Core aim: Aligns to an existing occupational standard(s) and enables entry to the aligned occupation(s) (including providing entry level competence with the requirement for further learning/training in work to reach full occupational competence).
Qualifications in this category may be approved under section A2D5 of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 (ASCL 2009).
The appropriate test for this category is the ‘alternative approval test’ (in section A2D5 (3) of the ASCL 2009).
This category will also be subject to the ‘employer demand test’ (in section A2D5 (3) of the ASCL 2009).
Qualifications in this category will be required to achieve the following purposes:
The qualification will enable students to acquire the knowledge, skills, and behaviours relevant to developing competence in an occupation.The extended version * of the qualification will also provide students with the opportunity to develop a broad knowledge of the occupational route to underpin their study of the occupation specific knowledge, skills, and behaviours.The extended version* of the qualification will provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate transferrable employability skills which underpin their technical competence.The qualification will provide employers with reliable evidence of a student’s attainment against occupational standard KSBs which form the minimum requirements for entry into occupation.Where identified as required by employers, the qualification will differentiate student achievement to support selection decisions.The qualification will form part of a (re)engaging, flexible, course of learning which will motivate students looking to enter into, and progress within, the occupational area.
* Qualification which also includes, introductory sector knowledge to support wider contextual understanding of the route, and transferrable employability skills. Per DfE’s consulted on ‘Occupational Entry’ qualification group
Failure to submit complete versions of all requisite documents will render the submission invalid until such a time that all completed materials are received by IfATE.
For each document submitted by an applicant in support of the qualification’s approval, IfATE will apply the alternative approval test. This will be applied along with the employer demand test which IfATE uses to establish the likely demand from employers for a student who has achieved the qualification. The criteria for approval will be set out in full below to ensure applicants are aware of the specific focuses of the tests IfATE will apply. It is important to note that IfATE will also receive feedback on the submission from Ofqual when reviewing and approving technical qualifications. It is the intention that applicants will only need to submit one set of documents to satisfy the reviews of IfATE, Ofqual and DfE.
All applications provided to IfATE must demonstrate:
Applicants must submit an employer engagement rationale and evidence pack which details the evidence collected in the development of their application. This evidence pack must adhere to the following requirements:
Through their rationale, IfATE expects applicants to demonstrate a robust, coherent, approach to the gathering of their employer evidence.
The rationale should clearly lay out the applicant’s approach to establishing that the submitted qualification is supported by employers and that employers have or are likely to have demand for a student who has achieved the qualification.
Within the rationale, applicants must ensure they cite qualitative and quantitative evidence in a coherent way, balancing the need to engage employers directly with any desk research they have used to inform their qualification development.
The rationale must provide IfATE with answers to the following questions:
The rationale must be accompanied by an employer engagement pack which is made up of a range of evidence, both qualitative and quantitative which best demonstrates the applicants research and engagements. The employer engagement pack must include the following:
All employer evidence submitted must be clearly referenced in the rationale and, where relevant, should indicate clear links to content and assessment materials to which the evidence relates (for example, reference to a learning outcome within the qualification content).
IfATE do not expect applicants to submit all evidence gathered in the development process as part of their evidence pack. Evidence submitted should be sufficient to assure IfATE that the engagement described within the rationale has taken place. Applicants are expected to hold the entirety of their employer engagement evidence on file for the lifetime of the qualification. Further evidence may be requested from the applicant in the event that IfATE requires additional assurance when making an approval decision, or as part of our ongoing oversight of the landscape.
Applicants could provide the following evidence to support their rationale that there is demand from employers for employees who have obtained the qualification:
Applicants could provide the following evidence to support their rationale that the assessment requirements are fit for purpose and support occupational entry (i.e., a student who achieved a pass grade would be deemed by a suitable range and number of employers to be eligible to enter the workforce):
Applicants could provide the following evidence to support their rationale that qualification standards will be maintained through continued employer engagement:
To ensure the broadest possible endorsement of their qualification, applicants should, as far as possible, ensure they engage with a range of employers which is representative of the occupational area. This should include:
Applicants should provide details of the organisation, job role and general role requirements of the employers they engage. However, applicants should avoid submitting information or material that contains personal data unless it is strictly necessary to do so.
Where an individual or organisation engaged in the development or validation process has a vested interest / conflict of interest (for example, a commercial partnership with the applicant or an awarding body board member who also sits on a consulted employers board), this should be declared within the evidence submission.
