I enjoyed reading the article “National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ): One route to improve the status of women in Libraries. “ by Sandra Parker, Catherine Hare and Pat Gannon-Leary from the University of Northumbria at Newcastle in the United Kingdom.
It provided a concise overview of the some of the theory behind national vocational qualifications.
National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) exist in England and Wales while Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) exist in Scotland. They are both are underpinned by national occupational standards-a concept we have embraced here in Canada.
The following is taken from the section of the paper presented in Jerusalem, Israel entitled “What is an SVQ or NVQ and what is involved in getting one.”
“NVQs measure skills that are directly relevant to the everyday world of work (Arundale 1995). They are competence based (Dakers 1994b and 1994c) and measure whether a person can carry out his or her work to the defined national standards of current best practice (Dakers 1997b).
They emphasize achievement rather than theory (Trevett 1996b) but candidates have to show both that they have the skills to do the job and that they have the necessary knowledge to do it well and in a range of circumstances. (Scarsbrook in Trevett 1996b).
The NVQ standards are broken down into five levels which range from the application of basic skills (at levels I and 2); level 3 for more senior staff with greater responsibility including the control and guidance of others (Herzog 1996); to a high degree of professional understanding comparable to full academic degrees at level 4 (Arundale 1995a and 1995b).
Further details of each level are given in a number of articles including Dakers & Hare (1996), Fries (1995), Harrison (1994), Herzog (1995).
At each level, NVQs are broken down into a series of units, which describe separate functions within an individual’s job role (Stott 1996). These are grouped into Core and Mandatory Units, where work is considered as essential regardless of the kind of service being provided, and Optional Units which allow for specialist activities, such as the IT units for someone working in a hi-tech Business Information Unit (Trevett 1997d). For example at level 2 for information and library staff the Mandatory Units are:
- Process material for use.
- Identify and provide information/material required by user.
- Develop positive working relationships with customers.
Optional Units are:
- Maintain arrangement of information/material.
- Secure information/material.
- Contribute to the maintenance of a supportive environment for users.
- Direct users.
- Issue and recover loan material.
- Maintain data in a computer system.
Units are further broken down into a number of elements, usually from two to five elements. The element is the smallest assessable component of an NVQ, although it cannot gain independent certification or be transferable: the unit is the smallest component which can be transferred (Herzog 1996).
Each element contains statements about performance criteria, range and underpinning knowledge and understanding, and assessment guidance. [To gain an ILS S/NVQ at level 2, for example, the candidate must provide evidence for each element of the six units, which meets the requirements of those elements (Stott 1996)].
Each unit is a ‘mini qualification’ and an individual can take just one or two units from an NVQ if this suits their purpose. They could combine units from different NVQs if this was valuable for them. They will be awarded the full NVQ only if they complete all the core and mandatory units designated for that level NVQ but, where they prefer to ‘pick and mix’ their own units, they get a certificate for each unit they have successfully completed (Herzog 1996)”
The example was specific to the library system. The authors go on to list the advantages and disadvantages of the National Vocational qualification System but it was their conclusion that best said it.
Women have largely been undervalued, underpaid, under-educated and under-trained. This competence-based form of on the job training undoubtedly offers a way forward that has not been possible before. It is hoped that employers will welcome these developments and support women appropriately with fees and the necessary time to achieve recognition of their skills.
This applies not only to women but to all who have been undervalued, underpaid, under-educated and undertrained.
Douglas Ross is an advocate for integrity as a strategy for performance. He is a consultant with Principle Dynamics Consulting Inc of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada and Augusta, Georgia, USA.
© 2009 All Rights Reserved, Douglas Ross, Principle Dynamics Consulting Inc.