NVQ and Competence – Essay

In this supporting paper to the presentation, the purpose, the nature and the advantages and disadvantages of NVQ will be stated and analysed; finishing with a conclusion as to whether to follow a NVQ or not. The definition of an NVQ is “A statement of competence clearly relevant to work and intended to facilitate entry into, or progression in, employment and further learning, issued to an individual by a recognized awarding body”. A national vocational qualification (NVQ) is a collection of vocational qualifications (previously unstructured), which have been integrated into a single assessment standard. This has been done in order to have a nationally recognised level of academic achievement which enables employees to have a clearer level of each job applicant’s respective competency. Competency can be defined as:- ‘An underlying characteristic of a person which results in effective and/or superior performance in a job’ (Boyatis 1982, p21)

Due to the heavy promotion by the Learning Skills Councils, (LSC’s) and the Department for Education and Employment; the majority of vocational qualifications are either part of the NVQ scheme, and in the rare occasion that it isn’t, most commonly when the qualification is of different nature of those offered by the NVQ syllabus, the qualification will have its equivalence identified to its respective, specific, level of the NVQ system in order for those nationwide (familiar with the NVQs) can have more clarity as to where such candidates stand on the level of competency. NVQs have been developed to suit all occupational areas, with each occupational area there are eight levels with the NVQ system to complete to attain ‘full competency’. This is structured in such a way that level one is the most basic and level eight, the most advanced level of NVQ.

The ideal situation of training for competence is done by the manifestation of the development of candidates’ abilities to perform the specific tasks which coincide directly with the nature of the job in its respective department, in terms of performance results (grading), with specific indicators. NVQs have originally been developed with the purpose to serve as a reaction to the ‘confetti-scattering’ style of training which is sometimes carried out by some establishments e.g. a company which sends their staff on off-the-job training with just the objective to learn one particular skill. This training style results in the candidates becoming one-dimensional, due to having a limited knowledge of skills. NVQs have, in fact been developed in order to give these candidates a more rounded knowledge, thus enabling them to be more versatile, efficient in their respective job positions.

The design of NVQ has been structured in such a way that in each of the eight levels, there are mandatory and optional roles (or modules); these are comprised of a collection of several units, those of which are to be completed to be able to progress onto the succeeding level. The table beneath can be used in aid to understand the structural layout of each level in NVQ.

There are several advantageous principles adopted by the NVQ system. These include:- 1.The NVQ qualifications are open access in the sense that no prior professional attainment or experience, nor qualifications are required, each candidate will be categorised level (1-8) after a means of analysis (be it a test or a review of current skills/ experience currently obtained). 2.The focus-based learning format of the NVQs. Progression from one level to next is based on when the criteria to advance has been met, this can be as quick or long as the individual will take to learn, opposed to other assessment standards where the timescale restricts the learner to learn in its set time. An example of this is that it is impossible to complete a Master’s Degree quicker than in a year. 3.Flexibility is a key aspect of NVQs, as they are not generally attendance based – in conjunction with the focus based learning aspect of the qualification where the learner can take as long/short as they want.

This also enables candidates to continue with their respective business demands of their external employment, in conjunction with following NVQs. 4.School Integration is available to the NVQs (GNVQs), this enables candidates to have early access to the hands on approach, which runs alongside other assessment standards (e.g. An alternative run in the same centres as A –levels etc.), thus showing equivalence in value and progression routes, thus giving more viable options to the candidates). 5.Portfolio based work proves to prospective employees that a track record is available showing day to day skills being learnt, thus proving the levels of understanding and competence of each candidate. 6.Prior Accreditation being put into consideration as to which level they will be categorised, enables the candidate to use their qualifications/experience regardless of where from, as long as relevant (i.e. A-levels, training at work etc., enabling an individual to start in a more advanced level).

NVQs also have a few disadvantageous aspects when following their assessment standards, these include. 1.Labour intensive nature of assessment there is a lot of practical work undergone in the NVQs 2.More focus in gaining evidence than actual learning, lack of cognitive learning amongst candidates. As most of the proof (to validate competency level) is done via the production of a portfolio and the presenting of a track-record , this can easily turn into a ‘paper-chase’ rather than the actual focus on the learning processes of the qualification. The also, ‘going through the motion’ nature of the NVQ can also enable the candidate to not be able to reason, simply performing tasks without having true understanding. 3.Quality of assessment can, due to the large numbers of assessors, have a large variance as the marking of each individual can differ. Especially with the different interpretations of some of the jargon developed by the NVQs assessment grading schemes

4.Partial Competence due to selection of optional modules/ reduced definitions and details, as each candidate can choose their modules in the option roles category and each module having different aspects and natures, the candidate may be subject to effectively not gaining an entire knowledge in their respective occupational fields. An example of this would be (referring to table above) where each module has a code which labels the nature of the unit. Take ‘C5’, With C symbolising say, ‘Managing Self and Personal Skills’, one opting out of such a unit, could prove to give them less than the complete set of skills an NVQ could offer, thus lowering competence.

To conclude, NVQs are a system devised by the government to help those in various situations, both academically and professionally in order to make them more competent in their respective field in a nationally recognised manner to potential employers. There are a range of advantages and disadvantages to the candidates as well as the employers, such as not having to follow a timescale in learning and also in not receiving a full knowledge due to optional module selection, but as to whether one should be followed or not, according to the studies that have been carried, out should go hand in hand in the individuals situation.. For instance, one that is currently employed may not be able to dedicate a lot of time to their qualification course, would suit an NVQ whereas, an individual wishing to say, be a medical doctor, a career where having extensive knowledge of their occupational area is vital, would not suit following an NVQ course, where modules are optional and perhaps having reduced knowledge.


1.Armstrong,M(2012)Armstrong’s Handbook Of Human Resource Management Practice, 11th edition, Philadelphia: Kogan Page Limited. 2.Hall,L. Taylor,S. Torrington, D. (2008) “Human Resource Management”, 7th Edition. Pp. 399-407 3.Blosi,W.(2007)An Introduction To Human Resource Management, London: McGraw-Hill Education 4.Marchington,M. Wilkinson, A. (2005) Human Resource Management At Work People and development, London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development 5.Lundy,O. Cowling, AG, (1996)Strategic Human Resource Management, London: Routledge

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