Process Automation Apprenticeship

Lancaster University is the main provider for the Level 7 degree apprenticeship in process automation (PA7) for which the MSc degree provides the academic basis. The apprenticeship is aimed at and designed around the needs of young engineers who are employed in the sector and whose job function is in instrumentation, control or automation.

Organisations in England whose payroll costs are £3 million or more per annum, pay a training levy of 0.5% of their payroll costs to the Government. These companies are eligible for the Education and Skills Funding Agency awards to fund sponsorship of employees as apprentices on PA7. That funding is worth £27,000 per apprentice to cover the MSc degree fees and PA7 administration costs.

Eligibility criteria

  • Apprentices must satisfy the entry criteria for the MSc Process Automation
  • Apprentices must complete the MSc degree.
  • The apprentice's company must be willing to sponsor the apprentice and agree to its training levy being used for such
  • The apprentice's company must commit to a 20% 'off-the-job' training requirement. Given that the MSc is equivalent to one-year full-time study, and it is delivered over five years, that inherently satisfies the criteria. The key thing is that each apprentice should, on average, be able to commit the equivalent of one day per week to his/her studies
  • The apprentice's company is responsible for ensuring that all the knowledge, skills and behaviours (KSB) of the Standard for PA7 are met and that the evidence of such exists

Two agreements have to be signed before an apprentice can start upon PA7

An Apprenticeship Training Services agreement with the University needs to be signed by every company sponsoring one or more apprentices, which gives the University access to the company's training account for payment purposes.

A Commitment Statement sets out how all three parties ( apprentice, company, and the University) will support the achievement of the apprenticeship.

There is extensive information about the levy, funding and more at the official GOV.UK website.

PA7 assessment

The full End Point Assessment can be found at the Institute for Apprenticeships, but the diagram below provides an overview of the assessment for PA7 which has been aligned as far as is practicable with the requirements of UK-SPEC so that the End Point Assessment (EPA) will be used to assess not just satisfactory completion of PA7 but also eligibility for chartered engineer (CEng) status. The expectation is that one or more of the professional bodies (IChemE, IET and InstMC) will become the independent assessment organisations for the EPA.

The diagram outlines the different stages of the Apprenticeship: academic learning, work experience, portfolio development and academic assessment. Once all stages are completed then the EPA can take place, which involves an interview and presentation.

Prior to the EPA all apprentices must have:

  • Completed the MSc degree, although the apprentice may not have graduated
  • Completed a substantive piece of work in the workplace, which may be the industrial project of the MSc, upon which is based the presentation of the EPA
  • Compiled an up-to-date portfolio which underpins the interview of the EPA

The portfolio consists of a competency profile, a logbook of experience and an archive of evidence. There is detailed guidance about the structure, content and emphasis of these in the assessment plan.

The competency profile is key: this is a plan, which evolves with time, in which the opportunity to acquire the 26 KSBs of the Standard is mapped onto the apprentice's work profile. Those KSBs are acquired through a combination of workplace experience and academic learning. The competency profile shapes, and is shaped by, the workplace assignments and the modules of the MSc degree. Each apprentice is assigned an industrial mentor to support the process of determining and monitoring the acquisition of KSBs.

The outcome of the EPA will be a classification for PA7 of Distinction, Merit, Pass or Fail.