What is a Trailblazer?

A Trailblazer is a group of employers developing apprenticeships standards specific to job roles in their sector.

The standards they create will either be completely new (i.e. for job roles that have never had an apprenticeship programme before) or will gradually replace existing apprenticeships frameworks for job roles.

What do you mean by 'frameworks' and 'standards'?

Both frameworks, and the new standards, are written definitions of the learning requirements for apprenticeship programmes. They are developed to ensure that all apprenticeship programmes are delivered and measured consistently.

In order to ensure that apprenticeships are employer led, frameworks are gradually being replaced by apprenticeships standards which are developed by groups of employers.

What's special about the new apprenticeships standards?

The overall objective of the new apprenticeships standards is to ensure that apprenticeships are truly employer led.

Standards are therefore designed by employers (Trailblazer groups) to meet their needs, the needs of their sector and the economy more widely.

Guidance around the development of the standards specifies that they need to be short, easy to understand documents that describe the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to undertake a specific occupation well, and to operate confidently within a sector.

The new standards focus on how an apprentice should demonstrate mastery of an occupation, and meet professional registration requirements in sectors where this exists (for example, in engineering, science and accountancy).

The approved standard therefore is a concisely written document that outlines the skills, knowledge and behaviours required of the apprentice and the job they need to be able to do by the time they have completed their apprenticeship.

How are Trailblazer groups formed?

A minimum of ten employers including small employers, put in an expression of interest to develop a standard for a specific job role to the government’s Business Innovation and Skills Department (BIS) through a monthly submission cycle.

Successful applications will need to meet the criteria set out in Future of Apprenticeships in England – Guidance for Trailblazers to ensure that the occupation is suitable for the development of an apprenticeship standard, and that the proposed employer group is representative of the relevant sector or sectors.

What does each Trailblazer group do?

Each Trailblazer uses the criteria set out in Future of Apprenticeships in England – Guidance for Trailblazers to develop their draft standard.

Once standard has been drafted and consulted upon, they will then formally submit to BIS for approval. Once approved, the new apprenticeships standard will be published.

The Trailblazer will then develop their assessment plan which will set out:

  • What will be assessed
  • How the apprentice will be assessed at the end of their apprenticeship to judge competency
  • Indicate who will carry out the assessment and who will make the final judgement of competency and grading which will need to be independent of the employer and training provider.

The assessment plan will then be submitted to BIS for approval. Once approved it will be published with a funding cap (i.e. the maximum amount of funding that will be available from the government for this apprenticeship), and the standard becomes approved for delivery.

What do all standards have in common?

To ensure every standard is of high quality there are seven criteria that all apprenticeship standards must meet which are:

  1. Be short and concise
  2. Set out the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed in an occupation, so that, on completion, the apprentice is able to competently carry out the role in any size of employer across any relevant sectors
  3. Have the support of employers including smaller businesses
  4. Be sufficiently stretching so that it will require at least a year of training (before the end point assessment) with off the job training accounting for at least 20% of the apprenticeship
  5. Align to professional registration where it exists
  6. Contain minimum English and maths requirements and any digital skills required
  7. Only include mandatory qualifications under certain circumstances

How are Trailblazers relevant for my business?

The new apprenticeships standards are designed by employers to meet needs of employers in that sector. Therefore in the future the apprenticeships programmes your apprentices are learning on should be precisely geared towards achieving the skills your business needs for that job role.

Once an apprentice completes an apprenticeship based on a new standard, the objective is that they will be a fully competent and productive employee in that job role.

As the new Trailblazer standards come online employers can choose to start their apprentices on apprenticeships based on the new standards. If these aren’t available yet, employers can still start an apprentice on an existing framework apprenticeship. There will period of crossover whilst the new standards come online, however eventually all frameworks will be switched off.

If you’re interested to know the status of standards in development and approved for job roles in your sector, see the Apprenticeship standards ready for delivery and the occupations approved for development of an apprenticeships standard.

How can my business inform the development of an Apprenticeship standard?

Whilst the standards are in development Trailblazer groups are required to consult widely with businesses in order to ensure that the standards meet the needs of your business whatever the size of your company.

Therefore, if you’re interested in having an input during the consultation phase, take a look at the standards in development as most of these have contact details which enable you to express your interest in being included in the consultation process.

The government also opens a survey for two weeks after all expressions of interest, drafted standards or assessment plans have been submitted for approval. All comments received are considered by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. This will provide an additional opportunity to feed in your views.


What is end-point assessment (EPA)?

The new end-point assessment (EPA) is one of the biggest changes in the new apprenticeship reforms.

Instead of being assessed continually throughout their course, all apprentices will now have to complete an end-point assessment to complete their qualification. The EPA is designed to test whether each apprentice has gained the skills, knowledge and behaviours outlined in the standard, and grade each learner according to their performance.

How will the EPA work?

When an apprentice is ready to take the EPA, their employer will put them forward for the assessment. Each EPA is different, so the requirements for each assessment are laid out in the apprenticeship standard.

