Question mark over the future of Trailblazer reviews

A question mark was today left hanging over the future of Trailblazer apprenticeship standard reviews.

Approval has so far been given to 144 standards drawn up by hundreds of Trailblazer employers, which will all have to be reviewed within three years of the date they were originally signed-off by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

But a BIS report on March 12 revealed concern over these reviews among employers who helped develop the first wave of the new standards.

The document, entitled Evaluation of the Apprenticeship Trailblazers, said there was uncertainty over “who will constitute the groups” that carry out the process.

“Should sufficient [numbers] of the original individuals not be retained within the Trailblazer groupings, this may create issues of a lack of continuity,” it said in the report.

A BIS spokesperson told FE Week it would “consider the learning points highlighted by employers” in the interim report, but she declined to comment on how it planned to address the potential continuity problems.

It comes after similar concerns were laid out in the House of Commons Education Select Committee’s report on 16 to 19 apprenticeships and traineeships, published two weeks ago.

It recommended that “more work is needed” to give employers and providers confidence in the review process.

It stated that Brian Wisdom, chair of the Federation for Industry Sector Skills and Standards, was concerned there was “no industrial partnership structure” in place to ensure continuity after Trailblazer groups that designed the standards were disbanded.

The BIS spokesperson said: “We commissioned an independent evaluation to support continual policy improvement and will consider the learning points highlighted by employers.”


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  1. The research findings are not a surprise. Clearly a lot of effort now needs to focus on setting up a robust operational process for the new Apprenticeships. We are also concerned that, as indicated at the AAC15 on 10 March, a future Labour Government would potentially abandon Trailblazers adding to the uncertainty over the future of Apprenticeships.