The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) groups skilled occupations which have related requirements for technical knowledge and practical skills into 15 routes and represents them on occupational maps. For most occupations on the maps, there is an employer designed standard which sets out all the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to become fully competent.


1. Cycle 1 qualification categories

The qualification categories in scope for Cycle 1 are: 

  • level 3 Occupational entry technical qualifications for 16-19 & adults
  • level 3 Occupational entry technical qualifications for adults only
  • level 3 Additional specialist technical qualifications for 16-19 & adults 


2. Cycle 1 timeline

The submission window for applications will be between 3 and 31 July. We encourage applicants to book support sessions prior to submitting their application. 

To prepare for submission of the level 3 occupational entry technical qualifications, we recommend that applicants begin aligning their qualification to the relevant standard’s KSBs and review their qualification’s content and assessment to ensure it is in the best position to be approved. 


3. Cycle 1 occupational standards in scope

For cycle 1 of the approval of level 3 technical qualifications, all level 3 standards in the following routes are in scope. 

  • Digital
  • Engineering and Manufacturing
  • Construction and the Built Environment
  • Health and Science
  • Education and Childcare 

Our occupational standards contain the knowledge, skills and behaviours identified by employers as required to competently perform an occupation. To ensure occupational standards remain current, they are regularly reviewed and revised against the needs of employers. Therefore, some of the standards in scope may have recently been reviewed or revised; others will need to undergo a review and may have revisions applied in the future.

You can find details of standards currently being revised and route reviews on the website.

Where an occupational standard is revised post-qualification approval, we aim to allow awarding bodies the flexibility to apply any changes using their own internal change process; without the need to resubmit materials for re-approval. This flexibility will be provided for revisions which take place to standards within one year of IfATE's qualification approval decision. Where a standard has undergone significant change, we may request that awarding bodies submit to our formal change process. This will be decided on a case by case basis and IfATE will work with awarding bodies to make suitable arrangements for the re-approval of qualification materials. If you have any queries about the occupational standards in relation the level 3 approval process, please email 

Applicants can access the list of occupational standards in scope for cycle 1 of the level 3 technical qualifications approvals process. Please note that further standards may be added to this list if they are currently in the process of being revised, for example if a standard’s levelling is revised to be at level 3. 


4. Predefined specialist areas and duties

Additional specialist qualifications build on occupational standards and enable an individual to specialise within an occupation, usually building on prior achievement of competence in the core occupational outcomes. These qualifications will be either: 

  • developed by awarding bodies based on our pre-defined specialist areas and associated duties published by IfATE
  • developed by awarding bodies following submissions via our proposal stage submission process. 

Awarding bodies can submit qualifications for approval against predefined areas without the need to first submit a proposal. The predefined areas and duties below are in scope for development of level 3 additional specialist qualifications in cycle 1. These were developed based on existing qualification provision and validation sought through an external survey and internal teams at IfATE. 

Within each area we have suggested a link to the occupational standard that the areas build on, however awarding bodies can also determine the appropriate link between specialist duties and occupational standards, based on the competencies that they recognise that the area builds on.

Specialist areas above may also contain sub areas. When recording the duties associated with our pre-defined areas, we will ensure it is clear where a duty applies to a sub area for example:

Specialist area: Adapting and developing exercise 

Sub areas:  

Adapting exercise for antenatal and post-natal clients

Example indicative duties

  • considers the physical changes which take place during the antenatal and post-natal periods
  • considers contraindications to exercise for antenatal and post-natal clients


Adapting exercise for independently active, older people

Example indicative duties

  • considers the ageing process and demographics when planning activities
  • makes special considerations when programming and delivering exercise for independently active, older people


The pre-defined list intends to guide awarding bodies to develop additional specialist qualifications for submission through IfATE’s qualification approval process. It is important to note that when developing a qualification within an area specified within the list, we do not mandate that awarding bodies include all indicative duties within their qualification. Awarding bodies may wish to target more or fewer duties than those specified by IfATE when developing their offer. Awarding bodies should also explain their inclusion of sub areas and duties outside of those specified by IfATE and will be expected to include this rationale as part of their full qualification submission. 