All EPAs must follow these rules:

  • They must be delivered by an independent end-point assessment provider with no affiliation to the employer or training provider involved in the apprenticeship.
  • All end-point assessment providers must be approved by the SFA before being added to the Register of Apprentice Assessment Organisations (RoAAO).
  • When an employer takes on an apprentice, they can select the EPA provider from the register and then confirm their selection with their training provider.
  • Most EPAs will be graded.
  • The apprentice cannot achieve their apprenticeship without passing the end-point assessment.

What will the EPA look like?

The EPA is outlined in the assessment plan for each standard. The assessment plan must explain what’s being assessed, how the apprentice will be assessed, and who will carry out the EPA – as well as indicate the quality assurance measures in place.

The EPA can take a range of forms:

  • Tests
  • Examinations
  • Professional discussions
  • Workplace observations
  • Portfolio of work
  • Assignments
  • Assessment of work output

How much will it cost?

The cost of each EPA will vary according to the requirements set out in the standards – such as assessment tools, methods and estimated completion times. However, the EPA is expected to cost between 10-20% of the overall cost of the apprenticeship delivery.

For non-levy payers, the employer will pay one third of the EPA costs and the SFA will pay two thirds. For levy-paying employers, the EPA will be paid for by their levy contributions.

Who will the EPA affect?


The EPA will have a big impact for learners. Many apprentices choose vocational training over an academic course as it aligns with their practical strengths. By making the EPA mandatory for every apprenticeship, some learners may struggle to pass their course and could even be discouraged from applying in the first place.

Others will be motivated by the grading system, encouraging them to work hard to achieve a pass, merit or distinction.


Employers will have to work closely with their training provider to monitor the progression of their apprentices. If learners aren’t prepared for the EPA and fail, employers will be charged extra for retakes. The employer will need to negotiate re-sit fees with their end-point assessment provider. With a digital eportfolio, employers can track their learners’ progression throughout their course, ensuring they’re not scheduled to sit to the EPA before they’re ready.

Training providers

Training providers will have to collaborate with the EPA provider to ensure their delivery matches the assessment plan outlines in the standard.


Summation. Heyrod Training Services.

End point assessment must be administered by an assessor from an approved independent apprentice assessment organisation and not by the training provider, this centre will ensure that we are able to act as independent assessors for other organisations and we will contract to an external organisation for our own apprentices.

All apprentices attending this Centre will undertake an independent end-point assessment which is a synoptic test of the knowledge skills and behaviour that have been learnt throughout the apprenticeship. All apprentices attending this Centre for end-point assessment will follow the same procedure.

There are many possible elements to an end-point assessment which is clearly stated in the assessment plan that accompanies each standard. We will ensure that we have in place the necessary documents and systems to enable an apprentice to undertake a Multiple Choice assignment, an Interview with an experienced practitioner, being observed making a product or repairing a defective piece of equipment or solving work-place problem scenarios. We will ensure that our On-Programme Elements are fit for purpose, our K-S-B’s (Knowledge, skills, behaviour), are measurable against the assessment criteria’s. That the components, the assessment methods are also measurable against the assessment criteria.

Where a diary of work is to be submitted or a portfolio record of their work projects or prepare a presentation showcase of their work, we will have a panel of experts ready to watch and mark the work. The assessments chosen will reflect the type of work undertaken and will simulate what happens in the real workplace.

The Centre when acting as an end-point assessment centre will carry out the following procedures.

The Centre will act as an EPA for those companies that approach us to do so. We will be governed by the awarding body’s criteria that has been used to measure the apprentices’ competence.

We will enter into an agreement with the employer, the employers chosen training provider and the apprentice. Once the training has been completed and the employer has signed off the apprentice as completing the training and meeting the gateway criteria, we as the ROAA will then arrange a meeting between all the parties.

We will look at the type of EPA that will be administered by referring to the standards contained in the assessment plans. The Centre will provide the appropriate materials and equipment and facilities.

The QA system we have in place will follow the approaches outlined in the assessment plan, these may follow four models, an employer led model, a professional led model, external quality assurance via The Institute of apprenticeships or ofqual.

The QA system will follow the processes used to ensure that all the aspects of the EPA are fit for purpose, that the assessors have the required expertise and have the qualifications to prove competence.

Staff at our Centre will choose to be either Trainers or Assessors or apply to be Lead/Independent End-Point Assessors. We will have in place two members of staff for each area. Each one will be designated or choose the area they would like to be involved in. This arrangement will allow us to undertake the training of apprentices and have a member of Staff carrying out EPA duties as and when they are needed. It is envisaged that there will be a period where training is taking place that EPA will not be undertaken, as apprentices come to a point where they will need EPA the Centre will plan for the amount of EPA it can realistically undertake. The QA process will follow the IQA process in that Observations of Training will take place, CV’s will be checked, the QA of work being produced as part of the training agreement, the EPA is carried out as per the assessment and in each case the reports will be produced and available to the stakeholders.

The QA system will work with any external EPA to ensure that the apprentice is given every opportunity to prove their competence by having all items made available for them to use.

We have a conflict of interest policy that identifies the risks (both real and potential) and how they will be mitigated. We have processes and policies that can deal with risks arising from the design and implementation of assessments. We have processes and policies that can deal with risk arising from the connections at corporate and individual levels between end-point assessment administration, delivery and apprentices. We have processes that can deal with factors that could compromise EPA decisions being made or call the decision into question.

If you require any further information please contact us.