Written by: Jemma Porter
Many people assume that once you’ve left school, college or university and entered employment, you’re stuck in that position for life. That doesn’t have to be true, there are plenty of opportunities for training further whilst at work with an NVQ.
What is an NVQ?
NVQ stands for National Vocational Qualification and is a way for workers to prove their competency in any professional role. Whilst it is still qualification, NVQs differ from courses at college and university as the idea is that people are demonstrating how good they are at their current job.
When studying for an NVQ, you don’t have to learn any new skills or take on board fresh information. You will be tested on things that you already do within your role in the workplace by collecting supporting evidence. There are loads of different NVQ subjects in a variety of sectors, such as health care, catering, administration, management and sales.
Why complete an NVQ?
You might wonder what’s the point of studying for an NVQ if you already have the job, but it allows unqualified workers to demonstrate their competency in the role. It also suggests that you are still interested in your work and keen to progress further – improving your chances of promotion or other employment in the future.
Who can do an NVQ?
Another benefit to an NVQ is that they are available to anyone, regardless of age. However, in order to apply you must be employed in at least part-time work, or studying at an FE college and have access to a work placement.
What is an NVQ equivalent to?
NVQs are work-based competency tests, so it doesn’t have an exact equivalent to any academic qualifications and there are also different levels of NVQ (1-5).
The level that you go for will depend on your current employment as your manager can decide which level you aim for. As a guide a Level 3 NVQ is similar to a BTEC National Certificate and a Level 5 is around the same standard as a Bachelor’s degree.
How does it work?
Unlike traditional courses of study, NVQs are work-based so everything is carried out within the workplace. Students will be assessed throughout their working day, rather than in a classroom.
One of the benefits to completing an NVQ is that it shouldn’t even interrupt your work. The assessor will observe you in the workplace to judge your competency at particular tasks; they’ll also ask questions (both verbal and written); and request witness statements from colleagues. It’s important that you remain professional during assessor visits.
There is no set time limit for an NVQ as they are carried out at the student’s own pace, but you can expect a Level 3 NVQ to take anywhere between nine and 18 months if you see the assessor every four weeks.
Students are required to demonstrate competency in tasks by providing evidence, so it’s important that you have the employer’s support if you want to complete it quickly. You can’t fail an NVQ as there is no exam and your assessor can guide you through finding the correct evidence.
Applying for an NVQ
In order to start an NVQ, you’ll need to complete an application or nomination form, which also needs to be signed by your manage. The training department will then contact your manager and arrange for the process to begin.
There are plenty of companies that fund the NVQ for employees, provided that they have been a member of staff for a minimum period. If you are expected to pay, details of the cost will be explained at the point of application.