A crucial part of your apprenticeship is your apprenticeship portfolio, as this could determine whether or not you pass your apprenticeship.
An apprenticeship portfolio serves as a record of your growth and achievements throughout the apprenticeship period.
In this blog we will explore the key steps to build and manage an effective apprenticeship portfolio.
Understand the Apprenticeship Standard
Every apprenticeship will have a corresponding apprenticeship standard, you can find yours by visiting the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IFATE) website and searching for your apprenticeship. You can filter by route, status and the level of apprenticeship to ensure you find the correct one. Once you find yours, you will be able to read through the details of the standard and read the required competencies, knowledge and understanding points. Before you build your portfolio you should clarify with your training provider to ensure that the apprenticeship standard is the correct one.
To start building your portfolio, Identify the knowledge and behaviours outlined in the standard as these will serve as the foundation for your portfolio tasks.
Personally, I have copied the table of competencies, knowledge and understanding points into a document and added an ‘evidence’ column on the side so that I can add to this when I get assigned a relevant task.
If you don't feel like you will get assigned a relevant task, it will be up to you to communicate this to your manager and ask to be put on a project where you will be able to demonstrate this competency. If neither of those options are possible, you can always complete external activities in order to demonstrate competency.
Linking your educational modules to the standard
The learning side of the apprenticeship can also serve as evidence for your portfolio.
For example, as a cyber security apprentice, one of my competencies is to ‘design, build, configure, optimise, test and troubleshoot simple and complex networks’ which I have been able to link to my current university module ‘operating systems and architecture’ as our assignment is to build and configure, test and optimise a network.
I have documented this in my portfolio by outlining the brief of the module, referencing our assignment brief, and created STAR (Situation Task Action Result) points to explain and showcase how I have demonstrated the competency.
Document Work Tasks
Document specific work tasks assigned by your manager. If your work is ‘confidential’ or if you aren't allowed to document any work that is ‘customer facing’ you are able to still reference these pieces of work, however each way is specific and at the discretion of your manager, reach out to your manager and make your university aware if this is the case, and they can give you more guidance on how to do this appropriately.
Create connections between each ‘work task’ and its corresponding competency in the apprenticeship standard. Clearly articulate how your experiences and achievements demonstrate your proficiency in each area, as this helps assessors evaluate your competence but also showcases your understanding of the practical application of theoretical knowledge.
This portfolio should evolve with your apprenticeship journey, you should be regularly updating it and documenting the evidence as this is something you may not be able to go back and do in a few months or years. It also ensures that your portfolio remains current and is an accurate reflection of your skill development and accomplishments, which can also serve as a good motivator!
Focus on quality over quantity
There may be multiple work tasks that demonstrate the same competency, choose the tasks that best exemplify your knowledge and your capabilities, you don't need to include multiple tasks if one of them fully shows you have demonstrated the knowledge and behaviors required to meet that competency.
You may want to document every single activity you completed for a specific task, however you should focus on quality over quantity for this as well, the STAR method is a good way to structure your documentation for each task. This is to save your own time, and your assessors time.
Feedback from peers, mentors or your manager can provide insights on not only how you can improve your portfolio, but also starts a discussion on how you can get put on different tasks that align with competencies in your standard, as not every work task or team/department will be able to help you demonstrate certain skills and behaviors, therefore communication is crucial.
Prepare for EPA
When you recognize the role your portfolio plays in your apprenticeship, this will help you to be able to prepare for any interviews or discussions around it with your training provider, ensure you have sufficient evidence for each competency and that you are able to discuss every task, troubles you faced, and what you have learnt.
How to supplement your portfolio
Having a portfolio is purely to help you pass your apprenticeship standard with your training provider, however when you finish the apprenticeship, you may also want to have evidence of your competencies that directly relates to your skills to show your employer for a promotion / graduate role or to demonstrate your competencies to other employers.
Personally, I have also created an ‘achievement’ doc to supplement my portfolio, this doc specifically relates to work tasks and is based on the role guidelines of a full time employee for my specific role path. In this doc it is best to reference both hard and soft skills, as both can be seen as equally important to ensure you are a ‘good employee’.
If you are able to access your role guidelines, you can do a similar thing to the portfolio where you evidence where you have demonstrated certain skills and behaviors, its best to split this up into hard and soft skills, how your behaviours align with the company's values/mission, and then split up every ‘task’ using the STAR method, Situation Task Action Result) in order to give the full overview of the task at hand.