Trailblazer groups are responsible for developing occupational standards which form a key component of an apprenticeship and underpin T Levels and other IfATE approved technical qualifications. However, the following guidance relates to the development of apprenticeships only.
Trailblazers need to remain active once their apprenticeship is approved for delivery, to respond to any change requests. We also encourage trailblazer groups to promote their apprenticeships to potential users.
We have requirements for trailblazer groups and expectations on how they operate. This includes groups being made up of employers that represent the occupation and intend to employ apprentices in it.
Our product managers (PMs) lead our support for trailblazer groups through the entire process.
With our support, the role of a trailblazer group is to:
We also ask that with our help you:
Below are the high-level requirements for a trailblazer group and how we will assess if your trailblazer group meets them.
be a group of employers recognised by IfATE and reflective of those who employ people in the occupation, including small employers
analysing the types (for example, size, sector) of employers who employ people in the occupation and scrutinising evidence that the trailblazer group membership reflects this.
IfATE has the power to convene a trailblazer group however, most groups are autonomous and self-forming. We want to ensure groups are inclusive and independent. We, therefore, have requirements relating to a group’s membership and how it operates. These apply where the trailblazer group is convened by IfATE or self-formed.
We need to approve your trailblazer group membership. Before doing so, we may request that you add specific new members as a condition of agreeing your occupation proposal to develop an apprenticeship.
We allow co-chairs; both must meet these requirements.
Membership is based on an individual’s expertise, rather than as a representative of their organisation.
Non-employers may include apprentices or representatives of training providers, EPAOs, EQAPs, professional body(s), and regulator(s). Whilst we encourage them to participate, the group’s employers must make final decisions on the development approach and content of the apprenticeship.
In addition to the support received from IFATE Product Managers, some Trailblazers like to use a sector or skills body to support the development and revision of their apprenticeships. We welcome the involvement of any such organisation as long as decision making continues to rest with the employers, and the facilitator does not use their involvement with the Trailblazer to promote any wider services provided by their organisation.
Trailblazer groups often work together. Some have an ‘over-arching chair,’ to ensure the work of the groups is joined up. Where this occurs, it is for the groups to decide who undertakes this role.
Trailblazer groups members, or individuals who support the group, must declare any conflict of interest. Conflicts of interests can include a perception of conflict of interest between your work with IfATE and your own interests. These could be financial or otherwise. A conflict of interest is a situation where you have many interests or loyalties and serving one of those interests could involve undermining or working against the other interest. An example would be your organisation having a financial interest in the apprenticeship’s delivery. It is always better to declare something that may be a conflict than to not declare. This allows the group to be aware of potential conflict and to act.
A declaration does not prevent your involvement with the Trailblazer group. It might mean that you do not ‘vote’ on some aspects or even leave the meeting for a part of the discussion. It is a fundamental part of the transparency and integrity of the process.
The Trailblazer Chair should keep a record of the declarations of interest. They should check for further declarations at each meeting.
One of the benefits of a trailblazer group is that it brings together representatives of a range of employers all of whom have their own experience of an occupation and what represents best practice. Whilst the sharing of information within a trailblazer group relating to this is key to developing an apprenticeship that is genuinely transferable, the trailblazer will need to take any steps which might be necessary to avoid anti-competitive activity. A way of addressing this adopted by one trailblazer group has been to read out this compliance statement at the beginning of each meeting reminding members of this point.
You need to enter details about your trailblazer group in the trailblazer portal:
The information that you are required to provide in relation to each contact is their email address, name, and job title along their organisation’s name, type, main business activity, size and head office location. Providing telephone numbers and job descriptions is optional.
These details must be entered before you submit an occupation proposal. You need to keep them up to date, both during the development process and after the apprenticeship has been approved for delivery.
This information will be held in accordance with GDPR requirements. Contacts will generally only be contacted in relation to the occupational standards that they are developing (or have developed) except for Trailblazer chairs and/or facilitators who may occasionally also be sent wider ranging information about the apprenticeship programme and other technical education products. We may also use the information (anonymously) to analyse the make up of Trailblazers across the apprenticeship programme.
PMs lead our support for trailblazer groups. They work with a range of groups within the same routes. This enables them to develop sector knowledge and contacts.
Please email us if you want to develop a new apprenticeship, outlining the occupation.
Below we set out what IfATE and a trailblazer group should expect from each other.
We have a travel fund to reimburse small employers (that is those with fewer than 50 employees) for the reasonable costs involved in travelling to trailblazer group meetings. Our claiming travel costs guide provides details on what can be claimed and how.
To deliver apprenticeship training, training providers must be on the register of apprenticeship training providers (RoATP).
Training providers can provide input and feedback during the development process. They may also help with consultation and promotion. You must provide us with typical training delivery information to inform our funding band recommendation for your apprenticeship. This includes information and evidence related to: typical delivery methods, necessary consumable costs, and mandatory qualification fees. To gather this information, you may wish to work with or seek advice from stakeholders for example, training providers. Further information on these requirements is available on the Allocating a funding band webpage.
In addition, to support from your PM, provider networks can help you contact training providers:
EPA must be undertaken by an organisation on the register of end-point assessment organisations (RoEPAO) for the specific apprenticeship.
EPAOs can provide input and feedback during the development process. They may also help with consultation and promotion. You need at least one quote from an EPAO for delivering the end-point assessment to inform our funding band recommendation for your apprenticeship.
The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) will not fund apprentices to start on a new apprenticeship until an EPAO has given an ‘in principle’ commitment to deliver the EPA or an EPAO has made a successful application to the register (whichever is earliest).
To support this, you need to engage with at least one potential EPAO(s) early in the apprenticeship development process.
Any such EPAOs need to complete a form to share information about their intent to apply to the RoEPAO to deliver EPA for your specific apprenticeship.
The ‘in principle’ organisation will still need to make a successful application to the RoEPAO before they will be able to assess apprentices who are on programme.
The ‘in principle’ agreement will mean the ESFA can have greater confidence that there will be an EPAO on the Register for every apprenticeship as quickly as possible and as soon as they will be needed.
In addition, to support from your PM, the ESFA can help you get in touch with an EPAO. They can also help potential EPAOs to complete the ‘in principle’ forms. You or EPAOs can contact the ESFA at firstname.lastname@example.org
The ESFA has guidance for organisations applying to be an EPAO.
In exceptional circumstances, IfATE may withdraw its support for a trailblazer group to develop an apprenticeship. This would mean that the group was no longer approved by IfATE to develop an apprenticeship. This may be applied at any time in the development process for any of the following reasons:
If such a scenario develops, your PM will discuss the issue with you prior to any decision to withdraw our support being made.
Where support is withdrawn from a trailblazer group and the occupation is listed on an occupational map, we will consider whether it should remain on the map.
For any queries relating to the potential development of a new apprenticeship please contact our enquires team via Enquiries.IFA@education.gov.uk
Last updated 1 Nov 2023