For Apprenticeships to offer great opportunities for people of all ages, they must be of the highest quality.

High quality will mean that those undertaking apprenticeships have confidence that the skills they are learning will help them succeed, progress and thrive.  And it means that employers will see the bottom line return of a workforce with the right knowledge, skills and behaviours.

To achieve this, we need a quality statement and strategy that all our partners can agree and work with. One that inspires all of us at IfATE, and across the wider apprenticeship landscape, to strive for excellence.

We have consulted widely with our partners, employers and stakeholders to get their views and understand what quality really means to them. We are now well placed to provide this statement –  a clear definition of what a quality apprenticeship looks like.

We will use this statement as the core reference point for our work on apprenticeships. Employers, colleges, providers and universities will be crystal clear on what we mean when we talk about quality and will consider this when designing and defining the quality criteria of their own apprenticeships.

We will also use the statement as the basis for our Quality Strategy, which we will develop with employers, our apprentice panel and our stakeholders.

For IfATE to succeed in its aims we must be judged by the highest standards. Only then will apprenticeships be viewed as a crucial way to provide high-quality skills training.

As the champion of quality, IfATE seeks to enshrine this at the heart of everything it does. Our board has collaborated and consulted widely on this statement to produce the document you are reading now. I would like to thank the many employers and other organisations who responded to our consultation. Your clear support for all of the main terms and the positive suggestions you gave us put us in a very strong position to pursue the agenda set out in this Quality Statement.

We want this statement to give every employer and learner the confidence that apprenticeships are rigorous, high-quality and challenging.

A statement that ensures everyone – colleges, employers, learners – knows what quality looks like and where excellence can thrive.

Jennifer Coupland, Chief Executive


1. What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a job with training to industry standards. It should be about entry to a recognised occupation, involve a substantial programme of on and off-the-job training and the apprentice’s occupational competence should be tested by an independent, end point assessment. Apprenticeships are employer-led: employers set the standards, create the demand for apprentices to meet their skills needs, fund the apprenticeship and are responsible for employing and training the apprentice. But the needs of the apprentice are equally important: to achieve competence in a skilled occupation, which is transferable and secures long term earnings potential, greater security and the capability to progress in the workplace.

Not all training is an apprenticeship. Work experience alone, shorter duration training for a job, attending a course, or assessing and certificating an employee who is already working in the occupation, are all positive forms of learning and accreditation at work but they are not apprenticeships.


2. High-quality apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are built upon:

An agreed partnership:

  • an employer with the intention and capability of employing the apprentice to completion of their training and end-point assessment and securing their longer term future
  • an apprentice who is motivated to learn and work diligently to complete their apprenticeship
  • training and support delivered either inhouse or on behalf of the employer by a registered training provider, college or university
  • an initial assessment of the apprentice’s prior learning and the job role, against the standard
  • an apprenticeship agreement and commitment statement between the employer, the apprentice and the provider, which sets out the training programme and covers the points in this statement

 The occupation and standard

  • entry to a recognised occupation which can be transferred to other relevant employers and is sufficiently skilled to require employment and training of at least a year’s duration, all apprentices must complete the required amount of off-the-job training specified by the apprenticeship funding rules
  • a written standard approved by IfATE(1), which fully defines the occupation in terms of the responsibilities and tasks involved and the skills, knowledge and behaviours required to achieve competence

The job

  • employment in a job with legal and contractually acceptable terms and conditions
  • the job role, together with the off the job training, provides opportunities to cover the full occupational profile and learning all of the skills, knowledge and behaviours required

 The training programme

  • a challenging and stretching training and learning programme developed and delivered with the active involvement of the employer(s), which uses a range of effective on and off the job training methods as well as work itself
  • amotivating and supportive workplace with coaching and mentoring support for the apprentice and continuous assessment of progress
  • an extended period of on and off the job training (at least twelve months duration, all apprentices must complete the required amount of off-the-job training specified by the apprenticeship funding rules.) which develops not only the knowledge and skills required but also the additional transferable skills (2) which allow an apprentice to deal with new employers, situations, problems and equipment

End-point assessment and certification

  • achievement prior to entry to end-point assessment, of the appropriate level of English and maths, any digital skills required and other specified components of the Apprenticeship, signed off by the employer
  • national standards built into a demanding independent (3) assessment at the end of the apprenticeship, carried out by a registered apprenticeship assessment organisation, which meets IfATE's requirements for quality, set out in its guidance on external quality assurance.(4)
  • certification by IfATE on completion of the whole apprenticeship. Recruiting employers and apprentices use this trusted record of employability as a licence for the occupation and to access related professional status


3. Quality indicators

We will use this Quality Statement as a reference point for our work on apprenticeships and we expect employers, colleges, providers and universities to use it when considering the design and quality of their own apprenticeships.

The statements under the headings in paragraph 3 will be embedded in different ways. Some: those under “The Occupation and Standard” and “End-point Assessment and Certification” require direct action by IfATE. Those under “An Agreed Partnership” and “The Job” require contractual compliance. Some lend themselves to use of indicators.

We have identified a set of key indicators that will enable us to measure the extent to which Apprenticeships meet the skills needs of employers and apprentices and the quality and outcomes of training for apprentices.

Apprenticeships will meet the skills needs of employers and apprentices by reflecting the range of occupations and skill levels in our diverse economy.

We will measure this by:

  • cumulative entry to and achievement of apprenticeships by occupation, level and age group and compared to the mix in the labour market
  • the number of employers recruiting and training apprentices by size and sector
  • standards development and implementation by level in relation to the occupational maps
  • proportion of apprenticeships beginning with a vacancy/new employee/new role

Apprenticeships will deliver high quality training and outcomes for apprentices in terms of quality and achievement.

We will measure this by:

  • retention up to sign-off for end point assessment
  • ratio of entry to success (including grades) in end-point assessment
  • destinations in employment in the apprenticeship occupation (with the training employer or with a different employer)
  • attainment of a higher level educationally and/or occupationally within 3 and 5 years of completion
  • Ofsted overall and apprenticeship grades/HEFCE (OfS) judgements

We will calculate a baseline for these indicators, gather data regularly over a period and determine any action needed. Once the indicators have bedded down, we will then consider whether we should set any associated targets. 

We intend to gather feedback from employers and apprentices using the existing employer and learner surveys operated by the DfE. We aim to develop both of these surveys to include feedback on meeting skills needs, occupations/standards, job roles, training programmes and end-point assessment. We will work also with the Apprenticeship Service to develop a new on-line approach to employer feedback.

IfATE operates an Apprentices Panel and we see this and its wider network of apprentices as an important sounding board for all quality matters.

  1. IfATE began operation in April 2017. Many standards were approved before this by the Department for Employment (and before July 2017 by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills).
  2. Often termed “metaskills” these are the higher order skills, which allow other skills to be used and developed. Apprenticeships are a particularly good way to develop these very important skills because of the combination of off the job training with doing, and technical with non-technical skills.
  3. Degree Apprenticeships where the Degree incorporates both the workplace and off the job training (known as “Integrated Degree Apprenticeships”) are not exempt from the requirement for independence of end-point assessment. An independent assessor must be independent of the apprentice and their employer and, wherever possible, the assessor must come from a third-party organisation
  4. Two options are available for trailblazers for external quality assurance of end-point assessment: 1. Ofqual or 2. OfS for integrated higher and degree apprenticeships.