The Importance Of Functional Skills

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Navigating the world of work with confidence hinges on a solid grasp of Functional Skills Maths and English, the cornerstone of all apprenticeship programmes.

They arm apprentices with the crucial toolkit to excel, ensuring numeracy and literacy become second nature.

However, within apprenticeships, the mastery of Functional Skills is about more than just meeting a standard. It’s about creating a work ethic that is capable of clear communication, precise calculation, and logical decision-making.

As apprentices polish these fundamental skills, they’re better positioned to tackle the complexities of their roles and engage more fully with the ever-evolving demands of today’s workplace.



Understanding Functional Skills

Let’s kick things off with a clear definition of functional skills from the apprentices’ viewpoint:

Functional skills are essential skills in English and mathematics that help you perform everyday tasks confidently, efficiently and effectively. These skills are not just about passing tests; they are about applying knowledge in real-life scenarios.

Functional skills in Maths?

Functional math (or numeracy) skills cover basic arithmetic, data analysis, measurements and problem-solving. They help you make accurate calculations and understand data in your daily work.

Functional skills in English?

Functional English (or literacy) skills encompass reading, writing and communication. They enable you to convey ideas clearly, interpret information, and communicate effectively in various professional situations.

What are functional skills equivalent to?

Functional skills level 2 are equivalent to a GCSE pass at grades A*-C.

Achieving functional skills level 2 demonstrates a solid foundation in English and mathematics, which is often a requirement in many job roles.

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The Role Of Functional Skills Within An Apprenticeship

Now that we have clear definitions of what functional skills mean in reality, let’s be clear on the role they play in apprenticeship programmes and what this means for learners engaging in an apprenticeship.

For the vast majority of apprenticeship programmes, learners will either need to hold Functional Skills Level 2 qualifications or will need to achieve this level of qualification prior to undertaking the End Point Assessment for their apprenticeship.

To this end, all apprentices will engage in a functional skills initial assessment prior to enrolling on their chosen apprenticeship. This is usually conducted online by the training provider and provides an evaluation of the learner’s current English and mathematics capabilities.

These assessments gauge your proficiency in reading, writing and numeracy and the results help determine the appropriate starting point for functional skills training on an individual basis.

What if I already hold functional skills level 2 equivalent qualifications in Maths and English?

Although you will still need to undertake the initial assessment described above, if you already hold and (most importantly) are able to provide copies of your certificates for these qualifications then you will be exempt from undertaking any further functional skills training or exams to achieve these qualifications.

What if I don’t hold functional skills level 2 equivalent qualifications in Maths and English?

If you don’t have this level of qualification or (as is more common) aren’t able to provide evidence of your certificates for Maths, English or both, then you will need to undertake additional functional skills training and achieve your Level 2 qualification prior to End Point Assessment.

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How Is Functional Skills Training Delivered?

The approach to delivering functional skills training can vary depending on the provider, but the core objectives remain consistent.

Apprenticeship providers may offer functional skills training in diverse ways including:

  • Classroom Instruction – Some providers offer traditional classroom-based training, where learners attend regular sessions to enhance their skills. This method provides face-to-face instruction, allowing for real-time interaction and clarification of doubts.
  • eLearning – Many providers incorporate technology, offering eLearning modules and online courses. This format provides flexibility, allowing apprentices to access training materials at their own pace, fitting around their work commitments.
  • Blended Learning – A combination of classroom instruction and eLearning, offering the advantages of both approaches. Learners benefit from the structure of traditional classes and the flexibility of online resources.
  • Workplace Integration – Some providers focus on embedding functional skills training into the apprentices’ daily work tasks. This practical approach helps learners apply the skills directly in their roles.

MTD provides a blended approach to functional skills training which is focused around workplace integration of the learning, and is tailored specifically to the development areas of each learner.

For example, if a learner’s initial assessment for Maths highlights that they are very competent with percentages but struggle with fractions, then we will focus on developing their knowledge of fractions as a priority – rather than insisting that every learner goes through each element of the functional skills curriculum, which enables us to tailor the learning to that apprentices’ individual learning needs.

The ultimate goal of functional skills training, regardless of the delivery method, is to ensure that apprentices acquire the proficiency in English and mathematics to achieve the relevant levels of qualification required to perform their jobs effectively.



How Are Functional Skills Qualifications Assessed?

Functional Skills Level 2 qualifications are assessed through a combination of examinations and practical assessments that rigorously evaluate an individual’s proficiency in English and mathematics. Here’s an overview of how these assessments work:

  • English Assessment – The English assessment is designed to measure skills related to reading, writing, speaking and listening. It often includes tasks such as reading and comprehending passages, writing essays or reports, engaging in verbal communication and understanding spoken instructions or presentations.
  • Mathematics Assessment – The mathematics assessment assesses numeracy skills, including arithmetic, data analysis and problem-solving. Apprentices are required to solve mathematical problems, work with data and interpret and apply numerical information in real-world scenarios.
  • Examinations – Functional Skills Level 2 assessments typically involve timed, written exams where learners are presented with questions and tasks that reflect the real-world applications of these skills. Examinations can be paper-based or delivered electronically.
  • Practical Assessments – In addition to written exams, practical assessments may be included. These assessments often require apprentices to demonstrate their skills by completing tasks or solving problems relevant to their specific industry or occupation.
  • External Assessment Bodies – These assessments are administered and marked by external assessment bodies or awarding organisations, ensuring impartiality and adherence to standardised evaluation criteria.
  • Passing Criteria – To achieve a Level 2 qualification, apprentices must meet predetermined pass criteria. This may include achieving a minimum score on the assessments or demonstrating competency in key functional skills areas. If you require clarification on the pass criteria, speak directly with your apprenticeship provider.



