Groups of employers, termed ‘trailblazer groups’, develop new apprenticeship standards. Trailblazer groups also have a role in the subsequent reviews of their apprenticeship standards, when we check if they are still required and fit-for-purpose.
We expect trailblazer group employers to employ apprentices in the occupation once it is developed and to market the apprenticeship standard actively once it is approved for delivery.
Trailblazer groups must meet certain requirements. These are explained on this page and there is a link to our support and expectations guide, which details how trailblazer groups and the Institute need to work together to develop apprenticeships effectively. We also outline some ways of working based on our work with existing trailblazer groups.
Once approved to develop an apprenticeship standard, we would expect to support you through the full process until it is ‘approved for delivery.’ However, we also cover below what happens when things don’t work out.
Our requirements for a trailblazer group are detailed in the left hand column of the table below. The information you provide via your relationship manager (RM) will need to cover these requirements. The actions in the right hand column indicate how we will test your trailblazer group against these requirements.
|Trailblazer group requirements||The Institute will assess whether this criterion has been met by:|
The trailblazer must be a group of employers recognised by the Institute and reflective of those who employ people in the occupation, including small employers
✔ Analysing the types (for example size, sector, etc) of employers who employ people in the occupation and scrutinising evidence that the trailblazer group membership reflects this
Trailblazer groups are autonomous and self-forming. However, we want to ensure that they are genuinely inclusive and independent and it is therefore important that:
Where a current chair is unable to meet the above requirements, we will ask you to select a different chair. Co-chairing is acceptable but both co-chairs must meet the above requirements .
Before you submit a proposal to develop an apprenticeship standard, your RM will ask you to provide information relating to the above requirements along with details of any other organisations involved.
There may be times when we convene employers to form a trailblazer group and in such cases the same requirements will apply.
We recognise that some trailblazer groups work closely together and may collectively appoint an over-arching employer chair to act on matters of importance to all their groups. This is acceptable as long each individual trailblazer within such a group also has a chair that meets our criteria. We are happy to include any over-arching chairs in communications relating to a particular apprenticeship standard, where the chair for that trailblazer group identifies them as an additional contact.
Our support and expectations guide sets out the commitment and collaboration that the Institute and a trailblazer group can reasonably expect from each other.
It is not a legally binding agreement, but is offered in a supportive spirit, and is intended to make clear to all those involved what is needed to ensure the process is as efficient as possible.
Your primary contact within the Institute will be your RM who will be on hand to support you through the entire apprenticeship standard development process. If you aren’t already working with a RM, please email Enquiries.IFA@education.gov.uk with brief details of the occupation for which you’re considering developing a proposal for an apprenticeship standard, and a RM will contact you.
RMs are aligned to specific routes to enable them to develop greater sector knowledge and help identify potential overlaps between apprenticeship standards.
In the first instance, you RM will help you check that there isn’t already a group working on the same or a similar apprenticeship standard. They can also advise other relevant trailblazer groups about your plans, to help you expand your membership and gain their support where needed.
Beyond that, your RM can:
Whilst your RM does not have a formal role in our approvals processes, they must confirm that any submission (occupation proposal, occupational standard, EPA plan, funding form) is ready for consideration before you submit it; any submissions made without this will be returned to you.
A number of organisations and consultants offer a variety of support services to trailblazer groups for which they charge a fee. We do not provide financial support for such services. Unless you need to source basic administrative services (which are not provided by us), we discourage you from purchasing fee-paid services because we consider that they are neither necessary nor add value for trailblazer groups. The expert support from our relationship managers will assist you in the apprenticeship standard development process. Taken together with our online guidance, online template, workshops and webinars (all of which reflect current requirements and process), the support offered by us means that there is generally no need to make use of fee-paid services.
Other support provided via your RM can include:
We also have a travel fund to reimburse small employers (that is those with fewer than 50 employees) for the costs involved in traveling to trailblazer group meetings. Our travel fund guide provides details on what can be claimed and how.
In our experience, a trailblazer group made up of 10-12 employers is probably sufficient to be representative, whilst ensuring the work of the group is manageable. You can keep other interested employers up-to-date with progress and seek their input and feedback via consultation.
You may wish to engage employer organisations to support the work of the group, such as sector or trade bodies, professional bodies, or industry training boards. They may be able to help you find other employers interested in developing the same apprenticeship standard through a call out to their members.
We suggest you also engage and consult with potential training providers and end-point assessment organisations, especially as you move further along the development process. However, you should ensure that the work of the group remains employer-led and that the employers make all decisions during the development process.
You may want to agree and set out terms of reference for your trailblazer group, including:
Here are some RM top tips based on our experience of having worked with numerous trailblazer groups since 2013:
Once approved to develop an apprenticeship standard, we would expect to support you through the full process until it is ‘approved for delivery.’ However, in exceptional circumstances, we may wish to withdraw our support for a trailblazer group to develop an apprenticeship standard where one or more of the following circumstances arises:
If such a scenario develops, your RM will discuss the issue with you prior to any decision being made.