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Published: 2nd August 2023

Half Year Interview

Half Year Interview With Steve Smith, Managing Director
Half Year Interview
With Steve Smith, Managing Director

As we head into the summer break and preparations are underway for the start of the new academic year we sat down with Steve Smith, Managing Director of SIAS to reflect on 2023 so far…. 
“It’s been a fantastic first half of the year. We set ambitious goals at the beginning of January, and so far, we have exceeded them all! In 2022 we delivered a record year for SIAS across every measurable; commercial, strategic, product, brand and social impact, and it was therefore really important for me that we could build on that momentum in 2023, so, overall, I am extremely happy with where we find ourselves now.
“There were several key priorities that we set ourselves for the year.  First and foremost, we wanted to continue to build on our strong focus on customers and value delivery. To support that we’ve transitioned our operations team this year to a model that is even more focused on customer experience, this shift has included the introduction of our new EPA Relationship Coordinator roles who now work closely to support our provider and employer partners every day.  It’s the way we are ensuring that every customer and apprentice can fully benefit from the value and positive impact our unique end-to-end EPA model delivers. Our partners continue to provide positive feedback about how we are making EPA work for them in the way it should, which has been great to see and hear.  The transition to the approach has been brilliantly managed across the start of 2023 and it’s just business as usual for us already at SIAS.
“Another priority for the first half of the year was the implementation of our new testing platform, Questionmark – a natural evolution for us after the successful introduction of EPA Pro in 2022.  We had an aggressive timeline to be up and running to support the first standards in scope by June and we achieved that.  Over the next four or five months we’ll phase the testing platform into and across several of our other standards giving our customers and apprentices even more flexibility in how they engage with us in relation to assessment.
“We’ve also been working on expanding our product portfolio, and this year so far we’ve achieved everything we set out to do in terms of developing and becoming approved to EPA new standards.
“We are now up and running with Funeral Director and Funeral Team Member supporting Co-Op as the leading employer nationally in a critical sector which is exciting. Equally exciting is our continued success and expansion into wider STEM standards, particularly Engineering – we’ve recently been approved to EPA Level 3 Machining Technician and by September we will also be live and ready to accept registrations onto Level 3 Engineering Fitter and Level 3 Metal Fabricator also, so watch this space!
“Looking ahead, we continue to have big product plans, including the introduction of standards like Level 3 Polymer Technician, Level 3 Battery Manufacturing Technician and Level 3 Process Manufacturing Technician (standards coming out of Science Manufacturing Route Review), as well as two specialist standards in partnership with the NHS – Level 3 Clinical Coder, and Level 3 Prosthetics and Orthotics Technician.
“By the end of 2023 we’ll have doubled our product portfolio to 20 standards, from the point I started with SIAS in January 2022, and we’re aiming to further expand it to around 25-30 standards by the end of next year.
“Another priority for 2023 was to continue to strengthen our compliance and internal quality processes, last year was the first year under Ofqual regulation for all EPAOs and I’ve spoken a lot about that and the challenges and opportunities it has brought into the market.   For us, continuous improvement is an on-going priority.  We had a strong first statement of compliance at the end of last year, so we’ve been working hard in the first half of this year to build on that and look for more ways to improve.
“Throughout 2023 we’ve also continued to achieve incredible numbers in terms of our commercial and strategic growth.  In 2022 we delivered a record number of new registrations, new provider, and employer partners on-boarded, and overall financial performance – we’re on track to double that again this year!
“Why that’s important, and what is exciting for me, is that we are using that commercial success to re-invest back into SIAS in a significant way – whether it’s investment in technology infra-structure like EPAPro and the Questionmark testing platform, or in our people through the substantial growth in our headcount, or in even more and better resources to support the Standards we assess – across the board, we are using our continued success to invest in continuing to ensure we service the growing demand with quality, and to ensure we deliver a best in market value proposition to all of our valued partners and stakeholders, not just now, but for the next three, five, ten years and beyond – we are already positively disrupting the market in a way that would have been almost unthinkable a couple of years ago!
“So, I am hugely proud of what we are achieving.  It doesn’t happen organically, this type of success and impact isn’t a fluke, it happens because I have an amazing team of fantastically talented, committed professionals at SIAS who work really hard every day at pace and with quality, putting our customers at the heart of everything we’re doing, a team I’m so proud to be a part of and lead.
“What I’m the proudest of though, beyond our achievements, is that we’ve managed to introduce into the sector a unique, innovative and fresh approach to how EPA can be done.  When we first started to approach things in this way, I think there were some people in the market that were sceptical and thought it wasn’t possible, certainly not at scale – but it is possible, it is working, we can see it working, our customers are telling us it’s working, and it is what’s driving our success!
“And I know now other EPAOs, and stakeholders, are beginning to really look at what we’re doing and starting to try and replicate it, or parts of it, and for us that’s a huge compliment because I believe what we do, and how we are doing it, can bring benefits across the wider sector. 
Of course, I want SIAS to ‘win’, to be successful, to be the best EPAO out there, but for me it’s not just about ‘winning the game’, it is about trying to change the game, so that there’s a better outcome for all apprentices… and what is best for apprentices, what gives them the best chance possible to maximise their huge potential, to achieve, to succeed and progress….is ultimately what this must always be about for all of us that work in, and care about, this great sector.”

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