Training on the job with an NVQ qualification: the benefits

NVQs are designed to test a student’s abilities in the workplace and provide a flexible route to becoming qualified in a particular profession. We look at the benefits for the student and employer.

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NVQs are designed to test a student’s abilities in the workplace and provide a flexible route to becoming qualified in a particular profession. We explore this award, which is available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and known in Scotland as the Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ).The National Vocational Qualification, or NVQ, is awork-based qualification. Students learn practical, work-related tasks designed to help them develop the skills and knowledge needed to do a job effectively.NVQs are usually delivered in the workplace. They can be taken by full-time employees or by college students with a work placement or a part-time job. They are available in a wide range of sectors, including business and administration; sales, marketing and distribution; health and social care; food, catering and leisure services; construction and property; and manufacturing, production and engineering.

The role of the Regulated Qualifications Framework

NVQs fall under the umbrella of the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF), which came into effect in October 2015. According to the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual), the RQF has been designed to help people understand better how qualifications relate to each other.Under new guidelines that form the RQF, awarding bodies may retain the use of the term NVQ if the qualification is based on recognised occupational standards, work-based and/or simulated work-based assessment, and where they confer occupational competence.The RQF replaces the former Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF), which was introduced in 2008. An Ofqual review in 2014 found that the QCF placed too much focus on structure and not enough on validity, and was not flexible enough meet the needs of all of Ofqual’s vocational qualifications.

Understanding the NVQ Levels

NVQs are available at levels 1–5, while Level 2 and 3 NVQs are also available as part of an apprenticeship.
  • Level 1 covers routine and basic knowledge and is ideal for students who are starting out or those new to a subject
  • Level 2 is for students who already have some knowledge or experience in their chosen area
  • Level 3 covers more complex work and helps to deliver skills at a more detailed level
  • Level 4 involves a thorough analysis of a high level of information and knowledge
  • Level 5 is for increasing depth of knowledge and responding to complex problems and situations
NVQs test a student’s abilities in the workplace. They are assessed in two ways: by assessment and by observation. The portfolio is evidence of what the student has achieved, while a qualified assessor observes and questions the student about the work carried out in the workplace or a realistic working environment.Assessors test knowledge and understanding, as well as performance. They will sign off individual units of the NVQ when students have reached the required standard.NVQs do not have to be completed in a specified time, and no exams, dissertations or complicated written assignments are needed to gain the qualification.

What do students do next after completing an NVQ?

Completing an NVQ can lead to further training at the next level. Alternatively, following a Level 3 NVQ, students can progress into higher education in a related subject area. They may, for example, study for a Higher National Certificate, a Higher National Diploma or a Foundation Degree.For the student, an NVQ provides a flexible route to becoming qualified in the workplace, with no examinations. The qualification shows that the student has reached a national standard, and potentially increases employability and transferability. An NVQ can also be used as access to another recognised qualification.For the employer, an NVQ can develop staff to a nationally recognised level and provides evidence that they can do their job. The fact that training is on the job means less time away from the company at college or a higher-education institution.This is a revised version of an article originally published in October 2016.
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