Applicants should ensure that representatives of employers have experience that is suitable for the task requested of them, for example:
In some instances, employer representatives may satisfy both categories (technical expert and senior decision maker). In such instances awarding bodies should ensure it is sufficiently clear in their submission to IfATE that the individual has the credentials to comment on technical content, as well as student employment prospects.
When providing evidence of interactions with employers (during the development process) and the decisions resulting from such interactions, applicants should avoid submitting exhaustive accounts (for example, transcripts) of their work with employers. Evidence submitted relating to direct interactions should focus on assuring IfATE of the following:
All applications provided to IfATE must demonstrate:
That the applicant has achieved suitable coverage of the KSBs indicated as included within their qualification materials. IfATE will assess this in line with the following principles:
Any rule of combination within the qualification should cover as many of the knowledge, skills and behaviours in the relevant occupational standard as it may be reasonable to attain by undertaking a course of education or training. Where it appears that a significant proportion of KSBs in the relevant occupational standard(s) cannot reasonably be obtained, IfATE will seek additional evidence of employer support for occupational-entry technical qualifications in the occupation. This is to ensure that approved occupational-entry technical qualifications are credible with employers.
Where a qualification maps to more than one occupational standard, the applicant must make clear (in the specification) as to the rule of combination for each individual qualification pathway.
Coverage of all KSBs must be clearly referenced within the mapping template. Applicants should ensure they include the page numbers and specification references (for example learning outcome number, unit title and specific paragraph etc.) of all instances of coverage for each KSB statement. IfATE will use these references to review the KSB coverage within the submitted specification document. Applicants are not required to copy and paste full text from the specification into the mapping template. Applicants may wish to highlight/label parts of the specification to indicate where a specific KSB is covered.
IfATE will make a judgement as to whether each KSB (in the occupational standard(s) to which the qualification relates) can reasonably be attained by undertaking a course of education and training and IfATE may further challenge applicants who propose excluding KSBs which IfATE consider could be delivered, either fully, or at least partially, in a course of education and training.
That any additional content included within the qualification has been developed in line with the purpose of the qualification and is demanded by employers in the occupational area:
Additional content refers to qualification outcomes that are not mapped to the occupational standard to which the qualification relates. The substantive element of a qualification should cover the knowledge, skills and behaviours in the occupational standard. IfATE may not approve a qualification if it has significant concerns about the amount of additional content and/or its relevance to the occupation. A disproportionate amount of additional content may impact negatively on the overall quality and/or credibility of the qualification with employers. IfATE will carefully consider its policy goals of improving quality and clarity in the technical education landscape, and its wider statutory duties, when making an approval decision about qualifications containing significant amounts of additional content.
For level 2 occupational entry qualifications primarily aimed at 16-19 students, responses to the DfE L2B consultation made clear that students would benefit from the inclusion of content which covers:
Transferable employability skills to support adaptability and practical application. IfATE expects applicants to include such content in addition to their coverage of occupational standard KSBs within their qualification offer, to support student development.
To help awarding bodies include this additional content in a consistent way, IfATE has developed a transferrable skills mapping framework, which provides elaborations of generic, transferrable employability skills that can be applied across all occupational areas. It is not IfATE’s intention to be prescriptive about how these skills are specified and assessed in qualifications. The mapping framework is provided as a guide to inform content, rather than being prescriptive about the content itself.
Where included, awarding bodies should make clear within the mapping document where a qualification outcome targets a transferrable skill. Awarding bodies should only do this for those transferrable skills that are additional and therefore cannot be mapped to KSBs in the relevant occupational standard(s). Where employability skills can be mapped to occupational standard KSB(s), mapping should be indicated against the relevant K, S and/or B. IfATE expects to observe, within any submission looking to satisfy the DfE ‘Occupational entry’ group design intentions, that applicants are able to demonstrate their inclusion of a minimum of four of the specified generic skill areas.
The generic skill areas included in the mapping framework are:
Awarding bodies may also consider including additional transferrable employability skills that are not generic and therefore could not be evidenced by students in all occupational areas. For example, within subjects such as Hair and Beauty, IfATE understand that a number of students choose to progress to self-employment or business ownership, rather than traditional employment. To facilitate this, awarding bodies may choose to include additional skills relating to enterprise / commerciality to support students taking this path.
Additional examples of areas awarding bodies may wish to consider include, but are not limited to:
Where content is developed with the intention of providing transferrable employability skills but does not use IfATE’s employability skills mapping framework, the outcome should be recorded under the heading ‘transferrable employability skill’ within any submitted mapping documents. Whether referenced against IfATE’s pre-populated list, or by using this alternative method, IfATE will not require further justification for its inclusion within a level 2 occupational entry offer.
