On March 20 2019, TQUK EPA passed two Hair Professional apprentices at The Link Academy with Distinctions!

Benjamin Ward and James Garner were the first apprentices assessed by TQUK at The Link Academy, an independent work-based learning provider specialising in barbering. The Huddersfield-based organisation has provided bespoke training to their learners since 2011, and began offering apprenticeships on the new Apprenticeship Standards in 2016.

Getting a Distinction in the Hair Professional Apprenticeship is incredibly difficult, so we were absolutely delighted to see that both Benjamin and James cut their way to success in their End-Point Assessments. We have no doubt that this success is the first of many for both of them!

Both Hair Professional apprentices at The Link Academy undertook a rigorous End-Point Assessment that included a Practical Assessment and an Oral Questioning. The assessment tested their skills in a practical context, allowing them to demonstrate all the barbering techniques in their arsenal while providing explanations and justifications of all of their actions.

During the EPA, both Benjamin and James undertook consultations with customers; demonstrated their ability to shampoo, condition and treat hair; used various cutting techniques to create a variety of looks; trimmed facial hair into shape; and provided shaving services for their customers.

Now that they have their apprentice certificates in hand, let’s see what everyone had to say about their achievements!

Their End-Point Assessor, Julie Wernham, was blown away by the performance of both apprentices:

“Benjamin and James were down to earth, customer focused and adopted a professional approach. Their work was creative, showing their passion and was personalised with attention to detail. This was supported by their sound knowledge and expertise, which reflected the high standard of training they have received. 

“I was made to feel welcome by The Link Academy and supported by TQUK during the process of End-Point Assessment for the Hair Professional Standards. 

“It was a privilege to be part of their journey and of the industry’s future generation of barbers.”

Both James and Benjamin faced their EPA head-on after undergoing a challenging and rewarding apprenticeship:

Here’s what James had to say about the apprenticeship and his EPA:

“During my apprenticeship at The Link Academy I have not only improved my haircuts and shaving, but I have also become a much more professional barber. Having the opportunity to work on real clients from day one made me realise what it is like to work in a barbershop from the beginning. It also allowed me to build my people, customer service and communication skills.

“The Link Academy not only teach you barbering and hairdressing, but they also teach you people skills and how to deal with different situations in the salon. I have thoroughly enjoyed my apprenticeship here working with top barbers and stylists and also top people.

“Since receiving my Distinction for my End-Point Assessment, it has been really nice to have my success being celebrated by my colleagues and training academy. What I found most challenging was trying to arrange the correct clients that met the correct criteria. I also found it very nerve-wracking having the assessor watching over me. However, I feel that this brought out the best out in me.

“The Link Academy did a brilliant job in supporting me from start to finish on my course and I am very grateful for all of their help and the hard work they put into me. I am also very grateful for all of the opportunities that have come towards me recently.

“My End-Point Assessor was really calm which helped me to calm down as well. Julie really put me at ease which made me feel like it was just a normal day with my usual clients.”

Amanda Lodge Stuart, Director at The Link Academy, was delighted by the results of their Hair Professional apprentices:

“James and Ben have both worked exceptionally well throughout the term of their apprenticeships. They have continually improved their knowledge, skills and behaviours and listened carefully to all developmental feedback from their Trainer, Ben Lodge, to achieve the Distinction grade that they have been awarded. They have both committed to practice continually on the salon floor and have gone through several mock assessments before agreeing that they were ready for EPA.

“We are really excited and proud to be awarded Distinctions on our very first experience of going through an EPA. This has been a totally different experience from working towards a framework apprenticeship. Here at The Link Academy, we feel the Standard has much more value and is a realistic expectation of what an apprentice should look like once they qualify. 

“TQUK has supported us fully throughout the process. They have been very easy to get hold of and ask questions. The Gateway process was clear and easy to follow and we felt fully informed throughout. The End-Point Assessor was very approachable and friendly and she most certainly put both James and Ben at ease.”

Kelle McQuade, our Head of EPAO, wanted to give her own congratulations to Ben and James:

“Congratulations you two! You should be incredibly proud of yourselves. Achieving a Distinction is no easy feat, and you both dazzled your End-Point Assessor with your fantastic skills and expert knowledge. I’m sure that your End-Point Assessment has prepared you for any hairy situations you may encounter in the future and I hope you’re excited for the long and successful careers ahead of you!

“We pride ourselves on the support we give to all of our centres, and we’re very happy that The Link Academy has been pleased with our services. We agree wholeheartedly that standards are a much better way of ensuring apprentices are fully competent in their roles compared to the old frameworks and are glad that The Link Academy agrees! We look forward to a long and fantastic partnership with more Distinctions down the line!”


To keep up to date with the latest EPA news, return to our blog, or follow us on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn and Instagram.

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“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker

Managers are an integral part of every business. Although their day-to-day duties differ, managers must oversee their employees, manage their budget and departmental goals and carry out all their duties in accordance with their company’s vision. A great manager juggles all of these elements seamlessly while creating a fantastic work environment where their employees are motivated and happy to work.

