What Makes a Good Portfolio Great

The change from framework apprenticeships to the new Standards has brought with it new ways of assessing an apprentice’s knowledge and ability. In addition to college study, a portfolio of evidence, and achieving the necessary Functional Skills, apprentices must now complete a Synoptic Project, Employer Reference, and End Point Assessment (EPA).

The nature of an EPA, where apprentices discuss all that they have done through their qualification, including the highlights of their portfolio, gives a greater opportunity to showcase who they are and how they go about their work. A strong performance in an EPA with a decent portfolio could make all the difference.

At risual, we aren’t looking for decent when supporting learners to develop themselves their portfolios; we aim for outstanding. With that in mind, here are a few things to bear in mind when developing a portfolio of evidence.

The Journey

We all know we are personally different from who we were 12 months ago, so why wouldn’t the same be true professionally? During the course of you apprenticeship you will develop all manner of skills and behaviours that would have seemed alien before starting, so make sure you understand that fact, and show it through your work. Whether you’ve become more communicative, better able to manage a large and varied workload, or mastered a technology key to your role, tell you Independent Assessor how far you’ve come through your portfolio, and don’t forget to back it up with evidence, perhaps in a ‘before and after’ style.

Understanding What Went Wrong

Making mistakes teaches us what to do and what the consequences are if we don’t do that; during your apprenticeship you will make mistakes. Bucket-loads of them. That’s ok though, you’re there to lean, and in your portfolio evidence you should show the things that went wrong and prove you understand what was wrong.

Learning from Mistakes

Once you’ve proved you can identify where things go wrong, you can then demonstrate what you will and did do differently in the future. For example, suppose you’re an Infrastructure Technician apprentice, and incorrectly configure a web server, making it inaccessible externally. A piece of evidence that makes the most of this experience would show what you did first that was wrong, how you identified the error (including working with anyone to do so) and how you corrected the problem, including proving the issue was fixed.

Exploring New Possibilities

Once you begin mastering the fundamentals of your role, you may then find yourself exploring new ways of doing things differently, possibly in a more resource efficient, cost-effective, or less time-consuming way. You may even propose and end up adopting these new approaches at work. Even if it doesn’t end up being taken up showing that you can assess an existing approach to a problem and critically evaluate alternatives demonstrate that you are more than just doing your job. You are improving on it. This is the mark of a strong learner, and even forms part of the merit and distinction criteria for some Standards; make sure you show it in your portfolio.

Knowing Who Helped Make It All Happen

As the proverb says, it takes a village to raise a child. By the same token, it takes a business to train an apprentice. Beyond demonstrating your learning and support through your 20% off-the-job time recording, your portfolio should highlight and acknowledge the support you received to allow you to become the skilled and capable apprentice you are. Using the web server example again, it may have taken advice from several people before you were able to resolve the problem, so don’t forget the valuable contribution of those who helped. Show it, explain how it helped and what you gained from it, and how the knowledge shared will help you in the future.

Like all articles and blog posts offering tips and advice this one isn’t an exhaustive list, but it sure will help to take onboard the advice given here. Whether you’re an apprentice with risual or not, think about this advice, and if needed talk it through with your mentor/assessor to think about how you can incorporate these ideas into your portfolio.

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