When developing transferrable employability skills content, awarding bodies may also wish to refer to resources such as the Skills Builder framework. Awarding bodies should also refer to the skills required within associated and higher level (related) occupations on IfATE’s occupational maps, or within the T level employer set project requirements, to ensure that the skills they include have relevance in the wider route.
Introductory sector knowledge to support wider contextual understanding of the route, for example knowledge of:
Due to the diverse nature of introductory sector knowledge across different occupational areas, IfATE has not developed a mapping framework for this type of additional content. Where content is created with the intention of providing introductory sector knowledge to a student, it should be referenced under ‘Introductory sector knowledge’ within any submitted mapping documents. Where referenced in this way, IfATE will not require further justification for its inclusion within a level 2 occupational entry offer. It is still expected that IfATE will be assured, through the employer evidence submission, that employers have been involved in determining any introductory sector knowledge content.
When developing introductory sector knowledge content, awarding bodies may also wish to refer to the DfE’s National Technical Outcomes (NTOs) as a source of information on content which may be deemed introductory in nature.
Where additional content is included which is not aligned to the occupational standard and does not seek to provide introductory sector knowledge or transferrable employability skills, IfATE expect this would primarily cover the following:
You must provide a rationale for the occupational relevance of any content that does not directly align with the occupational standard and is not intended to provide introductory sector knowledge or a transferrable employability skill. If required, IfATE may request additional evidence of employer engagement and may query the occupational relevance of the additional content submitted.
Where the applicant wishes to rely upon more substantive evidence within their employer evidence submission, they should provide clear reference (within the mapping template) to relevant sections of their evidence submission to allow IfATE to complete its requisite checks.
Note that, where additional content relates to one of the following areas, IfATE will not require the content to be supported by employer evidence:
Applicants should ensure that it is clear within their submission which of these areas the additional content relates to. Where relevant, applicants should link to any publications or frameworks which informed their inclusion of the additional content.
Applicants must provide, as part of their submission, a PDF of the Qualification Specification document containing within it coverage of as many KSBs from within the aligned occupational standard(s) as can be achieved within a course of education.
Where a qualification specification maps to more than one occupational standard, the applicant must make clear within their content overview document the relationship between the qualification units/modules and the standard(s) to which they relate.
Applicants must use the mapping template provided with online application form to show how the content and assessment methods in the qualification they are submitting cover the KSBs in the relevant occupational standard(s).
As well as mapping their qualification to the KSBs, applicants will also need to indicate if there are any KSBs that cannot be achieved in the qualifications intended delivery context and explain why. Justifiable rationale could include (but not be limited to):
The qualification may also include additional content over and above the KSBs set out in the occupational standard. Requirements for rationalising the inclusion of additional qualification content have been covered in the previous section.
Any content that does not align to the relevant occupational standard(s) should be included in the additional content section of the application template. IfATE expect the vast majority (substantive element) of the qualification to cover the KSBs within the occupational standard(s).
Applicants are expected to cover as many of the knowledge, skills and behaviours (KSBs) in an occupational standard as may be reasonably covered in a course of education. IfATE expect as many of these as possible should be covered fully, although some may be covered partially.
KSB coverage may be deemed to be insufficient if:
All KSBs contained within IfATE approved occupational standards are developed and/or reviewed in line with our Equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) framework. This framework acts to ensure that all occupational standards are developed and reviewed with essential EDI factors considered. It is IfATE’s expectation that awarding bodies ensure that, through their own development processes, they also ensure that EDI factors are considered when producing their qualification content.
In addition to these requirements for content, the DfE set out intentions in its consultation response (July 2021, Question 21) that, in order to ensure accessibility for all adults, technical education qualifications intended for delivery to adult students (and the processes which underpin their delivery) should be designed to allow for modular delivery and the recognition of prior learning (RPL). IfATE agree that these elements may help adults access opportunities to reskill or upskill, allowing them to fit study around existing responsibilities such as work or caring.
Accordingly, applicants may, where appropriate, design their qualifications in such a way as to lend themselves to modular delivery of content. This can be done in several ways to aid the flexibility of teaching and learning, and applicants should consider elements which may impact a provider’s ability to provide modular delivery of the content within the teaching of the qualification.
It is also advised that applicants ensure they have in place a suitable RPL policy and process to recognise prior learning and reduce the duplication of content for adult students. Any RPL arrangements put in place by an awarding body must comply with Ofqual general condition E10.
