A few years ago I did an NVQ level 4 in Management. It filled two and half lever arch files, and it made me vow not to do one again! My MSc Dissertation was shorter and, it seemed, easier than that NVQ.
Well, that was then. This is now. NVQs have changed dramatically in the past five years. NVQs are available in a wide range of areas. They are linked to National Occupational Standards (NOS) for different jobs. An NVQ is work and evidence based – you have to produce evidence that you are working to a national standard in your occupation. The different levels reflect the different levels of responsibilities a person can have within the same field.
While both NVQs and VRQs (Vocational Related Qualification) are set to national standards, the difference is you can undertake a VRQ without having a job in that field. VRQs are also more generic.
NVQs are a combination of mandatory units and optional units – the higher the level, the more options you get. The mandatory units are what are agreed would be core knowledge for anyone in that field.
So what’s new with NVQs? Well, a number of things. As an assessor, I am aware that awards (that’s the term for an NVQ) are now holistically planned. This means that the assessor and candidate decide all the optional units at the start. The main advantage of that is another good feature – cross referencing. This means one piece of evidence can be used several times over throughout an award.
Additionally, the way in which evidence is collected is flexible. There is more emphasis put on observing the candidate in their place of work, statements from managers and colleagues, as well as professional discussions – which can be taped, meaning a lot of writing can be dispensed with. Additionally, training courses which have some form assessment (like an exam, or demonstration of a technique like manual handling) can be credited toward your NVQ award.
What’s in it for the employer? An NVQ demonstrates that your staff are competent to an objective, outside standard. It contributes to getting or maintaining Investors in People status, and it may help if you need to tender for work.
For the employees, they get a nationally recognised qualification and evidence that they are good at their job. For some people, it may be the first certificate they have had. It can be a real morale boost.
As an assessor, I can honestly say that candidates grow and develop through this process. By having to think not only about what they do but why they do it, their knowledge of the job increases both in width and depth. As their knowledge grows, so does their self-confidence and their sense of ownership and responsibility for their work. I have known candidates who have made significant contributions to their work place through their award – by thinking about their job in this detailed, organised way they have come up with both time and money saving ideas for their employers.
Choosing the right NVQ at the right level is the key to success. Is it easy? No. Achieving an NVQ takes time for the assessor, the candidate and the employer. Is it worth it? Yes – everyone has the satisfaction of achievement.
Beth Peakall is MD of TCLuk Training http://www.tcluk.com and TCLuk Housing http://www.tclukhousing.co.uk one of the UK's leading housing consultancies.