National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) provide a consistent national system of qualification related to specific work areas and give credit for what people can already do, as well as what they already know.
NVQs are based on work roles and describe the functions needed to be able to perform that role, and having an NVQ shows that you are competent at performing that particular role. NVQs are recognised and funded by the Government, and have been designed to specifically match industry skills and knowledge. Rhino Training provides NVQs at Level 2 and 3 and 4. Assessment is carried out in a real working environment to National Standards laid down by SQA and the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).
To achieve an NVQ, a candidate must present evidence that proves that they are competent to national standards in a real working environment. This evidence comes in many different forms, the best being direct observation by an assessor who will be competent and experienced within the occupational area. Other forms of evidence can be witness testimonies, naturally generated documentation, video, written reports, etc. The evidence is supported by questioning. In some cases a person may already have some form of training and qualification and this can sometimes be taken in account as evidence, called Accreditation of Previous Learning (APL). All evidence is compiled into a portfolio and presented for assessment and internal verification prior to certification.
Aim of NVQs
NVQs are aimed to improve corporate competitiveness by raising standards and attainment levels in education and training.
This is achieved by ensuring that:
- All employers invest in employee development to achieve business success
- All individuals have access to education and training opportunities that lead to recognised qualifications
- All education and training develops self-reliance, flexibility and breadth
- Construction related candidates gain their Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card
NVQs are available at five levels, which can be broadly described as follows:
- Level 1: Requires competence in a range of varied work activities, most of which are normally routine and predictable
- Level 2: Requires competence in a range of varied work activities performed in a variety of contexts. Some of the activities will be complex and non-routine. There will be a level of individual responsibility or autonomy, often in collaboration with others through membership of a work group or team
- Level 3: Requires competence in a broad range of work performed in a wide variety of contexts, most of which are complex and non-routine. There will be considerable responsibility and autonomy. Often the control or guidance of other people is required
- Level 4: Requires competence in a broad range of complex, technical or professional work activities. There will be a substantial degree of personal responsibility and autonomy. Frequently this will involve the responsibility for the work of others and the intelligent allocation of resources
- Level 5: Involves the application of fundamental principles and complex techniques across a wide range of contexts that are often unpredictable. Very substantial personal autonomy and significant responsibility for the work of others. The allocation of substantial resources will be involved at this level. The jobholder is accustomed to personal accountability, for analysis and diagnosis, design, planning, execution and evaluation
An NVQ is made up as follows:
- Unit of Competence: A Unit describes a particular aspect of a job role and is made up of a group of related elements. The amount of units will vary from one NVQ to another. This also applies from level to level within a qualification. All of the mandatory units and a required number of optional units must be achieved to obtain the full NVQ. An assessor will explain this during an induction to the learning programme
- Element of Competence: An Element describes what should be done in order to be assessed as competent. Again, the amount of elements in a unit may vary but all must be achieved in order to gain an NVQ Unit of Competence. The immediate line manager together with the assessor will determine the level of competence
- Performance Evidence Requirements: This describes the standard of performance required to achieve the Element of Competence and can have a various number of units, all of which must be covered to achieve the outcome. When a learner can meet all the performance criteria (within the elements) accreditation can be achieved
- Underpinning Knowledge Requirements: This identifies the knowledge of the theory, safety and administrative procedures which should be known by the candidate. The underpinning knowledge can be assessed by oral or written questions. When undertaking an NVQ, the formal assessment process must cover all of the above. However the Qualifications & Curriculum Authority (QCA), which is the governing body of NVQs, understands that people may have been employed before the introduction of NVQs, meaning that they could already have certain skills or knowledge appropriate to their role – this is covered by the Accreditation of Prior Learning
For NVQs to be assessed correctly and competently a structured assessment chain is created and consists of the following:
- Candidates: Candidates are individuals who are preparing to be assessed for their achievements and occupational competency with the aim of attaining an NVQ. Candidates should claim competence by demonstrating or presenting accumulated evidence which is judged by their assessor
- Assessors: The assessor will visit each candidate in their working environment, directly supporting the candidate through the NVQ process and judge whether the evidence provided proves competence in line with the National Standards. The assessor will be an expert in their appointed subject, familiar with the relative National Standards. They will also be qualified as an NVQ assessor (A1 or D32, D33)
- Work-Based Recorders (WBR): In the absence of a qualified NVQ assessor, the work-based recorder can be used to witness a candidate’s performance, as they are normally in day to day contact with the candidate. The WBR does not have to be a qualified NVQ assessor; however they will be required to be an expert in the subject concerned, with an understanding of the NVQ or assessment procedure. When candidates are in the work place, their line manager or supervisor can normally act as a work-based recorder
What is Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL)?
APL is a means by which a person can demonstrate competence in what they have achieved in the past, through learning and experience. The candidate still has to present a portfolio, which should contain valid, authentic, current and sufficient evidence. An example of APL evidence would be a testimonial from their line manager stating that they are competent to the standards required. This testimonial can provide an excellent platform for a candidate to use APL. APL can also be known as Accreditation of Prior Achievement (APA) or Accreditation of Prior Experience (APE).