Review of "NVQ"
The reasons for doing the National Vocational Qualifications or NVQ are vast and wide-ranging. NVQ's are becoming a vital part of the workplace particularly in the manufacturing and service sectors were they are slowly becoming a prerequisite before starting work in such fields.In my field, the health profession 50% of care assistants/nursing auxiliaries etc were supposed to have their NVQ 2 in care by the end of 2005. There are several reasons why this became an impossibility and the date is being forever changed. The NVQ is a relatively new qualification and was seen by the government as a long-term replacement for the BTEC and City and Guild qualifications. However, the qualification has been and continues to be greeted with a mixture of apathy and scorn by both employees and employers and there are many reasons for this.
The NVQ is described as a vocational qualification to be completed in the workplace. You are assigned an assessor who can either be shipped in from an external body such as a college or has been trained as an NVQ assessor by the workplace. The idea is that your assessor observes your work and documents how you behave, be it towards your clients/service users in the care sector, customers in the retail sector etc. They also observe your working practices to ensure you carry out your designated tasks correctly and according to the procedures set out by your workplace and external bodies such as environmental health. Examples of this in my case this would be observing me feed a resident or administer medication. However, this element of the course is fine for most people but it is the "evidence" element that makes these work-based qualifications the scourge of many an employees and employers lives.The NVQ level 2 in Care is the perfect example of this. Made up of four core units covering diversity and rights, communication, health and safety and abuse and a further five units of the employees own choosing from eating and drinking to continence control the employee is expected to write detailed accounts to cover the criteria of the units. Not only are they expected to write step by step accounts of, "How they take Mrs X to the toilet ensuring privacy and dignity by shutting the door..." they must then mark their own work using the criteria supplied. This is a ridiculously complicated process that takes longer than writing the actual piece or "reflective account" as they are called. Add to this the need for "witness testimonies" from Supervisors or Line managers supporting your abilities and what you have is a vocational qualification that is bogged down in paperwork and bureaucracy.
The problem with the NVQ is not the content that in my experience is relevant to the occupation but the way in which the pill is administered. Imagine this. You are a fifty-year-old care assistant who has been told they need to do an NVQ. It has been a number of years since you have written anything approaching an essay style piece and you are confronted with this mound of paperwork and the possibility of needing to attend college for extra assistance. Would you do it?Where are the assessors in all this? Now the success or failure of someone working towards an NVQ is largely down to how helpful an assessor they have. As someone who assists those trying to get an NVQ and someone with an NVQ 3 in Care I am well aware of the importance of this. The assessor is the person who is there to guide you through and help you. It is they who decide whether you have completed a unit and indeed they who decide when you have completed your NVQ (after external verification). Therefore, the importance of a good assessor cannot be stressed strongly enough. A good assessor can get even the most non-academic employee through an NVQ 2 in twelve months whereas a bad one can make it a torturous process that lasts years. My own NVQ lasted two and a half years not because I did not complete the work (as I completed that in less than six months) but because my assessor was like the Scarlet Pimpernel and when she was there gave little in the way of advice or guidance. In contrast I know several colleagues who were guided through their NVQ with the assessor doing much of the supposed "self marking" for them. This is one of the major advantages of having an assessor in the workplace rather than an external body.
The employer also has a vital role as to your success o your NVQ course. Occasionally you may be required to attend courses, spend days in college or have one on one time with your assessor in the workplace. An employer's understanding of the need for this will largely affect whether you will spend six months or two years on your NVQ. Many employers see the NVQ as a necessary nuisance and are reluctant to give time off or any assistance to employees pursuing it.So why on earth should I bother doing an NVQ?
In my personal opinion the NVQ in itself does not make you a better employee. However, in many workplaces especially the care sector it is becoming something you have to do to continue in that field so many of you may consider it (like I do), a necessary evil. It also can provides some benefits in that employers tend to pay that little bit more to employees who have an NVQ and indeed some workplaces have started to only accept employees with NVQ's. An NVQ can also be used as a stepping stone to further your career as an NVQ 3 is classed in many universities as a viable qualification for access to many courses such as Nursing. The advanced NVQ's such as NVQ 4 or the assessors NVQ may even provide an opportunity to become self-employed as a freelance assessor manager of a business.Congratulations to those who have completed an NVQ or are working towards one. I know how difficult they are and have a respect for anyone who can get their head round this most complex of courses.
Frances Sussex Advanced Health and Social Care for NVQ Level 4 and Foundation Degree
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Listed on Ciao since: 02/09/2000