Benefits Of Functional Skills

Functional skills offer numerous advantages for apprentices, making them highly valuable. Here’s why apprentices should embrace and appreciate these skills:

  • Enhanced Employability – Apprentices with strong functional skills are more attractive to employers. They have the capability to handle day-to-day tasks with confidence and proficiency.
  • Improved Job Performance – These skills empower individuals to excel in their roles. They can communicate effectively, analyse data and make informed decisions, contributing to overall job success.
  • Career Advancement – Learners with functional skills are better positioned for career growth. They are well-prepared for the challenges of more advanced roles and responsibilities.
  • Adaptability – Functional skills make apprentices adaptable in an ever-changing work environment. They can apply their skills to various situations and industries.
  • Lifelong Learning – Developing functional skills is not limited to apprenticeships. These skills stay with individuals throughout their careers, aiding them in continuous learning and development.

Practical Examples Of Functional Skills

Now, let’s explore some practical examples of functional skills that our apprentices in different roles have benefited from:

Motivating and Leading Teams Through Effective Communication Skills

Effective leaders inspire and motivate their teams. Apprentices learn to articulate a clear vision, set attainable goals, and provide feedback and encouragement through verbal and written communication, helping to maintain team morale and focus.

Effectively Working with Cross-functional Teams

Working in cross-functional teams requires understanding different perspectives and collaborating with various departments. Apprentices learn to communicate their ideas clearly and integrate inputs from diverse teams to achieve common objectives.

Building and Maintaining Relationships with Clients

Establishing and sustaining client relationships is key to business success. Apprentices are trained in client management techniques, from active listening to regular communication, ensuring clients feel valued and their needs are met.

Managing Project Finances and Resources

This skill involves overseeing budgets, managing costs, and allocating resources efficiently. Apprentices learn financial literacy skills, enabling them to make sound decisions that align with the project’s financial constraints.

Making Well-Informed Decisions Based on Data and Analysis

Data-driven decision-making is essential in a business environment. Apprentices are equipped with analytical skills to interpret data, draw conclusions, and make informed decisions that will benefit the organisation.

Clearly Conveying Information and Instructions to Teams and Customers

Clarity in communication is critical. Apprentices are trained to provide clear instructions and convey information in a manner that is easily understood by teams and customers, avoiding misunderstandings and errors.

Creating Comprehensive Project Plans and Schedules

This involves the ability to outline a project’s lifecycle, from inception to completion. Apprentices learn to map out key milestones, allocate time effectively, and anticipate potential schedule disruptions.

Identifying and Addressing Challenges Within the Organisation

Proactive problem-solving is a vital functional skill. Apprentices learn to identify bottlenecks, think critically about solutions, and implement changes to overcome organisational challenges.

Effectively Negotiating with Clients to Close Deals

Negotiation skills are imperative for securing agreements that are favourable to both the company and its clients. Apprentices learn persuasive communication techniques and strategies to confidently negotiate and seal deals.

Managing Administrative Tasks and Responsibilities

Strong organisational skills are necessary for managing day-to-day administrative duties. Apprentices learn to handle tasks such as scheduling, filing, and reporting, ensuring smooth operations within the organisation.

Effectively Addressing Customer Issues and Concerns

Addressing customer service issues requires patience, empathy, and resolution skills. Apprentices are trained to listen actively to concerns, provide effective solutions, and follow up to ensure customer satisfaction.

Efficiently Managing Work Schedules and Priorities

Time management is essential for productivity. Apprentices are taught to prioritise tasks, set realistic deadlines, and manage their workload efficiently to meet the demands of their role.

Creating and Delivering Compelling Sales Pitches

A compelling sales pitch requires a blend of product knowledge, persuasive communication, and confidence. Apprentices learn to craft messages that resonate with their audience, effectively highlighting the benefits of their products or services.

Identifying and Mitigating Potential Project Risks

Risk management involves anticipating potential issues that could impact a project. Apprentices learn to assess risks, develop contingency plans, and take preventative measures to minimise disruptions.

Handling Multiple Customer Enquiries Efficiently

Dealing with multiple enquiries requires strong multitasking abilities. Apprentices are taught strategies for managing a high volume of customer interactions without compromising on service quality.

Embracing The Power Of Functional Skills

Functional skills are not just academic requirements; they are the building blocks of a successful career. From effective communication to data analysis and decision-making, they equip apprentices with the tools they need to thrive in their current and for their future role and field.

By recognising their real-world value and integrating them into your professional journey, functional skills will not only open doors but also empower you to excel in your chosen career path.

Thanks again


Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Training

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Updated on: 14 December, 2020

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