IFATE is aware that training providers will already be delivering a range of employability and social skills as part of their curriculum/programme design, to support the needs of Level 2 students. In order to promote holistic curriculum design and not stifle innovation, IfATE recommends that awarding bodies are not overly prescriptive in the ways they describe transferrable employability skills. It should be the aim, where possible, to enable training providers to embed additional content within their curricula/programmes.
In line with best practice, training providers should also be advised to conduct an initial assessment for each student. This will help to determine their level of employability skills and sector knowledge, and, therefore, whether they should be enrolled on an occupational entry or occupational focus version of the qualification.
All applications provided to IfATE must demonstrate:
Applicants will be required to submit an assessment strategy along with sample assessment materials which substantiate their approach to the assessment design, delivery and awarding of the qualification. The detailed assessment strategy requirements are the subject of Ofqual’s consultation into level 1 and 2 qualifications leading to employment.
As part of their submission, applicants will be required to provide an assessment strategy explaining the choices that have been made in the development of the qualification, as well as their approach to its ongoing monitoring.
There are three key properties of effective assessment strategies: There are three key properties of effective assessment strategies:
If required, Assessment strategies will likely cover the following aspects of the qualification's design and maintenance arrangements:
Full details of the proposed requirements for assessment strategy documents can be found in Ofqual’s consultation into level 1 and 2 qualifications leading to employment.
Applicants are required to submit sample assessment materials (SAMs) which cover the entirety of the assessments a student would be required to complete in order to obtain the qualification.
Any SAMs submitted must be no more than 2 years old and assess mapped knowledge, skills, and behaviours within the occupational standard(s).
For qualifications with a single pathway, IfATE only require one complete set of SAMs, per qualification. Where a qualification contains multiple pathways, applicants are required to submit additional SAMs for each pathway.
Sample assessment materials must include:
Technical qualifications should prepare students appropriately to enter, and progress in, skilled employment, and so assessment should be used to promote competence in relation to the occupational area covered by the qualification.
Holistic assessment in a technical context is achieved when a student is required to draw on outcomes from across a range of qualification content, demonstrating their learning within assessments that employers have validated are suitable to establish competence in relation to a given occupation.
Assessment design should therefore take opportunities, as appropriate to the occupation, to holistically assess how far students are competent across the breadth of the outcomes covered by the qualification. Consequently, the use of compensatory approaches are discouraged, if this could result in students achieving a pass for the qualification having failed to demonstrate sufficient competence for one or more of the occupational requirements. Where compensation is applied, awarding bodies must explain, within their submission, how their approach to compensation does not compromise a student’s ability to demonstrate occupational competence.
Where qualifications are designed with several assessments available at multiple points throughout the qualification, IfATE believe there is a particular risk that these may assess (and that students could develop) a fragmented rather than holistic understanding of the occupational area. In such situations, IfATE think it is particularly important to ensure students can make effective connections and draw together knowledge, skills and/or understanding from across the occupational requirements. Where possible, IfATE believe that assessments should also seek to incorporate key occupational behaviours, assessing these as part of the wider assessment construct.
Awarding bodies may decide that a modular approach to assessment is appropriate to the purpose of their qualification. If taking a modular approach, awarding bodies must ensure that assessments group content coherently, generating tasks which are representative of actual industry requirements.
When delivered correctly, modular approaches to assessment can provide several benefits to students. IfATE has identified the following primary benefits of adopting a modular approach to assessment:
These benefits must be considered alongside the requirement for students to develop competence within the occupational area(s) to which the qualification relates. It is IfATE’s view that the achievement of small tasks in isolation is not sufficient for a student to demonstrate competence within the occupational area, as it removes the requirement for students to holistically demonstrate their learning across the breadth of the occupational requirements.
IfATE also expect modularity to be used to support flexibility within a defined qualification structure and not to promote undue levels of optionality. It is IfATE’s view that a high level of optionality within a qualification is likely to lead to students not being required to cover occupational requirements sufficiently or consistently, thus reducing employer understanding/confidence in the competence being delivered by the technical qualification.
The achievement of a technical qualification is intended to signal to employers that a student has achieved a level of competence suitable to perform a job role or function within the occupational area. As a result, the requirements for a pass grade must be set accordingly and IfATE expect that awarding bodies set out their approach as part of their submission.
IfATE acknowledge in some occupations; employers may value the ability of a qualification to differentiate student achievement (for example, when comparing candidates). In such cases, IfATE encourage awarding bodies to differentiate grading above the pass grade if employers have indicated this is valuable to them for recruitment purposes.
To maintain comparability between their own qualification offers, IfATE suggest that awarding bodies consider adopting a consistent grading scale approach within their qualification offer.
Published 20 April 2023
Last updated 20 April 2023