We thought we’d get some insight from our wonderful TQUK staff members about what makes a great manager. Here are their thoughts:


Thomas Concannon, Junior Graphic Designer: “A great manager is able to communicate well with their team and doesn’t act as if there are any barriers between themselves and their staff. They also give constructive feedback so that their employees can learn from their mistakes and grow as a result.”
Kit Jenkin, Content Officer: “A great manager is someone who’s able to effectively motivate their team, discovering the best qualities in every person and creating roles and environments where those qualities can be fully realised. Managing also means showing leadership and providing clear direction and boundaries.”

Samuel Rossiter, Content Officer: “I think a great manager leads by example and creates a positive and rewarding work environment which their staff are happy to walk into every morning. I also think great managers trust their employees, and allow them the space and time to manage their own work. This empowers their staff and allows them to thrive!”

Matt Garrod, End-Point Assessment Officer: “A great manager knows how to keep their team and staff motivated throughout the week. Regardless of whether it’s a Monday or a Friday, they should receive the same level of enthusiasm no matter what!”

Ash Smith, Client Relationship Team Leader: A great manager understands the strengths and weaknesses of their team and uses this knowledge to properly develop their members. They’re also great in bringing their ideas to the table, using their team’s strengths to work together and bring these to life. It also helps if they can keep team morale high!”

Rochelle Crichton, End-Point Assessment Team Leader: “A great manager is approachable, open to suggestions and actively looking for changes and improvements to help their team and department. A great manager is also happy to guide and assist their staff when necessary. They should understand the pressure and stress you may be under and be appreciative of you as an individual.”


There you go! Our TQUK members value honesty, approachability, great communication and the ability to develop their team in their managers. We’re grateful to our Senior Management Team for embodying these values here and driving TQUK forwards while helping their employees every step of the way!

If you’re interested in pursuing a managerial position, then why not earn while you learn and enroll in a management apprenticeship? To start exploring, check out the range of management apprenticeship standards we provide End-Point Assessment for here.

To keep up to date with the latest news from TQUK EPA, return to our blog or follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

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If you’re interested in enrolling in an apprenticeship, then you’ve come to the perfect place. To give you that final push towards applying for an opening, here are five awesome reasons to become an apprentice!

1. Earn While You Learn

The cost of post-16 education can be a massive stumbling block for many people.

English universities can charge up to £9,000 per year for an undergraduate degree for local students, which totals £27,000 for a typical three year undergraduate degree. Many students must borrow more than this from the government to cover other living costs, so at the end of their degree they may graduate with around £35,000 of debt.

Compared to university, not only is it free for apprentices to enroll in an apprenticeship, but you also earn an income while you work! Additionally, you must be paid for both your normal working hours and any apprenticeship training you undertake at your training provider throughout the week.

2. Incredible Range of Choice

There is a huge variety of apprenticeships offered by businesses of all sorts! You can now become an apprentice in sectors like agriculture, beauty, business and IT, engineering and so much more. So, regardless of what career you’re interested in, there will be an apprenticeship out there that’s perfect for you!

To start exploring, why not check out the range of apprenticeship standards we provide End-Point Assessment for?

3. Practical Work Experience

In an apprenticeship, most of your learning is done on the job. So, if you prefer to learn practically, then the style of training provided in an apprenticeship is perfect for you! Additionally, because you’ll be working in real work environments, you’ll learn loads of skills specific to your job and industry. This valuable work experience will put you a step above fresh graduates from university, as they often struggle to find work because of their lack of experience.

4. Great Option for School Leavers

The 2018 GCSE and A Level results were recently released and for 16-18 year olds leaving school, an apprenticeship is a great option to consider. Apprenticeships are designed to take individuals who have no experience in a role and fully train with the necessary skills and experience needed to excel in their job. This is perfect for school leavers who have little experience or training in their desired career, as they will gain all of this in their programme.

You also have a great chance of securing a job with your employer after your apprenticeship! 90% of apprentices stay in employment after their apprenticeship, with 71% of those staying with their apprentice employer after the end of their programme. In this tough job economy, apprenticeships are a great option to start off your career!

5. But Anyone Can Become An Apprentice!

Apprenticeships are a popular option for young people, but don’t be fooled! There is no age limit for an apprenticeship—anyone over the age of 16 not in full-time education can enroll. So, for those who are interested in changing their careers, or who’d like to move into a job that requires a different skill set, an apprenticeship is the perfect opportunity for a brand new start.


If you’d like to see where an apprenticeship can take you, check out our blog on 5 Celebrities Who Started Out As Apprentices.

To keep up to date with the latest news from TQUK EPA, return to our blog or follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

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Gender Equality in Apprenticeships 

In 2016-17, the number of women starting apprenticeships in England was higher than men. 54% of apprenticeship starts were by women (262,280) whereas 46% of apprenticeship starts were by men (228,520). In fact, the number of women starting apprenticeships in England has been higher than men for every year since 2010.

