Institute for Apprenticeships & trailblazer groups: support and expectations guide - working together for high quality apprenticeship standards

At the Institute, we aim to be collaborative and supportive in everything we do and this guide is to help you understand how we want to work with you - from first contact through to your apprenticeship standard being approved for delivery. The commitments and expectations detailed below are what the Institute and a trailblazer group should expect from each other along the way:


Institute support for trailblazer groups – helping you every step of the way

Expectations of trailblazer groups – helping us to help you


Delivery timetable and process


Efficient development of a new apprenticeship  standard, maximising the quality of the end product

  • The Institute will provide you with a comprehensive support package centred around a readily contactable relationship manager (RM). This will include attendance of your RM at trailblazer group meetings (sometimes remotely), webinars, written guidance and templates.
  • Your RM will provide additional support and work with you to find solutions if progress stalls or if your group encounters difficulties.
  • The Institute will promote and celebrate your involvement in the process once your apprenticeship standard has been approved for delivery.
  • In the unlikely event that your development of a specific apprenticeship standard becomes unfeasible, the Institute will withdraw support for its further development. This is to ensure that no employer time is wasted on developing apprenticeship standards with no prospect of succeeding.




  • Once you have agreement to develop an apprenticeship standard, you should work towards having a published occupational standard and end-point assessment (EPA) plan within a maximum of 12 months and, where practicable, in a significantly shorter time period than this.

  • In order to maintain momentum, work to develop an agreed occupation proposal into an agreed apprenticeship standard is expected to commence immediately, as any delay blocks other employers from developing the same occupational standard.
  • All drafting decisions must be taken by the trailblazer group as a whole, ensuring wide consultation and consensus.
  • The Chair or facilitator should act as the conduit for communication with the Institute.
  • You should aim to meet as a whole group at least three times (including virtual meetings) during each stage of the process.
  • You must remain open to new membership from employers and other relevant organisations for the duration of the process.
  •  You must collaborate with - and respond to - other trailblazer groups at their request or if requested by the Institute.


Working with your RM


Effective, considerate collaboration

Your RM will:

  • Provide you with a comprehensive overview of the process and a clear introduction to each new stage.
  • Proactively guide you through the process
  • Aim to be available via whatever combination of email, telephone and in person contact works for your trailblazer group.
  • Where practicable, attend your trailblazer group meetings (sometimes remotely) to provide updates and clarification on Institute process or requirements.
  • Be open to any invitations or familiarisation sessions you organise to help them to develop a good understanding of the occupation and particular challenges for the trailblazer group.
  • Aim to provide feedback within five working days of receiving a query or draft for comment.
  • Provide you with advance warning of any significant periods of annual leave so that workarounds can be arranged.


Your trailblazer group will:

  • Provide your RM with opportunities to aid their understanding of the sector and the occupation to be covered by the occupational standard.
  • Allocate time and opportunity at trailblazer group meetings for your RM to update the group about any Institute process or requirements developments.
  • Consider and consult across the trailblazer group each time your RM provides feedback, and respond in a reasonable and reasoned manner. 
  • Give your RM as much notice as possible to attend meetings and respond to queries, reflecting the fact that RMs work with multiple trailblazer groups.  


Approvals process


Running a robust approvals process in a time efficient way.  Working together to ensure timely delivery of accurate information

  • Prior to submission, your RM will work with you to ensure your draft is compliant with our requirements. At this point, the RM will give agreement to submitting it. 
  • For each stage of the drafting process (occupation proposal, occupational standard and EPA plan), the Institute will aim to respond formally to submissions within six weeks.
  • The Institute will review submissions against published guidance.  
  • When requirements or process changes are made, the Institute will publish updates prior to requiring compliance with them. Your RM will also advise you of any such developments which could impact on your work.
  • For draft occupational standards or EPA plans that are agreed subject to certain conditions, the Institute will sign off (or return for further work) revised drafts that address the conditions of agreement within two weeks of receipt.
  • The Institute will provide an initial funding band allocation alongside agreement of your occupation proposal.
  • In most cases, the Institute will provide a final funding band recommendation (which will then go to the DfE for approval) alongside agreement of your EPA plan.
  • You must secure agreement from your RM that your occupation proposal, occupational standard or EPA draft is compliant with requirements prior to submission. Any submissions received without this agreement will be automatically returned.
  • At any stage of the process, to avoid delays, you should aim to send what you expect to be your final draft to your RM at least five working days in advance of the submission deadline. If you send your RM such a draft too close to the deadline, they will not be able to guarantee reviewing it and agreeing to its submission in time.
  • For any draft occupational standard or EPA plan that is agreed subject to conditions, you will aim to submit an appropriately revised version within four weeks of being notified of the required conditions.
  •  You should provide as much information as possible to allow a robust final funding band recommendation to be made – this should include (but is not limited to) a full breakdown of the training requirements for the apprentice and the detailed provider quotes for delivering that training. All funding information should be provided at the same time as the EPA plan is submitted for agreement.


Feedback loops


Helping us to improve our requirements and process

  • As a trailblazer group, you commit to participating in Institute satisfaction surveys.

We hope that you find this guide helpful and would be very happy to hear any feedback.