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About IfATE 

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) works with employers to develop, approve, and review apprenticeships and technical qualifications.  

The Skills for Jobs whitepaper (published in 2021) outlined the intention for the majority of post-16 technical and higher education. The training was to be aligned to occupational standards which are set by IfATE and developed and approved by employers.  

Central to the delivery of these new reforms was the development of new ‘Occupational Maps’, which show the relationship between education, qualifications, apprenticeships, and occupations in England. They are referred to as ‘maps’ as they help people to find their way through the careers and training landscape more easily.  

An illustration of a person considering career pathways with inset icon of the IfATE logo

The challenge 

These maps form the basis for the planning, development, and communication of technical education in England, explaining the technical landscape and increasing the number of learners who choose technical education.

The occupational maps were originally developed to show the apprenticeship standards available and group them by similar knowledge, skills and behaviours. By 2022, the number of apprenticeship standards had grown and IfATE also had a wider strategy to become occupation-centric, the occupational maps, therefore, needed to be expanded and improved upon to reflect other technical education programmes, as well as apprenticeships.

IfATE selected PDMS as their partner to collaborate with their internal team to develop the maps. The aim was to incorporate all IfATE’s extensive user research and technical education data sources into a comprehensive and accurate occupational library that was suitable for the post-16 market.


An icon of people using post-its on a table with an inset icon of students laughing

Following an agile process

We used an agile methodology with alpha and beta phases, and fortnightly sprints with all team members. The occupations were grouped into 15 routes which, in turn, are divided into pathways and clusters.  Detailed information about each occupation is provided including knowledge, skills and behaviours, and salary data. Likely or potential progression opportunities have been illustrated between occupations as well as between technical education.

An icon of an Agile process appearing digitally above a person's hand

Alpha and beta phases 

In an Alpha phase, the philosophy is to tackle the greatest risks first. As risks changed throughout the project, we updated and adapted what we planned to prototype or the level of fidelity at which we prototyped.

In the Alpha phase, we used an iterative process with user feedback to develop a usable interactive prototype of all 15 Occupational Maps, as well as occupational progression and technical education progression maps. These prototypes were then explored by all the various stakeholders to gather meaningful user feedback. We also created tools for editing the maps so feedback could be elicited on the future business processes and data flow required.  We created a ‘proof of concept’ Occupational Library in Umbraco CMS and integrated a search feature with the prototype.  We produced an API (Application Programming Interface) specification which would help make IfATE’s map data available to their external stakeholders. This enabled feedback to be collated before an actual API was developed.

In the Beta phase, we created a data service to consume IfATE’s data and created a public API. Utilising an ‘API first approach’, we consume the public API into an Angular App, embedded within Umbraco CMS, this enables us to deliver a feature-rich client-side interface with user-driven customisations and filtering for IfATE to have some control over the supporting content.

A screenshot of an Alpha phase of design with inset logos for Angular and Umbraco

The solution 

The result was a solid, modern framework which can support IfATE’s work as the technical education system continues to evolve into the future.

IfATE now has a site which presents its Occupational Map data in an occupational-centric and interactive way. The data is accessible in a multitude of formats, suitable for a variety of user types and purposes. 

The new Occupational Maps will support IfATE’s different stakeholders to understand, communicate and raise awareness of the technical education landscape. Importantly, stakeholders also have various tools with which to extract and work with IfATE’s valuable occupational data, for example within a college for curriculum planning or within a business for succession planning and recruitment

The Occupational Maps were officially launched at the House of Commons in June 2023.

A laptop displaying the IfATE occupational maps on the screen

The benefits 

The Occupational Maps have received some great user feedback via social media:  

  • “An invaluable tool for both educators and students alike, providing clarity and direction in navigating the interconnected world of education and careers. Great work IfATE!”  
  • “An excellent initiative to attract future talent”  
  • “These are an easy way to see what you can do and what paths you can take to get to where you (currently) want to.”  
  • “These are a great, simple visual and I love the inclusion of median salaries and the progression map”  
  • “Looks great, easier to understand and simpler to use.”  
  • “Love the creativity, salaries, and routes. These will really help with those wanted to see the options and careers advisors. Very informative well done!”  
  • “So much more intuitive” 

The team at PDMS have enjoyed their close collaboration with the team at IfATE. We feel a sense of achievement at having played a role in such a project which will help inform the career paths and educational choices of people across the UK.  

An image of someone providing a five-star review on a laptop with an inset of students using a laptop