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Information for managers and supervisors

Supporting your team member to achieve their Vocational Qualification

This guidance will help you to support your team member as they work towards achieving their vocational qualification. It is important that people undertaking the qualifications and units enjoy their learning, thrive on it and develop as people, not just as practitioners.

Support from you

The level of support you give will impact significantly on your team member’s success. Your team member will gain so much more from their qualification if you are involved by showing interest, providing guidance and by mentoring them. You will be required to show your support in some quite specific ways, for example, you will need to validate evidence and you will need to allow your team member the time to complete the qualification.

The following list of questions can help you to find out how your team member is coping with the demands of the qualification or unit/s that they are undertaking:

On a personal level:

  • How are they coping with the challenges of study?
  • Have they a realistic and specific plan of action for completing the qualification or unit/s?
  • How well are they prioritising the demands placed on them?

On a practice level:

  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of their practice?
  • Can the qualification or unit/s’ learning outcomes be specifically related to their strengths and weaknesses and how?
  • What elements of the qualification or unit/s are they finding the most/least challenging and why?

Integrating learning into practice:

  • In what ways can you as a manager or other colleagues help them to integrate what they are learning into the workplace?
  • Are there specific work experiences you can help the learner to gain, which would enable them to get more out of the qualification or unit/s and tackle the assessed work more effectively?
  • Is the learner’s ability to learn and transfer learning into practice blocked in any way, and how can you help them to overcome this?
  • What observable impact is the qualification or unit/s having on the learner’s practice and performance?

Reviewing learning and further development:

  • Are you giving the learner the opportunity to review their learning with you?
  • Can further learning and development needs be identified after the qualification or unit/s and how can they be met?

Overcoming any problems:

  • Does the learner’s workload need to be adjusted in any way to enable them to be able to complete the qualification or unit/s?
  • In what ways can the adjustments be agreed and implemented?
  • Are there any foreseeable problems (e.g. shortage of staff) that could impact adversely on the learner’s ability to complete the qualification or unit/s in any way?

Other support

It is also useful if other members of staff are aware of what the qualifications and units cover so that they are alert to any suitable learning opportunities and can inform the learner accordingly. An item at a Team Meeting on the content of the qualifications together with a copy of the units being made available to all members of staff can greatly assist in raising staff awareness about the support that others can offer to the learners as well as encouraging other staff to consider undertaking the qualifications or units themselves.

Other staff can also play a supporting role by acting as a peer mentor, providing support and professional discourse to the learner and being someone to talk to who is not part of the assessment process for the qualification.

A qualified assessor will work with your team member throughout the qualification. They will also be able to contact a dedicated Learner Support team, based at The Open University’s Vocational Qualification Assessment Centre, for further information, advice and guidance.

National Occupational Standards

The qualification is based on best practice and consists of a series of learning outcomes with associated assessment criteria which are based on National Occupational Standards. They focus on:

  • Performance - what the learner does in their work role
  • Knowledge - what the learner knows and understands in order to perform in their role

We would suggest that you familiarise yourself with these learning outcomes and discuss them with your team member. Your team member can access the learning outcomes through their qualification website, VQLearner Home and also via their eportfolio.

Sources of evidence

To achieve the qualification, your team member will show that they meet the criteria by supplying evidence to support their competence in the workplace. There are various sources of evidence and some may require your input. Here are some typical examples:

Written Statements or Reflective Accounts

These are comprehensive accounts describing how the learner works. You may be asked to confirm that they are a true record, that the learner has met the learning outcomes required, and that the statements or accounts reflect the quality of the work they normally do. 

Witness testimony

This is a written testimony from you which confirms the learner carried out a particular task. The learner will ask you for a witness testimony where this is appropriate.

Work product

These are documents or records supplied by the learner to show an audit trail of the work they do, often referred to and used to support a Reflective Account. If such documentation is confidential or sensitive, it is particularly important that you confirm the evidence exists through a witness testimony.


A qualified assessor will visit the learner in their workplace to observe them carrying out their duties in a live setting. This should cause little disruption to normal working practice although the assessor will need time to prepare with the learner beforehand and to give feedback afterwards. The provision of a quiet area for preparation and feedback would be ideal. You may also want to meet the assessor during this visit to review your learner’s progress.

Performance review and appraisal

It is important that your staff member’s progress with their Vocational Qualification is incorporated into performance management and appraisal systems and not seen as a separate activity.

For most qualifications, evidence will be required to show that the learner reviews their work performance regularly, that they set targets for development and reflect on how they could improve their work. This means they need to demonstrate that they receive feedback on their work performance in accordance with the organisations own targets and objectives.


Time is probably the most important resource the learner is going to need to complete their qualification successfully. It is also important for you in supporting them.

Learner time is needed to:

  • Complete work towards the qualification. This could be planned into the learner’s schedule as a fixed amount of time each week. Some organisations allow a day per month, others two hours per week.
  • Make contact with the VQ Assessment Centre and their assessor to seek advice or guidance.

Your time is needed to:

  • Monitor the learner’s progress. This could be planned into your usual appraisal or performance review process.
  • Complete witness testimonies and validate the work produced by the learner.

Further information

Should you require any further guidance in relation to supporting your team member, please contact the Vocational Qualification Assessment Centre.

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