Mandated Qualifications

There are 5 food & drink standards that require a mandated qualification:


The new ‘Trailblazer’ Apprenticeship standards outline the knowledge, skills and behaviour required by an apprentice by the end of their period of apprenticeship training. The apprentice is independently assessed by an end assessment organisation at the end of their training to confirm that they have reached a satisfactory level (pass) and the grading of their apprenticeship (usually pass, merit or distinction). Food and drink businesses developing the Standard and Assessment plans have included a Mandatory qualification for a number of the Apprenticeship Standards that are required to be completed as part of the ‘gateway’ before an apprentice can undertake the end point assessment.

Why Mandated Qualifications?

Generally qualifications are not mandated in Apprenticeship Standards as the policy driver is to encourage innovation in delivery, however, in some instances it has been agreed such as the requirement of professional registration (e.g. Eng. Tech) or where learners would be substantially disadvantaged by not having a qualification.

Whilst appreciating the desire for innovation in delivery the industry felt it was critical to set a benchmark in terms of the quality and content, breadth and depth of learning that should be provided to their apprentices. Many businesses had experienced delivery of apprenticeships in the past that did not provide sufficient development of the apprentice and recognised a real risk that ‘innovation’ could lead to a race to the bottom in terms of delivery which may only be evident at end point assessment.

Having spent significant time articulating the Apprenticeship Standard there was huge concern that the interpretation of the content by providers, employers and the apprentices could differ and indeed could differ between businesses. With the move to all assessment being at the end after completion of training it was also felt that there needed to be a greater specification and ongoing assessment of the apprentice’s learning throughout.  Regulated qualifications with consistent content could provide both an ongoing reassurance of quality and an ongoing assessment of the learner’s capability against the key areas identified by the industry as being important. These would give providers greater clarity on the industry expectations and the employer with reassurance that the learner was being sufficiently developed. Importantly they would also ensure that where issues of compliance and legislative requirements were involved that providers would deliver the appropriate content for the industry. As a result they produced guidelines for these qualifications.

In addition the industry feels strongly that in order to attract apprentices (currently a recognised barrier), the apprenticeships offered should include a nationally recognised qualification to provide value to the employee. In the same way that a degree apprenticeship includes a recognised qualification (the degree) so an apprenticeship at any other level should also contain a valued qualification. Whilst appreciating that over time the apprenticeship certificate may be viewed as a de facto qualification there were concerns that this may take time and that until the value was more widely understood apprentices would be disadvantaged.

Ensuring Consistency & Parity

The Recommended Industry Design documents provide the basic requirements deemed important by the Trailblazer groups in order that the qualifications are recognised by them as meeting the purpose of delivering the Apprenticeship Standards. Whilst no awarding organisation has to meet these standards there is clearly advantage in an awarding organisation ensuring that their qualification meets industry expectations. The trailblazer groups are keen to encourage an open market with healthy competition and variety and it was felt important to encourage parity across the various qualifications.

The documents provide the recommended qualification requirements whilst still enabling individual awarding organisations to develop their own unique versions according to their market and their customer base. This baseline level of consistency provides reassurance to all employers and providers that irrespective of the awarding organisation the qualification will provide the same breadth and depth of assessment to ensure parity in apprentice learning.

In addition, the broad specifications of new qualifications have been utilised as part of the evidence to government during the process of evaluating the appropriate funding levels, particularly with reference to GLH and TQT. The Apprenticeship Standard does not name any single awarding organisation.

Reviews and Updates

The qualification specification will be updated if required when revisions are made to the individual Apprenticeship Standards and/or assessment plans.

Employer support for Awarding Organisations developing food & drink qualifications

Employers from the food & drink trailblazer groups would like to support awarding organisations developing food & drink qualifications for apprenticeship standards, with the aim of ensuring appropriate and consistent content. This support will consist of checking proposed qualification content against the above specifications and providing feedback. This support is optional and provided free of charge.

Awarding Organisations interested in accessing this support are requested to submit their proposed qualification structure, along with a mapping document that demonstrates how the core content of the standard is being met to marking it ‘Confidential Qualification Mapping – [NAME OF QUAL]’.

Alternatively please contact us for details of the Chair of the trailblazer group in order for you to contact them directly.

Please note that the NSAFD team will not be involved in reviewing the submissions without the Awarding Organisation's permission.


Please contact us:

0845 644 0558



Blueprint for Excellence is a bespoke online training need analysis tool created specifically for food and drink manufacturing and processing companies. It enables you to pinpoint the specific skill and knowledge gaps in your business that are holding back performance and productivity - so you can tightly target training investment for maximum return.
Becoming a Member of the NSAFD's Employer Services Network puts you in good company. No less than eight of the UK’s Top 10 food and drink manufacturers are Members along with a whole host of companies of every size and shape.
With our Managed Agent service, we can take away the hassle of your compliance training by managing your training schedule with a single dedicated contact at an agreed price and subject to rigorous quality and performance standards.
Tasty Careers is the industry’s outreach campaign to the next generation of food and drink manufacturing talent.
The National Skills Academy for Food & Drink is already the go-to organisation for businesses seeking expert advice on high quality training and vocational education for staff.
Association with the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink opens up valuable new opportunities for your organisation. It not only adds to your brand reputation for taking industry skills seriously but provides proven new
tools to make a direct contribution to the success of your own stakeholders.
As champions of quality training within the food and drinks industry, we believe all the best training programmes should be celebrated – even if they’re for internal use only.
Becoming an Industry Approved training provider gives your training company a powerful new marketplace offer.

Having formal industry recognition of your expertise means prospective food manufacturing clients gain an absolute assurance of your sector experience and specialist knowledge - and can trust in your ability to deliver training to defined industry standards.
Gaining formal industry approval of the exceptional quality of your facilities and expertise in providing specialist training solutions to food and drink manufacturing businesses is an accolade awarded to a select few.

Becoming a Centre of Excellence within the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink’s network of providers brings first class status.
As a college or university offering qualifications and courses relevant to careers in food and drink manufacturing, you’ll find joining the Academy’s Tasty Careers Network raises your profile among sector businesses and prospective students to a whole new level.
Show the world the quality of your training programmes with an endorsement from The National Skills Academy for Food & Drink.
Your courses are some of the best around, but it’s not always been easy to demonstrate this to businesses and students, and
elevate yourself above the other providers out there.
Did you know that the food and drink industry allocates more of its training budget to compliance than any other discipline?