My First Conference Experience

Last Month I attended ‘The Apprenticeship Conference 2021’ hosted by Apprenticeship and EPAO Directories at Millennium Point, Birmingham. This is the first conference I have attended since starting with Occupational Awards Limited (OAL), and the first national conference OAL has attended since the arrival of Covid-19. As well as attending the conference, OAL were proud to host an exhibition stand, and were privileged to be the events brochure sponsor as well. The conference held informative and insightful talks from over 20 organisations, including one of OAL’s biggest advocates and 2021’s London Apprentice Champion Winner, Sharon Blyfield (Head of Early Careers at Coca Cola).

The night before the event, myself and two colleagues, attended the drinks reception held at the Clayton Hotel. This provided the perfect opportunity for OAL to meet friends old and new, and a casual environment for all attendees to dust off the cobwebs of home working. Many of us venturing into the outside world, meeting face to face for the first time in over 18 months. It was a real pleasure to meet so many acquaintances in person as opposed to over the phone or on zoom!

On the morning of the event, now relieved of beginner’s nerves, we made our way to Millennium Point for some much needed coffee. Following a quick catch up with last nights attendees over pastries and a few more introductions, the conference opened with a talk from Chris Quickfall, CEO and Founder of Cognassist. Chris detailed some insightful topics on learners and shaping the training process to the needs of each learner through cognitive assessment. As someone new to the awarding sector, talks such as Chris’ were invaluable to my understanding of learners, training providers and AO’s as well as the role they each play in successful delivery.

The conference continued with an inspiring and thought provoking talk from Lucy Dunleavy, CEO of LearnBox, who raised interesting points on mind-set and its effect on performance, engaging the audience in tasks that enhance your mind-set, such as the use of music or a ‘power stance’ to start your working/learning day. As the conference progressed into the lunch time sessions, two talks that have stuck with me were by Louise Doyle, CEO of Mesma, and Kerry Boffey, CEO of the Fellowship of Inspection Nominees. These talks accompanied each other extremely well, Louise discussed the importance of self-assessment in practice, and how demonstrating the great steps your company is undertaking can guide improvements moving forward. Kerry continued this idea, noting a focus on quality, yet being mindful of mistakes. How capturing and evaluating your successes and failures can allow you to plan and prepare for future inspection.

Since my entry into the Awarding and End-Point Assessment sector and my introduction to early careers and education, things have been very fast paced, with each year of business bound to the structure of the academic year. OAL is one of the fastest developing EPAOs in the country, with ambitions to expand upon current relationships and develop our portfolio each year. The importance of my understanding of OALs position within the market, our competitors and the training providers we work with has never been clearer than when attending ‘The Apprenticeship Conference’. This industry and its stakeholders takes great pride in the work they undertake, and the responsibility they all carry in providing a prosperous environment for learners across the country. The vision to educate many of the nation in key skills required to contribute in their respective roles, and provide to the now independent UK economy.

Aside from inspirational talks, the conference was a fantastic opportunity to showcase OALs new marketing and educational support materials. These were the first set of marketing materials I had created with the newly completed branding I had developed so it was good to get feedback from our customers and other stakeholders. In the build up to the conference we designed and produced new roller banners, info packs (that include details of our prices and processes, and some of our EPA Process Maps, outlining each stage of EPA delivery from gateway to results for the standards we offer), as well as some new branded notepads and pens. If you would like to know more about the support materials we provide for centres get in touch.

We also ran a very successful competition for a box of chocolates and a bottle of champagne to encourage networking amongst the attendees. I really enjoyed meeting with and speaking to the other delegates and getting to share the benefits of their experience, such as competition winner Adrian Humphreys (Executive Director, Boston College), I truly look forward to building upon our relationships in the future. If you would like to know more about the events OAL will be attending and hosting in future, and how you can keep up to date with our campaigns, join our mailing list.