BIS releases Trailblazer evaluation report

The Department for business, innovation and skills (BIS) has released its final report into its evaluation of the Apprenticeship Trailblazers.


Analysing the Trailblazer initiative

Phased in from October 2013, the Trailblazers were introduced as a way to ‘‘judge the quality and relevance of training and demand the highest possible standards from training organisations.’’

According to the Future of Apprenticeships in England implementation plan, the trailblazer initiative aimed to do a number of things within the sector, including:

  • Redefining apprenticeships in order that they be targeted at those who are new to a job or role that requires sustained or substantial training.
  • Focusing on the outcome of apprenticeships – what the apprentice can do – rather than the process of developing that competency.
  • Introducing trusted, independent assessments.
  • Recognised industry standards as the basis of every apprenticeship with links to professional registration where this exists in sectors.
  • Requiring all apprentices to achieve Level 2 English and maths before completion of training.
  • Ensuring funding creates the right incentives, with the purchasing power for training lying with employers.
  • Greater diversity and innovation in training – with employers and the government safeguarding quality.

This report aims to find how the initiative has been working since then, and is based on research covering selected Trailblazers between January 2014 and March 2015.

Working with 16 trailblazer networks, conducting online surveys and speaking with national apprenticeship stakeholders, BIS’ report focused on:

  • How Trailblazer networks were established and organised
  • The processes involved in developments
  • Responses to key national principles for the Standards
  • Views of the funding reforms
  • Perceived impact of the Trailblazers.


What has the report found?

BIS has found that since October 2013, over 1,300 employers nationwide have engaged in the process. Over 300 apprentices have already begun training against the new standards’, with the earliest entrants having started in September 2014.

In total, 187 standards have been published and more than 160 new standards are in development. The new apprenticeships are in a broad range of sectors from nuclear to fashion, law, banking and the armed forces and range from intermediate to higher levels with the majority of developments being at Level 3 (Advanced) and above.

The new Higher and Degree Apprenticeships range from Level 4 (e.g. Foundation Degree or Higher National Diploma) to Level 7 (e.g. Master’s degree and postgraduate certificate and diploma).

Trailblazer table

The report also highlighted a number of risks that were associated with the Trailblazer programme, including:

  • Failure to confirm viability of new funding model.
  • Uncertainty over whether assessment models are affordable.
  • Potential for confusion and duplication.
  • Lack of clarity over status of different phase Trailblazers and process for future reviews.
  • Trailblazers are unlikely to achieve unsupported working in the near future.
  • Loss of momentum.