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An introduction to Vocational Qualifications (VQs)

What are VQs?

VQs are Vocational Qualifications.

Vocational Qualifications are nationally recognised and are based on standards. Standards have been developed across the industry and they clearly set out the skills and knowledge expected of individuals working across a range of occupations at different levels.

The standards are agreed by a cross-section of people working within each industry and they relate directly to the skills and knowledge a person needs to demonstrate when they are competent in a given area of work.


What are the differences between VQs and other forms of qualification?

VQs set out skills, knowledge and attitudes which can be directly applied and assessed within the workplace. The emphasis is on your day-to-day abilities and achievements rather than, as with some other qualifications, the ability to recall large amounts of information in examinations.


How do I get a VQ?

You achieve a VQ by demonstrating you can meet the standards that form the qualification you are working towards. This is called ‘demonstrating competence’ and you do this by collecting a variety of evidence and having this evidence assessed.

The evidence will often occur naturally (that is to say, your assessor will assess your performance as you carry out your normal work activity). 

There are many other types of evidence, which may include reports and documents, testimonials from colleagues and examples of your previous work, to support or explain your workplace achievements.

Your evidence must show your assessor that you have consistently met the standards laid down within your qualification and that you are currently competent – that is to say you can currently demonstrate the required levels of performance.


How long does a VQ take to achieve?

This may vary and depends on the extent to which you need further work experience or training, the amount of time you can commit to gathering evidence and the level of support you receive from your assessor, employer and other supporters. However, as a rough guide an Award can take up to 9 months, a Certificate can take up to 12 months and a Diploma up to 18 months.


How does VQ certification work?

You will be certificated by an awarding organisation. Also you can be certificated for the units you achieve, should circumstances prevent you from completing your full VQ qualification.


What does a VQ look like?

Each VQ is made up of different units of competence and knowledge which in turn are broken down into separate elements. 

These units of competence and knowledge are used to make up a VQ. The units relate to significant areas of work activity for a given occupation. Each unit is made up of a unit title, learning outcomes and assessment criteria. Each unit also has a level and a credit value. Units are the smallest components of VQs which are available for certification.

The learning outcomes within each unit provide more specific information covering what is involved within the unit. They explain what you, as a learner, need to be able to do as you seek to achieve the unit.


What are learning outcomes?

Learning outcomes provide clear information on how you need to demonstrate your ability and knowledge. 

They are statements to which you can refer to ensure you collect appropriate evidence. Your assessor will refer to the learning outcomes as he/she judges the evidence you put forward.


What are the assessment criteria?

Assessment criteria define the range of actions, situations and circumstances in which you, as a learner, need to demonstrate competence and knowledge.


What are the different levels of VQ units?

Currently there are eight different levels of VQ units, VQAC offer qualifications at levels 2 to 6 which can be defined as follows:

Level 2

Reflects the ability to select and use relevant knowledge, ideas, skills and procedures to complete well-defined tasks and address straightforward problems. It includes taking responsibility for completing tasks and procedures and exercising autonomy and judgement subject to overall direction or guidance.

Level 3

Reflects the ability to identify and use relevant understanding, methods and skills to complete tasks and address problems that, while well defined, have a measure of complexity. It includes taking responsibility for initiating and completing tasks and procedures as well as exercising autonomy and judgement within limited parameters. It also reflects awareness of different perspectives or approaches within an area of study or work.

 Level 4

Reflects the ability to identify and use relevant understanding, methods and skills to address problems that are well defined but complex and non-routine. It includes taking responsibility for overall courses of action as well as exercising autonomy and judgement within fairly broad parameters. It also reflects understanding of different perspectives or approaches within an area of study or work.

Level 5

Reflects the ability to identify and use relevant understanding, methods and skills to address broadly-defined, complex problems. It includes taking responsibility for planning and developing courses of action as well as exercising autonomy and judgement within broad parameters. It also reflects understanding of different perspectives, approaches or schools of thought and the reasoning behind them.

Level 6

Reflects the ability to refine and use relevant understanding, methods and skills to address complex problems that have limited definition. It includes taking responsibility for planning and developing courses of action that are able to underpin substantial change or development, as well as exercising broad autonomy and judgement. It also reflects understanding of different perspectives, approaches or schools of thought and the theories that underpin them.

(Extracts taken from Annex E of Regulatory arrangements for the Qualifications and Credit Framework © Crown copyright 2008 Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment 2008 and Qualifications and Curriculum Authority 2008.  Crown copyright material is reproduced under Class License Number C01W0000065 with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.)


What does assessment mean?

To achieve a VQ, you must demonstrate to your assessor that you can satisfy the assessment criteria and therefore achieve the learning outcomes.

To do this you must put forward evidence which clearly demonstrates your competence to your assessor.

The assessment process is the joint responsibility of you, your assessor and the VQAC.

This process begins when you complete the pre-registration assessment before registering for your chosen qualification This will establish your current level of competence and define the relevant skills and knowledge you already possess.

This initial assessment can incorporate evidence, where relevant, from outside work, taking account of previous employment, voluntary work, leisure activities, etc.

The initial assessment may also involve exploring and defining your development needs and identifying training required. It will set the scene for the future assessment of your evidence, which will be agreed between you and your assessor.

Usually, an assessor (sometimes an independent assessor) or expert witness will observe you in the course of your work (although assessment will also involve your assessor reviewing your portfolio of other evidence – please see Putting together a portfolio of evidence).

VQ assessment is designed to take account of each learner’s needs and experiences and to give credit for previous achievements, as long as these are still current (normally work carried out within the past two years) and you remain competent.


What is the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF?)

The QCF is a framework for creating and accrediting qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The framework helps learners achieve skills and qualifications that meet industry needs. The framework also presents qualifications in a way that is easy for everyone to understand and measure. All qualifications on the framework are built from smaller units of learning and every unit and qualification has a credit value (showing how much time it takes to complete – one credit represents 10 hours) and a level between 1 and 8, indicating how difficult it is.

There are three sizes of qualification on the QCF

• An Award which will be made up of 1 to 12 credits
• A Certificate which will be made up of 13 to 36 credits
• A Diploma which will be made up of 37 credits or more

By making sure that every qualification title describes what subject it covers, how difficult it is, and how much work it involves, the QCF will help learners and employers to compare different qualifications.
 


Examples of QCF qualifications

Level

 Size

 Title

Level 3

Award

Assessing Competence in the Work Environment

Level 2

Certificate

Customer Service

Level 5

Diploma

Management

 


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