The Small Business Q&A: What are Apprenticeship Trailblazers?

The Small Business Q&A: What are Apprenticeship Trailblazers?

Many online searches around apprenticeships right now often refer to Trailblazers. If you’re wondering what they’re all about and whether they’re relevant to your business, here’s a quick Q&A from Apprenticemakers to help you find out more.

What is a Trailblazer?

A Trailblazer is a group of employers developing apprenticeships standards specific to job roles in their sector.

The standards they create will either be completely new (i.e. for job roles that have never had an apprenticeship programme before) or will gradually replace existing apprenticeships frameworks for job roles.

What do you mean by ‘frameworks’ and ‘standards’?

Both frameworks, and the new standards, are written definitions of the learning requirements for apprenticeship programmes. They are developed to ensure that all apprenticeship programmes are delivered and measured consistently.

In order to ensure that apprenticeships are employer led, frameworks are gradually being replaced by apprenticeships standards which are developed by groups of employers.

What’s special about the new apprenticeships standards?

The overall objective of the new apprenticeships standards is to ensure that apprenticeships are truly employer led.

Standards are therefore designed by employers (Trailblazer groups) to meet their needs, the needs of their sector and the economy more widely.

Guidance around the development of the standards specifies that they need to be short, easy to understand documents that describe the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to undertake a specific occupation well, and to operate confidently within a sector.

The new standards focus on how an apprentice should demonstrate mastery of an occupation, and meet professional registration requirements in sectors where this exists (for example, in engineering, science and accountancy).

The approved standard therefore is a concisely written document that outlines the skills, knowledge and behaviours required of the apprentice and the job they need to be able to do by the time they have completed their apprenticeship.

How are Trailblazer groups formed?

A minimum of ten employers including small employers, put in an expression of interest to develop a standard for a specific job role to the government’s Business Innovation and Skills Department (BIS) through a monthly submission cycle.

Successful applications will need to meet the criteria set out in Future of Apprenticeships in England- Guidance for Trailblazers to ensure that the occupation is suitable for the development of an apprenticeship standard, and that the proposed employer group is representative of the relevant sector or sectors.

What does each Trailblazer group do?

Each Trailblazer uses the criteria set out in Future of Apprenticeships in England- Guidance for Trailblazers to develop their draft standard

Once standard has been drafted and consulted upon, they will then formally submit to BIS for approval. Once approved, the new apprenticeships standard will be published.

The Trailblazer will then develop their assessment plan which will set out:

  • What will be assessed
  • How the apprentice will be assessed at the end of their apprenticeship to judge competency
  • Indicate who will carry out the assessment and who will make the final judgement of competency and grading which will need to be independent of the employer and training provider.

The assessment plan will then be submitted to BIS for approval.  Once approved it will be published with a funding cap (i.e. the maximum amount of funding that will be available from the government for this apprenticeship), and the standard becomes approved for delivery.

What do all standards have in common?

To ensure every standard is of high quality there are seven criteria that all apprenticeship standards must meet which are:

  1. Be short and concise
  2. Set out the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed in an occupation, so that, on completion, the apprentice is able to competently carry out the role in any size of employer across any relevant sectors
  3. Have the support of employers including smaller businesses
  4. Be sufficiently stretching so that it will require at least a year of training (before the end point assessment) with off the job training accounting for at least 20% of the apprenticeship
  5. Align to professional registration where it exists
  6. Contain minimum English and maths requirements and any digital skills required
  7. Only include mandatory qualifications under certain circumstances.

How are Trailblazers relevant for my business?

The new apprenticeships standards are designed by employers to meet needs of employers in that sector. Therefore in the future the apprenticeships programmes your apprentices are learning on should be precisely geared towards achieving the skills your business needs for that job role.

Once an apprentice completes an apprenticeship based on a new standard, the objective is that they will be a fully competent and productive employee in that job role.

As the new Trailblazer standards come online employers can choose to start their apprentices on apprenticeships based on the new standards. If these aren’t available yet, employers can still start an apprentice on an existing framework apprenticeship. There will period of crossover whilst the new standards come online, however eventually all frameworks will be switched off.

If you’re interested to know the status of standards in development and approved for job roles in your sector, see the Apprenticeship standards ready for delivery and the occupations approved for development of an apprenticeships standard.

How can my business inform the development of an Apprenticeship standard?

Whilst the standards are in development Trailblazer groups are required to consult widely with businesses in order to ensure that the standards meet the needs of your business whatever the size of your company.

Therefore, if you’re interested in having an input during the consultation phase, take a look at the standards in development as most of these have contact details which enable you to express your interest in being included in the consultation process.

The government also opens a survey for two weeks after all expressions of interest, drafted standards or assessment plans have been submitted for approval. All comments received are considered by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. This will provide an additional opportunity to feed in your views.

How can I set up a Trailblazer group to develop a new Apprenticeship Standard?

If the job role your business needs isn’t covered by any of the standards that are approved or in development, there may be potential for you to support the development of a new Trailblazer group.

Follow the Future of Apprenticeships in England: Guidance for trailblazers, for a comprehensive guide on how to get involved.

This would enable your business to be at the forefront of skills development for your sector, as well as providing an opportunity to ensure the relevant apprenticeship programme is geared to suit the needs of your business, and the wider sector.

Employers have also reported other benefits of getting involved including that the process provides an opportunity to build relationships with businesses of all sizes, and raises awareness of their business’s support for apprenticeships.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the process can require significant time investment, particularly if you’re in a leading role. Also, the development of a new standard can take around two years from inception to an apprenticeship being ready for delivery.

How can I find out whether the standards I’m interested in are in development or approved for delivery?

Take a look at the Apprenticeship standards ready for delivery and the occupations approved for development of an apprenticeships standard.

Find out which employers are involved in each Trailblazer group here and their main point of contact.

Where can I find more info?

For more information on Trailblazers see Future of Apprenticeships in England: Guidance for trailblazers.

Also check out the Employer Guide to Apprenticeships Standards.

How can Apprenticemakers support Trailblazers?

There are lots of ways Apprenticemakers can support the development and roll out of Trailblazers.

  • Businesses can join Apprenticemakers for free and connect with other businesses in their sector
  • Trailblazers can set up an employer group in the Apprenticemakers online community to provide updates and invite consultation amongst interested parties.
  • Apprenticemakers can feature case studies from businesses starting their apprentices on the new Trailblazer standards.
  • And of course we can help spread the word about Trailblazers in development by via our newsletter, TwitterFacebookand LinkedIn feeds too.

Find out more about how Apprenticemakers can support Trailblazers employer group activities here or give us a call on 0845 4671628.

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