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This guidance has been developed for awarding bodies intending to submit level 3 and level 2 technical qualifications for approval by IfATE. The approval process for level 3 technical qualifications in scope for cycle 1 launched on 10th January 2023. IfATE has now launched the approval process for level 2 technical qualifications in scope for cycle 1.
This guidance will explain:
Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) commits to:
The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) has launched a new employer-led process for approving level 3 and level 2 technical qualifications.
This will ensure that technical qualifications all deliver on employers’ skills needs by:
The plan for level 3 was consulted on in Summer 2022 and plans for level 2 consulted on in January 2023, with feedback confirming reform is needed because employers struggle to understand and engage with the system. They think there is too much choice, and it is hard to know which skills training programmes meet their needs.
There are currently around 3,500 technical qualifications at level 3 and consultation responses indicated frustration over variable quality and a lack of proper industry scrutiny to make sure the training matches up to the needs of the marketplace.
Our new process will help ensure that the knowledge, skills and behaviours students learn are relevant and useful to employers. Making technical qualifications employer-led also produces best results for students who can feel confident they are learning the right skills for successful careers.
Technical education: This term describes government-funded training and assessment for work (often for a specific job or occupation). It covers classroom, work and online-based training including apprenticeships, which typically involve at least 80% learning on the job and the equivalent of one day a week studying off-the-job, with a college or private training provider.
Technical qualifications: Technical qualifications are taught mainly away from the workplace – for example, in classrooms or online (although work experience and/or work-based assessment is required as part of some programmes including T Levels). The ‘qualification’ covers the required teaching content and assessment and is owned by the awarding body who develops the content. Training providers pay them to be able to teach the content and for the awarding body to oversee assessment.
The most basic level of training is level 1, level 2 is one step up from that and is the equivalent to GCSE. Level 3 is a further step up from level 2 and equivalent to skills-focused T Levels or academic A Levels.
Technical qualifications and apprenticeships are available to train people for occupations across the economy from level 2 up to degree and post graduate level (6 to 7).
IfATE already supported groups of employers to develop the ‘occupational standards’ for apprenticeships, T Levels, and Higher Technical Qualifications.
These ‘occupational standards’ set out the knowledge, skills and behaviours students must learn to be considered competent in their jobs. They will now also guide level 3 and level 2 technical qualification approvals. This is following the lead of the government’s Skills for Jobs White Paper.
Everything will fit together into a simpler skills system that employers and students can have full confidence in. Opportunities for progression across the full suite of training options will soon be set out on IfATE’s updated occupational maps.
The new IfATE approvals system for level 3 and level 2 will be built around our employer demand test. Put simply, is there likely to be demand from employers for a student who has achieved the submitted technical qualification? To meet this requirement, awarding bodies will need to prove they have properly engaged with large and small businesses. They will have to provide convincing evidence of direct employer engagement activities and targeted research.
IfATE has worked closely with Ofqual and DfE to ensure the role that each organisation plays in the process is clear, streamlined, and coherent.
Awarding bodies will only be required to submit one set of documents for approval to IfATE and Ofqual.
IfATE will not charge fees for submissions for approval in submission cycles set out in the consultation.
Once approved by IfATE, the DfE will then review the approved qualifications, allocating funding to those which meet their funding criteria.
IfATE is ready to work with awarding bodies to ensure the first approved technical qualifications are available to be taught from 2025.
The first sectors under consideration will be construction and the built environment, digital, engineering and manufacturing, education and childcare, and health and sciences.
For level 3 technical qualifications in these sectors, awarding bodies will be able to submit qualifications for approval between 3 and 31 July 2023.
For level 2 technical qualifications in these sectors, awarding bodies will be able to submit qualifications for approval between 13 November and 24 November 2023.
Support documents and pre-recorded webinars for the technical approval process can be accessed from our support page along with information about DfE hosted webinars, with IfATE and Ofqual, explaining how the reforms will work.
You can email us with any further questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
In line with the next stage of the government’s review of post-16 qualifications at level 3 and below in England, IfATE has launched the first cycle of approvals for level 3 and level 2 technical qualifications.
