just that while giving the apprentice a technical challenge that utilises the knowledge, skills and behaviours learnt through their 20% off-the-job training. Ranging from setting up a new dye penetrant line to implementing NDT 4.0 processes to enhance inspection techniques, there are endless possibilities regarding the project selection, which is something I am going to focus on over the coming months.

Choosing the right mentor
As mentioned above, the mentor/supervisor is a key individual in the apprenticeship process and can significantly improve the chances of a successful outcome for an apprentice. A mentor is a friendly, professional staff member who guides a less experienced person by building trust and modelling positive behaviours.

An effective mentor understands that his or her role is to be dependable, engaged, authentic and tuned in to the needs of the apprentice. The concept of mentoring is simple but successful implementation can be challenging, especially if various NDT techniques and projects are chosen throughout the apprenticeship programme. Characteristics of effective mentoring include the ability and willingness to:
  • Value the apprentice as a person
  • Develop mutual trust and respect
  • Maintain confidentiality
  • Listen both to what is being said and how it is being said
  • Help the apprentice solve his or her own problem, rather than give direction
  • Focus on the apprentice’s development and resist the urge to produce a clone.

There are a number of other key considerations for the employer to be aware of outlined on the apprenticeship section of the BINDT website; however, I believe that the above will help provide the employer with the basic elements to support the apprentice and ensure a successful apprenticeship journey.

Please note that the views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not represent the views of Skills Training UK or BINDT.

Sam Cunningham is with Skills Training UK and is a member of BINDT’s Education & Professional Development Committee, which oversees the development of the NDT apprenticeships.

Employers in England looking to recruit an apprentice can find up-to-date guidance at:

Details of the current apprenticeship vacancies in England are available at:

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