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Switching to apprenticeship standards: how are employers affected?

By August 2020 all apprenticeship frameworks will have been replaced by apprenticeship standards. The process is already well underway. In fact many have already been replaced.

In the past, the training delivered through apprenticeships has been structured to meet criteria laid out in a framework. Each apprenticeship has a different framework. Basically, a framework is a list of competences that the apprentice has to achieve to gain a vocational qualification. Training providers ensure the apprentice is developing the skills that reflect the competences listed in the framework.

tpm recently added its first apprenticeship standard offer to its portfolio of training: the Apprenticeship Standard in Team Leading & Supervising. The rest of tpm’s apprenticeships are still delivered in line with frameworks. However this is set to change over the next few months.

So what are the main differences between frameworks and standards? And what is the impact on you, the companies who employ tpm apprentices?

A different focus

Apprenticeship frameworks were developed by industry training standards organisations called sector bodies. They are qualification-led which means the apprenticeship is driven by the achievement of the qualification rather than the actual job the apprentice is doing.

On the other hand employers like you are behind the design of apprenticeship standards. This makes sense because it’s employers who know exactly what skills are needed to do a particular job. Importantly, standards focus on specific occupations linked to professional registration rather than qualifications.

Training linked to job role

A framework is qualification driven. In other words, the apprentice’s training is focussed on achieving say an NVQ level 2 in childcare. In practice, this means the apprentice trains to certain levels of competence. These are linked to different units in their qualification. In this way, the apprentice progresses towards their qualification. However, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they have the full range of skills needed to do the job.

In comparison, apprenticeship standards are no longer qualification-driven. Instead they develop the skills, knowledge and behaviours required to do a particular job. For example, the Early Years Educator Apprenticeship Standard concentrates on developing the skills, knowledge and behaviours required to work with children.

Under standards, the apprentice’s employer is far more involved with the planning and progress of training. This can only be a positive thing.


Apprentices on frameworks are continually assessed by a member of staff from the training provider. This assessor checks their portfolio regularly which the apprentices keep full of evidence. This evidence shows they have achieved the competencies listed in the units of their qualification.

However with standards, the apprentice is trained in the knowledge skills and behaviours required of the standard throughout their programme. In addition, they take a final end point assessment by an external independent organisation, not their training provider. This final assessment process verifies the apprentice has developed the skills, knowledge and behaviour needed to carry out their job role.

The individuals who visit apprentices at employers’ premises are no longer assessors. Rather, they play the role of mentor, tutor and coach. Specifically, along with the employer, they offer tailored support until the apprentice is ready for their end point assessment.

Maths & English – Functional Skills

Maths and English functional skills form part of both frameworks and standards. Therefore employers are guaranteed that their apprentice will complete their programme with a decent standard of skills in both subjects. The difference with apprenticeship standards is that functional skills don’t have to be delivered by the training provider. Thus they can employ external organisations that specialise in English and Maths.


The gateway is a new feature that comes with standards. Towards the end of an apprenticeship the apprentice, the employer and the training provider come together to identify whether the apprentice is ready to take their end point assessment. If all parties agree, the apprentice moves into the gateway phase. Here they get lots of final input from the training provider and can take mock tests before their final assessment.

Off the job training

On an apprenticeship standard, the apprentices must spend 20% of their working time undergoing off-the-job training. In reality, much of this time can be spent in the workplace. However this is time spent not doing their daily or weekly tasks. Rather it is spent learning new skills to enable them do their job. For example this could include work-shadowing other staff and undergoing mentoring from another employee. In fact, these activities are similar to those any recent recruit would undergo to develop their skills, whether on an apprenticeship or not.

There are other forms of learning which the apprentice might undergo as part of their 20% off the job training. For example, classes at the tpm training centre, webinars and workshops. Also, practice sessions on skills and professional behaviour, self-directed learning, and distance learning.

tpm will be switching from level 2 frameworks in business administration and childcare to the appropriate apprenticeship standards over the next few months. It will be a seamless process from the perspective of the employer. The introduction of standards means that the skills your apprentice acquires will be closely linked to their job role. If you have any questions about the switch to apprenticeship standards, get in touch with the tpm team. We’re always on hand to answer your queries.