England: Level 3 Apprenticeship Standards

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Level 3 apprenticeship standards (including assessment plans) as designed by Trailblazer groups and approved by Institute for Apprenticeships.




Learners in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland may have achieved a privately-funded Level 3 apprenticeship standard.

Purpose of framework/standard

The move away from apprenticeship frameworks has been led by groups of employers – Trailblazers – approved by government to design an apprenticeship standard, or set of standards, each of which has gone through detailed external scrutiny, for occupations in their sector. Trailblazers have developed these standards, which set out the knowledge, skills, and behaviour expected in an occupationally competent and capable individual. All standards will have the same minimum level of occupational competence.

Standards are being developed with employers at the heart of the design process, ensuring the carefully drafted standards are closely aligned to the needs of business. As of spring 2017, over 215 employer groups have stepped forward through the Trailblazer programme to develop over 490 new apprenticeship standards. 158 of these are now ‘approved for delivery’. This compares to 4,661 Ofqual regulated qualifications in 597 pathways through existing frameworks.

As from April 2017, the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) is responsible for regulating the quality of apprenticeship standards and assessments.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) will continue to be responsible for the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP), and maintaining the Register of Apprentice Assessment Organisations (RoAAO), as well as running the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS). The ESFA will continue to fund the delivery of apprenticeships and traineeships throughout England.

Ofsted will continue to inspect training providers and sample inspect employers.

Ofqual will continue to regulate any qualifications included as part of an apprenticeship standard and offer one model of external quality assurance (EQA) for some standards.

View the Ofqual EQA document. 

The Institute will convene an Apprenticeship Quality Group, with representatives of ESFA, NAS, Ofsted, Ofqual, the Office for Students, and the QAA, with a remit to monitor quality across the sector, and intervene where necessary to ensure quality standards.

How apprenticeships prepare learners for progression to higher level study

Apprenticeship standards are employer, driven with the emphasis on a consistent and transferrable skill set. To achieve, this the Training Provider (TP), will need to be on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP), and work with the apprentice and employer to ensure the knowledge, skills, and behaviours around that role are developed.

All apprentices must be functionally literate in English and mathematics to a minimum of Level 2, or working towards achieving that level.

  • Duration of Level 3 apprenticeships can range from 12 to 48 months.
  • As employees, apprentices work alongside experienced staff to gain job-specific skills, as well as studying for knowledge and competence-based qualifications with an approved TP.
  • Off-the-job learning makes up a guaranteed 20% of each week, and gives the learner time to develop the technical skills and knowledge of theoretical concepts in relation to their job role in a range of differing contexts. Off-the-job learning may include individual and group teaching, coaching, distance learning, e learning, feedback and assessment, guided study, peer, networked, and collaborative learning, and mentoring.
  • On-the-job learning is the time taken to develop practical skills in the context of the job role. For this, the apprentice should be guided while undertaking normal activities, which provide opportunities to learn, develop, and practice skills.
  • Off and on-the-job learning is to be reviewed regularly by the TP and employer to assess progress and next steps. Access, when required, will be given to the apprentice, and all actions will be delivered during contracted working hours.
  • In addition, learners on apprenticeships are encouraged to develop the personal learning and thinking skills valued by both higher education and employers.
  • The assessment plan will have been developed after the standard has been agreed with the Trailblazer group, and prior to commencement of the apprenticeship. The End Point Assessment (EPA) will be carried out by a body listed on the Register of Apprentice Assessment Organisations (RoAAO), and none of these organisations will have taken any role in the delivery of the standard. The EPA may take the form of a portfolio, theoretical, interview, practical, test, or a mixture of some or all.

Employers, apprentices, and the government expect outcomes to be reliable and consistent between each organisation, regardless of when and where an assessment is completed. External quality assurance (EQA) provides additional checks on the consistency with which EPAs are conducted by different assessment bodies.

Employer groups have been given a choice between four options for delivering EQA when they submit their assessment plan:

  • An employer group-designed approach
  • EQA delivered by a professional body
  • EQA delivered by Ofqual
  • EQA delivered by the Institute (as a last resort).

As a result, all apprentices who have completed a Level 3 apprenticeship standard should be occupationally competent in their field, with the foundation of knowledge, skills, and behaviours that could support a related programme of higher education in that sector.

Combined competence and knowledge-based qualification

Unlike apprenticeship frameworks, which comprise different qualifications, the inclusion of qualifications in apprenticeship standards are not encouraged unless they are deemed essential by the sector, and meet one of the criteria outlined in the Trailblazer Guidance. Trailblazer Groups are required to provide substantial evidence to support the inclusion of any qualification when they submit their standard for approval. As a result, some apprenticeship standards do not contain any qualifications.

All apprenticeships standards contain an independent Endpoint Assessment (EPA) which all apprentices need to pass to successfully complete their apprenticeship. Although the EPA varies in terms of the method of assessment as identified in the section ‘How apprenticeships prepare learners for progression to higher level study’, to be approved, they all need to be considered sufficient and appropriate to test the ‘skills, knowledge, and behaviours’ set out in the apprenticeship standard to which they relate.

Example of Level 3 units

Level 2 in English and maths is a prerequisite, although completion of these can be achieved during the apprenticeship. The rest of the course will follow the standard as set down aiming towards the EPA.

Most schemes have a grading system going from pass to distinction, however, a small number have received grading exemptions meaning that these apprentices cannot achieve anything above a pass.

Below are three L3 units as examples of diversity:

Additional requirements of apprenticeship

As each standard is different and the requirements are diverse, each has its own additional requirements to ensure successful completion of the chosen course. This could be additional modules, or around the apprentice’s own development in preparation for the next step after completion of the course.

Estimated duration of apprenticeship

Apprenticeships can last anything between 12 and 48 months, however, actual duration can depend on the individual’s prior work experience, qualifications, and the employer requirements (12 months being the absolute minimum).

Designed to support progression

Successful progression is that apprentices fit into the workforce seamlessly once their course is complete.

It is hoped that this is seen as a springboard to take their education further, should that be through their employer, college, day release or higher education. Apprenticeships will give apprentices the knowledge, skills, and behaviours expected from occupationally competent and capable individuals, then allow them to decide the direction they want to follow.

Degree apprenticeships now provide a progression pathway from Level 3 apprenticeships that did not previously exist.

Additional information for HE

As not all apprenticeships are graded, those applying to HE are encouraged to ensure they put their grade in the body of the application, identifying whether it was Pass, Merit, or Distinction, or whether only Pass grade was available.

More information on how employers can develop new apprenticeship standards through Trailblazer Groups can be found online. View the list of approved apprenticeship standards.

Contact details

Kevin Dent, Apprenticeships Standards and Assessment Policy Advisor - 01325 3404, [email protected]