Leading the way in expertise as an Independent End Point Assessor
At EPA Plus (part of NCFE), we aim to make your end-point assessment (EPA) journey as easy as possible. You’re in good hands with us and our team of sector experts, supporting you every step of the way.
To guide you along your EPA journey, you’ll meet various members of our team, and one of these will be your Independent End-Point Assessor (IEPA). We’re extremely proud of our expert IEPAs, who have a wealth of experience in their respective fields, in order to provide you with the best support.
Deborah Smith is one of our highly experienced IEPAs. With a background in law, education and leading on projects in local government, Deborah brings a huge amount of knowledge to NCFE, to ultimately benefit apprentices going through Gateway on the Level 4 Associate Project Manager standard.
We spoke to Deborah about her career history and the highlights of being an IEPA.
Can you tell us about your current role?
I started at NCFE in July 2019 and I’m an Independent End-Point Assessor with responsibility for the Level 4 Associate Project Manager standard. I assess and document an apprentice’s competence against the standard, grade the assessment against the criteria and provide feedback. I’m also the Quality Champion for the standard, facilitating standardisation meetings to ensure quality, compliance, and consistency. I will shortly be undertaking the Level 4 Award in Internal Quality Assurance qualification to broaden my expertise.
I’ve recently been asked to sit on the APM Trailblazer Group who have been tasked with producing the next version of the APM Assessment Plan.
Alongside my current role at NCFE, I’m a knowledge marker for the Association for Project Management (APM) responsible for marking the Project Management Qualification (PMQ), I undertake internal projects and I consult on private development projects to keep my knowledge and experience current.
Can you tell us about your career history and previous roles that led you to NCFE?
From an early age, I decided that I wanted to become a solicitor. To do this, I achieved a degree in law and whilst in practice, I specialised in dealing with complex matters and corporate projects. I led on numerous projects including outsourcing, shared services arrangements and the implementation of new businesses and charitable trusts. Part of my role involved training legal assistants and trainee solicitors.
Following a career break when my children were young, I decided to focus on education and was appointed to deliver the Level 4 Associate Project Manager Standard and teach the Association for Project Management (APM) Project Management Qualification (PMQ) for a training provider. I had a full caseload of apprentices undertaking Level 4 Associate Project Manager and the ILM Level 3 Diploma in Management course.
How have you developed expertise in project management?
Leading on projects in local government meant dealing with countless topic areas including contracts, procurement, employment, property, highways, and pensions. I used my knowledge and expertise gained over many years to lead on projects and achieve successful outcomes. Having an established governance process and an effective project methodology was essential.
Working with apprentices undertaking the Level 4 Associate Project Manager Standard enabled me to learn about the assessment process, and developed my skills working with apprentices and employers. It also gave me unique insight into the training provider’s perspective as I designed and implemented the programme of delivery. As well as this, I was the tutor for the PMQ qualification. I designed and delivered the teaching sessions and prepared the students for their examination.
What qualifications / formal training did you do?
I achieved GCSEs, A levels, an LLB Law Degree (Hons) and later qualified as a solicitor. Following this, I completed the Level 3 Training, Assessment and Quality Assurance (TAQA) Assessing Competence in the Work Environment (ACWE) qualification to become a qualified assessor. Finally, I gained the Association for Project Management (APM) Project Management Qualification (PMQ) and I am now an Associate Member of APM.
What do you enjoy most about your role and what is your career highlight?
I enjoy meeting the apprentices during their assessments and hearing about their projects. When apprentices have been given good opportunities to get involved in projects and they speak freely about their skills, it makes the assessments a pleasure to conduct. I always enjoy making the assessment process as stress-free as possible so apprentices are put at ease and can perform well.
Teamwork is important at NCFE and colleagues are very supportive of each other. Despite working remotely all around the country, efforts are made to ensure colleagues feel supported in their roles.
A career highlight was being asked to sit on the APM Trailblazer Group. It’s a great opportunity to get involved in shaping the next version of the Assessment Plan, so it works well for everyone involved in the apprentice journey.