Whilst our pre-defined list covers areas in which we may expect submissions, we anticipate that awarding bodies will also consider developing qualifications in areas not identified within the published list. We have therefore introduced a proposal stage process to allow flexibility for awarding bodies to set out intended developments in areas outside of the predefined list. 

5. What is the proposal stage and why is it needed?

We recognise the need for flexibility in the technical education landscape, to allow awarding bodies to be responsive to the market and submit qualifications which deliver against emerging skills needs, offering specialist competence in areas that are demanded by employers. These may be existing or new qualifications that build on and go beyond the competencies in our occupational standards.  

The proposal stage allows IfATE to have advanced sight of an overview and rationale for the intended additional specialist qualification(s). Through it, IfATE will consider the proposal(s) and provide recommendations to awarding bodies on subjects such as the duties they intend to target within their proposed offer.  

The proposal stage application process for level 3, cycle 1 is now closed. 

6. Level 3 technical qualifications requiring a proposal stage

For Cycle 1, the proposal stage only relates to additional specialist qualifications developed based on duties not published in predefined list.


7. When is a proposal submission not needed?

Occupational entry qualifications will not be subject to submission into a proposal stage. It is important to note that the decision whether or not to require a proposal relates to a category’s association with our occupational standards – that is, where there are established KSBs which the technical qualification aligns to, no proposal is needed because the substantive content of the qualification is already known to IfATE. A proposal will also not be required if the qualification aligns to a published predefined area.   


8. What will awarding bodies be expected to submit as part of the proposal?

Awarding bodies are not required to develop a suite of qualification materials to submit as part of the proposal, and no regulation and recognition requirements will apply at this stage.  

Awarding bodies will be required to submit a proposal form, providing details of the intended additional specialist qualification(s). The below list indicates the types of information IfATE will likely collect through our proposal form:

  • proposed specialist area including Intended qualification title and level
  • intended size of the qualification (guided learning hours GLH)
  • occupational route 
  • relevant occupational standard which the qualification seeks to build on 
  • proposed list of duties that will be used to develop the qualification content  
  • defined specialist job roles an individual could undertake upon completion of the additional specialist qualification 
  • evidence to indicate employer demand for the specialist competency within the labour market 
  • whether the qualification is a requirement for statutory or professional body recognition within the occupation.   

We expect awarding bodies to have engaged with the published additional specialist criteria to inform their development planning, prior to submitting a proposal(s). We also encourage awarding bodies to undertake early engagement within their employer network and use our soon to be published employer strategic guidance to inform and support their proposals.  


9. How will IfATE use information from the proposal submission to make recommendations to awarding bodies?

Following receipt of a proposal, IfATE officials will undertake a review of the proposal including a series of internal, and where appropriate, external checks. These will include checks against the criteria for additional specialist qualifications, review of the intended duties, as well as a review of rationale and/or evidence provided to support the need for the specialist competency within the skills system.  

On completion, IfATE will then send through recommendations to awarding bodies. Any recommendations provided by IfATE are not an approval decision and are therefore non-binding. Following receipt of our recommendations, we expect awarding bodies to make their own decisions to proceed (or not proceed) with the development of their proposed qualification. 

Recommendations to awarding bodies may include comments on: 

  • the fit of the intended qualification within the route and the need for the qualification(s) 
  • the duties proposed for the intended qualification(s) and where appropriate, suggest additional duties as part of the recommendation. 

Where awarding bodies proceed to develop and submit a qualification through our approvals process, any appropriate rationale or evidence submitted as part of the proposal submission can also be considered within the full submission.


10. What are the timelines for the proposal stage?

The proposal form will be live on 14 February 2023 and the submission window for proposals will be open until 24 March 2023. IfATE will review proposals and will seek to provide feedback between 20 March 2023 and 26 May 2023 in readiness for potential submissions of qualification material in Summer 2023.


Last updated 9 November 2023
(KA, NS)