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This guidance has been developed for awarding bodies intending to submit level 3 technical qualifications for approval by IfATE. 

This guidance will explain: 

  • qualifications in scope of the approvals process
  • approvals criteria against which qualifications will be assessed
  • process for approval
  • registration of interest form
  • proposal stage form
  • the support and resources available to awarding bodies 

Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) commits to: 

  • providing written guidance online and through webinars on the approvals process
  • deliver an efficient process and minimise the administrative burden
  • promptly respond to queries as they arise during the development of your submissions 


1. The role of employers in building a simpler skills system

New approvals process for level 3 technical qualifications: Explainer for employers


The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) has launched a new employer-led process for approving level 3 technical qualifications.

This will ensure that technical qualifications all deliver on employers’ skills needs by:

  • Applying our statutory tests (provided through the Skills and Post 16 Education Act 2022) to make sure content and assessment meets employers’ needs
  • Ensuring the system is coherent, rigorous, and streamlined to maximise quality and minimise bureaucracy.

This plan was consulted on in Summer 2022, 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.

What do you mean by technical education and technical qualifications?:

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 awarding body to oversee assessment.

What is level three and where does that sit with other qualification levels?:

The most basic level of training is level 1. Level 3 is two steps up from that 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).

Why is IfATE now involved with approving level 3 technical qualifications?

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 technical qualification approvals and eventually level 2. 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 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.

How will this work with the Office for Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) and the Department for Education (DfE)?

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.

What are the rollout plans for the new level 3 approvals system?

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. Awarding bodies will be able to submit qualifications for approval in summer 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


2. Information for awarding bodies

In line with the next stage of the government’s review of post-16 qualifications at level 3 in England, IfATE has launched the first cycle of approvals for level 3 technical qualifications.  

To guide awarding bodies through the process, IfATE has published the following information; 

  • technical qualification categories  
  • standards in scope for cycle 1 approvals process
  • proposal stage information  
  • pre-defined specialist areas and duties  
  • registration form  
  • approvals process manual  

For qualifications aligning to standards in scope for cycle 1 approvals our submission window will be between 3 July - 31 July 2023. Qualification submissions will be accepted within the following routes: 

  • construction and the built environment
  • digital
  • education and childcare
  • engineering and manufacturing  
  • health and science  

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. 


Published 10 Jan 2023
Last updated 10 Jan 2023