A consultation has been launched on important plans to improve how qualifications tie-in with apprenticeships.

Many existing apprenticeships include the requirement to study and achieve particular qualifications. These are typically referred to as ‘mandatory qualifications’.

This arrangement can be good for apprentices - supporting them to achieve occupational licences and other certifications that businesses consider important. However, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) accepts that the qualifications and apprenticeships haven’t always worked together as well as they could.

The aim of these proposals is to make sure mandatory qualifications work seamlessly with all apprenticeships. The key idea here is to make sure that the qualifications are necessary; because an apprentice would struggle to get a job or progress, after finishing the apprenticeship, without them. And then we want to see an increased focus on ensuring qualifications line up with the apprenticeship’s training requirements and end point assessment (EPA).

Sam Callear, IfATE deputy director for policy and new concepts, said: “I’m delighted to present our proposals for how mandatory qualifications would work within apprenticeships looking ahead. They’re based on our experience of developing apprenticeships over the last few years and feedback we’ve had from employers, apprentices, providers and assessment bodies. We think we can improve the balance and relationship between the study and assessment needed to achieve these specific qualifications and the study and assessment that is needed as part of the apprenticeship. We’re really interested to hear what you make of them. I would like to encourage as many people as possible, who care about improving apprenticeships for generations to come, to respond to our consultation.”

Under the new proposals, IfATE would work with employers and awarding bodies to:

  • Ensure qualifications match up to employer-defined knowledge, skills and behaviours that apprentices must learn to prove they can do the job.
  •  Integrate professional qualification tests and EPA where possible. Some apprentices currently drop out after getting their professional qualification, before sitting their EPA, which means they never complete their apprenticeship. IfATE wants to put a stop that.

Examples of current uses of mandatory qualifications in apprenticeships include:

  • Apprentices on the adult care worker apprenticeship achieve a level 2 diploma in care as part of their apprenticeship. The gaining of this professional qualification is viewed by many employers as a minimum requirement for recruitment and proving staff are suitably skilled. It is generally accepted that apprentices would struggle to get a job in the sector without this qualification.
  • Marine Electrician apprentices achieve a level 3 diploma in marine electrical engineering which adds global currency to their apprenticeship in an occupation where international recognition is particularly important.

This consultation will last for 10 weeks up to 17 February 2023. Responses should be submitted online. Respondents do not need to reply to every question, just those that are relevant.

In exceptional cases where people cannot use the online system, for example because you use specialist accessibility software that is not compatible with the system, responses can be emailed to IfATE.MandatoryQuals@education.gov.uk