Women dominate apprenticeships in sectors like customer service, children’s care, hairdressing, and health and social care. However, female apprentices are massively underrepresented in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and maths). In 2015-16, more than 72,000 male apprentices started engineering programmes in England compared to only 6,260 women.

Furthermore, according to a 2018 Engineering UK report, more than 1.2 million graduate and technician core engineering jobs will be needed across all industries from 2014-2024. However, there is currently a shortage of 37,000-59,000 engineering workers which are needed to meet an annual demand of 124,000 core engineering roles.

There seems to be an obvious solution to this skills shortage: encourage more women to go into STEM industries and STEM apprenticeships. The fact that, in 2017, only 11% of the engineering workforce was female demonstrates that women are a huge potential pool of talent that remains untapped. Companies that diversify their workforce also reap big benefits: a 2014 MIT study on workplace diversity found that offices could increase their revenue by 41% if they altered their approach to include an equal number of men and women in the workplace. Cloverpop also found that diverse workforces with members of different ages, genders and geographies made better business decisions 87% of the time.

How Can Companies Encourage More Female Apprenticeship STEM Starts?

There are a range of methods that companies have used to successfully boost their number of female apprentices. These methods — including how to attract, engage, support and retain female employees — have been neatly compiled into an apprenticeship toolkit created by WISE, ICE (the Institution of Civil Engineers) and Semta, a not-for-profit organisation determined to transform the skills of those working in the UK’s engineering and technologies sectors.

The toolkit is extremely useful for any company determined to improve gender diversity within their STEM apprenticeships. Here are a few methods that the toolkit recommends:

Attracting More Female Apprentices

On attracting more female apprentices, the toolkit recommends that companies:

  • Set clear targets and ask themselves: how many women do they have currently undertaking STEM apprenticeships, and how many would they like?
  • Ask themselves: what schools and colleges can they target to promote their STEM apprenticeships? What groups, such as women’s organisations or parent groups, can they further target to attract more women to their programme?

Engaging More Female Apprentices

On engaging more female apprentices, the toolkit recommends that companies review their recruitment process and:

  • Remove gendered language from their job adverts such as “signalman” or “3-man team”.
  • Make sure that there are images of women in the workplace on their website, as this will present a diverse and inclusive working environment.
  • If companies are using an external recruitment agency, explain to them that they’d like a diverse pool of candidates. Companies can ask to see all applications from women who meet the basic entry requirements. EDF Energy used this approach with recruiters and managed to boost their intake of women in apprenticeships from 8% to 21% in just one year.

Supporting Female Apprentices

After the recruitment process, the toolkit recommends that organisations do the following to support their female apprentices:

  • Provide one-to-one sessions with apprentices on a regular basis to discuss how they’re getting on and deal with any issues they may have.
  • Make sure that there are suitable changing facilities in their organisation, such as enough female toilets, and ensure that they’re accessible.
  • Make sure that staff are aware of the suitable language and behaviour that should be conducted in the workplace.

Retaining Female Workers

On retaining female workers once they’ve finished their programme, the toolkit recommends that companies:

  • Regularly review progress with their female apprentices and include conversations about their potential next steps in the organisation.
  • Encourage women who progress from their apprenticeship within the company and supporting them in these next steps. This may include enrolling them in further professional qualifications.


As an example of a company determined to increase the number of their female engineers, Rolls-Royce have set themselves two main targets for increasing their STEM starts:

  • To reach 6 million people through their STEM education programmes and activities by 2020.
  • To increase the number of female engineers from 9% to 50%.

To achieve this, they’ve:

  • Supported and promoted national events such as the UK Big Bang Science Fair, which has over 70,000 visitors every year.
  • Of their 60 STEM Ambassadors who support this event, 50% are women.
  • Around 30% of their 1,250 STEM Ambassadors who go out and engage with schools and communities are women.
  • Used the Rolls-Royce Women’s Network to attract and deliver girls to work events across their major sites.
  • Sponsored the Talent2030 programme, which is a national engineering competition that encourages 11-18 year old girls to solve major 21st century challenges using engineering solutions.

Their collective outreach has achieved fantastic results:

  • Rolls-Royce has doubled the number of women who are hired into their work experience placements every year.
  • 25% of their latest 14 year old Young Apprentices cohort were girls.
  • 20% of their 2016 Apprenticeship intake, advanced and higher, were girls.

The Future

The advice provided by the apprenticeship toolkit is useful to any STEM company who’d like to increase their number of female apprentices and employees. As only 11% of the engineering workforce was female in 2017, the UK still has a long way to go before it reaches full gender equality in its STEM industries. However, with the help of major companies like Rolls-Royce, the UK should be able to increase the number of women in STEM. Hopefully, as more companies come on board to a vision of an equal gendered workforce, the ratio of men and women in STEM will one day be 50/50.

For those interested in the toolkit, check out the Wise Campaign website for more details.

To keep up to date with the latest news from TQUK EPA, return to our blog or follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

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How TQUK Can Help You

The new apprenticeship standards are designed to improve upon what’s gone before and help with the apprentice’s initial journey into their chosen career, before you know it, they’ll be on the road to success.


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