National vocational qualifications in the united kingdom
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National Vocational Qualifications in the United Kingdom. Author:Richard Leach Venue: Turku, Finland Date:14 th September 2007. What is an NVQ?. National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) are work related, competence based qualifications.

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National Vocational Qualifications in the United Kingdom

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National Vocational Qualifications in the United Kingdom

Author:Richard Leach

Venue:Turku, Finland

Date:14th September 2007

What is an NVQ?

  • National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) are work related, competence based qualifications.

  • NVQs reflect ‘best practice’ and are based on National Occupational Standards written by the particular employment-led Sector Skills council

  • NVQ Units are achieved by demonstrating competence at work

NVQ Levels

  • NVQ’s are available in 5 levels, for Engineering these roughly correspond to:

    • Level 1: Operators ~ routine and predictable

    • Level 2: Operators with Higher Skills ~ somecomplex, non routine

    • Level 3: Technician, Craft employees and Team Leaders ~ mainlycomplex, non routine

    • Level 4: Technician Engineers, Engineers and Engineering Managers ~ complex technical and strategic tasks

    • Level 5: Professional Engineers ~ professional engineering

How are NVQs Implemented?

  • The whole system is administered by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) who approve and monitor awarding bodies

  • Sector Skills Councils (SSC) work with industry to develop occupational standards that are used to define the NVQs

  • Awarding Bodies approve centres to deliver NVQs. They will be approved by QCA and oversee quality

Qualification Structure

  • NVQ structure includes:

    • Qualification title

    • Skill area

    • Unit titles

    • General breakdown of activities

  • Units Are Written to include

    • Evidence routes

    • Elements

    • Performance criteria

    • Range

    • Knowledge Skills


  • An NVQ is achieved by proving workplace competence

  • The specified standards for NVQs have been developed by people analysing the functions and key activities carried out in the workplace

  • To achieve an NVQ a candidate must demonstrate that they meet all criteria by collecting and presenting evidence, usually in the form of a portfolio

...In general there are two types of evidence:

  • Performance Evidence, i.e evidence of actually doing the job

    • Direct observation

    • Finished article

    • Production records

    • Witness statements

  • Knowledge Evidence i.e evidence that indicates the candidates knowledge of the job – achieved through questioning

The Process

  • Employee/Trainee is registered for appropriate NVQ

  • Candidate undergoes training in accordance with an agreed assessment plan

  • Evidence is gathered and recorded in portfolio

  • Candidate undergoes regular visits in the workplace by a qualified assessor

  • The assessor will assist the candidate through the assessment process by ensuring there are appropriate training opportunities and also make assessment decisions and provide feedback

The Process cont...

  • Assessment decisions made by the assessor will be sampled by an Internal Verifier to assure quality

  • The Internal verifier will also advise and support assessors and candidates as and when required and ensure standardisation of assessment within the organisation

  • The Internal Verifier will in turn be monitored by an External Verifier employed by the awarding body to ensure that their requirements are met.


  • The UK Apprenticeship frameworks are defined by the Sector Skills Councils

  • Essentially two types

    • Apprenticeship – consists of appropriate NVQ2, Technical Certificate , and Key Skills at level 1/2

    • Advanced Apprenticeship - consists of appropriate NVQ3, Technical Certificate , and Key Skills at level 2

  • Technical Certificates provide the underpinning knowledge for the NVQ

  • Funding is only available for 16 – 24yr learners

Higher Apprenticeships

  • The new Higher Apprenticeship is a programme designed to incorporate the new Foundation Degrees into work-based learning

  • On a Higher Apprenticeship in Engineering, a young person would achieve:

    • 1 x NVQ level 4 or 2 x NVQ level 3 plus NVQ level 4 units

    • Foundation Degree in Engineering

    • Basic Skills, PEO or PMO

    • 5 x Key Skills at level 3

    • Professional Institution Standards – UK Spec

Thames Valley University

Useful Links

  • - City & Guilds

  • - EMTA Awards Limited

  • - Edexcel (BTEC)

  • - SEMTA (Engineering Sector Skill Council)

  • - Qualifications and Curriculum Authority

  • - Sector Skills Development Agency

  • - LSC learning aims database

Any Questions?

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