IfATE consultation on the approval of level 3 technical qualifications

The fact that this is an open consultation on regulatory approaches to alternative qualifications at level 3, which runs parallel to an alternative technical qualifications consultation being run by Ofqual, reflects the importance of achieving fairness and consistency in the approaches used by different awarding bodies.
In this sense, we welcome the consultation. However, the changes proposed may impact negatively on both providers and students, especially given the cost-of-living crisis and the increase in costs likely to occur when awarding bodies implement these changes. We urge Ofqual and IfATE to consider the cost impact of these changes on providers and fee-paying students and to push for ways to mitigate these extra costs.

Assessment must be fair and manageable to both the centre offering the qualification and assessment and to the student taking the assessment. Whilst we understand the importance of keeping the employer at the core of the technical qualifications system, it is important that we don’t lose sight of providers and students who keep the system going.

We are concerned that employers and learners face considerable barriers in utilising technical qualifications. The National Audit Committee (NAO) report ‘Developing workforce skills for a strong economy’ (July 2022) said that there should be further thought given to how barriers to skills training can be addressed, and to issues around reskilling or upskilling older workers who form a growing part of the UK workforce. Reliance on employers having the capacity and willingness to be involved in developing local plans creates problems when it is unclear what assurance is in place for employer involvement. 

There is evidence from the NAO that employers’ spending on training from 2011 to 2019 fell by 11%, while the number of adults in government-funded education or skills training fell by nearly half between 2010/11 and 2020/21 – down from 3.2 million to 1.6 million. The decline was seen particularly in disadvantaged areas, with a drop of 39 per cent from 2015/16 to 2020/21 – equating to 280,100 people. 

Employers and providers struggle to navigate the growing skills programmes led by different government departments. The DfE’s reforms in the Skills and Post-16 Education Act 2022 range from lifelong loan entitlement; ambitions for strengthened links between employers and further education providers; and proposals to recruit more teaching staff, create LSIPs to respond to local labour market needs in key skills, and reform levels 4 and 5 technical education. Technical qualifications are vital to workforce development, but the myriad of initiatives is confusing for both employers and potential learners, and there is little evidence that any of this is closing the gap for the most disadvantaged in society.

Against this background, we are concerned about yet more change to level 3 technical qualifications focussed on the needs of employers, without the same attention being given to the impact on providers and students.

Full response to consultation

Read our response to Ofqual's consultation