Rachel Cooper and Beth Chaudhary, jobshare strategy directors at the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE), reflect on a new consultation into how the employer stamp of approval should be granted to technical qualifications funded through Lifelong Learning Entitlement (LLE) loan funding.
The Lifelong Learning Entitlement (LLE) will transform access to education at levels 4 to 6, enabling people to train, retrain and upskill flexibly over their working lives. It will replace the current student finance system – allowing people much more freedom to choose how and when to fund the education and training they need.
Under the LLE, loan funding can be used for a much greater range of courses, in addition to university degrees. People will be able to choose to study in modules – opening up more options to train part-time, or alongside full-time employment.
Modules can enable learners to build up credit towards approved higher qualifications – including technical qualifications which are endorsed by employers.
The LLE is part of a flexible and high-quality education system, boosting skills across the workforce and underscoring the government’s commitment to ensuring everyone has access to learning throughout their career.
The expansion of opportunity the LLE offers is enormous, but it relies on having high-quality courses for people to choose to study and that’s where IfATE’s role comes in for technical qualifications.
Our approval process is designed to ensure these technical qualifications and their modules will offer the skills employers want. That’s why we’re consulting now on the way we will decide which qualifications could be eligible for LLE funding. If you’d like to know more about the consultation and send us your views, it’s available here on our website.
Building a joined-up technical qualification system.
The proposals are an expansion of IfATE’s existing work to ensure all technical qualifications are approved against the occupational standards we build with employers.
These standards set out the knowledge, skills and behaviours students need to have a successful career in their chosen occupation – so by testing qualifications against them, we know they will deliver what employers are looking for, helping students secure great jobs.
These standards already underpin a range of apprenticeships and technical qualifications, including Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs). The standards are set out in our occupational maps, allowing students, employers and education providers to explore the options across all sectors of the economy.
Using the standards as the basis for approving qualifications helps us to put employers’ views into the technical education system. The 2023 WorldSkills report tells us that employer involvement is critical to developing a relevant curriculum, effective training techniques, appropriate continuing professional development and strong employability skills.
Our research backs this up too, with 90% of employers surveyed telling us employer involvement leads to more valuable qualifications for the workforce.
Working with employers and the education sector, IfATE has already approved 18 T Levels and 175 HTQs at levels 4 and 5, with more HTQ approvals currently in progress. IfATE is working on the approval of the next generation of reformed technical qualifications at levels 2 and 3, with the first available to students in Summer 2025.
Why do modules matter?
The LLE brings exciting opportunities to allow much greater access to qualifications at Levels 4-6 which can be studied in modules, transforming how and when people can reskill, upskill and continue to learn throughout their careers in a way that works for them. The pace of economic change, coupled with the reality that 80% of the 2030 workforce is already in employment points to a need for flexible, targeted, learning options and the LLE will offer just that.
We’re clear in IfATE that there shouldn’t be a trade-off between this valuable flexibility and quality. Any time spent on learning needs to be time well spent, particularly where people are choosing to spend their LLE loans on it. The safeguard of IfATE approval for technical qualifications helps make sure they will deliver the skills employers are looking for.
By Rachel Cooper and Beth Chaudhary, strategy directors for the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE)
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