To guide awarding bodies through the process, IfATE has published the following information;
For level 3 qualifications aligning to standards in scope for cycle 1 approvals our submission window will be between 3 July to 31 July 2023.
For level 2 qualifications aligning to standards in scope for cycle 1 approvals our submission window will be between 13 November and 24th November 2023.
Qualification submissions will be accepted within the following routes:
*There are no standards at level 2 for digital. Therefore, for the digital route, qualifications will only be accepted at level 3.
The approval process for level 3 technical qualifications in scope for cycle 1 launched on 10 January 2023.
Following launch, awarding bodies will have from 10 January 2023 until 31 July 2023 to develop their qualifications, but should note the following deadlines throughout the approvals process.
Following submission, awarding bodies will receive feedback and outcomes from IfATE colleagues by April 2024.
DfE will publish their funding decisions by summer 2024, with level 3 technical qualifications for cycle 1 routes ready to teach for September 2025.
The approval process for level 2 technical qualifications in scope for cycle 1 launched on 20 April 2023.
Following launch, awarding bodies will have from 20 April 2023 until 24 November 2023 to develop their qualifications, but should note the following deadlines throughout the approvals process.
Following submission, awarding bodies will receive feedback from IfATE colleagues early in June 2024 before IfATE provide approval decisions to DfE in Summer 2024 and DfE will also provide funding decisions in Summer 2024, with level 2 technical qualifications for cycle 1 routes ready to teach for September 2025.
To support awarding bodies with their submissions, IfATE will provide a combination of live webinars, pre-recorded webinars and one to one sessions, details of which can be found on our support and resources page.
IfATE has a pivotal role in ensuring alignment of level 3 and level 2 post-16 technical qualifications with employer-led occupational standards. We are leading the implementation of the approvals process. This includes the publication of requirements for approved technical qualifications at level 3 on 10th January 2023 and level 2 on 20th April 2023.
The employer voice will be an essential part of this process, helping to ensure high quality qualifications that are aligned to IfATE’s occupational standards which are housed within our occupational maps. Alignment to occupational standards will also enable greater consistency between qualifications in the same subject areas and provide greater confidence that the knowledge and skills that learners are developing are most relevant to employers.
IfATE’s occupational maps are a useful tool for providers and learners in the delivery of Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance (CEIAG). Our maps bring together essential information, showing where technical education can lead, whilst also providing information explaining what someone in the occupation does, average salary, expected duties, and the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to achieve occupational competence.
Awarding bodies must align their qualifications with employer led occupational standards and through exploring the standards within the occupational maps, providers can develop their understanding of the types of qualifications that may be submitted as part of IfATE’s approval process.
IfATE, DfE and Ofqual are working closely to raise awareness of the volume and coverage of registrations of intent submitted to IfATE by awarding bodies relating to level 3 and level 2 technical qualifications. Though not exhaustive, IfATE recognises that this early awareness may support curriculum planning and the delivery of careers information, advice and guidance (CEIAG) to students.
IfATE is also working with representative bodies including, Association of Colleges and Federation of Awarding Bodies to update providers throughout each key phase of the approvals process, which will culminate in level 3 and level 2 qualifications approved in cycle 1, being available for first teach in September 2025.
Providers are encouraged to work closely with awarding bodies (especially those they hold centre recognition for) to ensure the awarding sector is developing and submitting qualifications which enable them to deliver their intended curriculum outcomes. In addition to helping to shape the awarding sector's offer, this will support the providers own curriculum planning for 2025 and allow for their need and demand to be taken into account in the development of level 3 and level 2 technical qualifications.
Though IfATE will lead the approvals process, DfE will continue to have overall responsibility for funding decisions, based on the requirements set out in their qualifications funding approval manual and Ofqual will continue to regulate awarding bodies and their approved technical qualifications to ensure they are high-quality and that assessments are valid.
Any queries in relation to funding for level 3 and level 2 technical qualifications should be sent to email@example.com.
Queries in relation to Ofqual regulatory requirements should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
An overview of the approval process and key timelines can be found in IfATE’s approvals process manual for level 3 and level 2.
Published 10 Jan 2023
Last updated 20 April 2023