A brief guide to work-based qualifications
This guide is for individuals advising young people about the courses and work-based qualifications available at levels 1 to 3, and the progression routes to which they lead. Work-based qualifications enable young people to provide evidence of the skills and knowledge needed to do a specific job.
Qualifications approved for use with pre-16 students are listed annually in the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) document Approved external qualifications under Section 96 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 for pupils, students and trainees under the age of 19 (the Section 96 list), also available on the DfES website.
Qualifications are often classified into three types – general, vocational and occupational.
Many students combine different types of qualification and different levels to suit their purpose and progression.
Work-based learning at key stage 4
Students at key stage 4 take part in work experience programmes at any stage of years 10 and 11, and some students use the opportunities to develop work-based skills that can lead to occupational qualifications. Schools work with colleges of further education, employers and training providers to develop link courses that enable students to gain work-based experience and occupational competence.
Since September 1998 schools have had the flexibility to disapply aspects of the key stage 4 national curriculum to arrange individual learning programmes for those students who want, or would benefit from, extended work-related learning for part of the week. These programmes can involve working on the premises of FE colleges, training providers and employers.
Young peoples’ learning through these programmes can be accredited through a range of qualifications that have been approved for use with students of statutory school age. These are listed in the Section 96 list.
Example of a programme
Student A studies a programme leading to five GCSEs in English, mathematics, science, geography and physical education. The time gained as a result of disapplication of modern foreign languages and design and technology enables the student to study for the ASDAN Youth Award and units from an NVQ at level 1 in decorative occupations.
Combining work-based qualifications with other qualifications
Many students will combine qualifications of different types in a learning programme appropriate to their ability, interests and intended career path. GCE A levels and vocational A levels, GCSEs and GCSEs in vocational subjects and GNVQs can be combined with NVQ units where students have a work placement or a part-time job that fulfils the requirements. It is possible for students to take qualifications at different levels. The key skills qualifications can be taken alongside other qualifications, including those that are work-based.
The work-based route post-16
Full-time courses leading to occupational qualifications are available at FE colleges and also at some sixth-form colleges. In addition, many employers and training providers offer young people the opportunity to work full- or part-time towards nationally recognised qualifications as part of the training within their job. In particular, young people can complete NVQs and modern apprenticeships.
NVQs are awarded to students who provide evidence of competence in a work-based situation. They are based on national occupational standards and are not time limited or age restricted. They are taken by employees, including modern apprentices, or by school and college students who have a work or training placement. Assessment takes place in the workplace. The qualification is unit-based, the number and size of units varying between occupational areas. A unit is achieved when a candidate is assessed as competent in applying the skills and knowledge specified in that unit. There are 11 NVQ occupational areas:
Competence at level 1 is measured in a range of activities, most of which might be routine or predictable. At level 2, some of the activities are complex or non-routine and there is some individual responsibility and autonomy; membership of a work group or team is often a requirement. At level 3, work activities are performed in a variety of contexts, most of which are complex and non-routine.
Considerable responsibility, supervision, control and guidance of others is often required. The range of work activities at levels 4 and 5 are complex, technical or professional with a substantial degree of personal responsibility. Responsibility for the work of others and the allocation of resources is often involved. At level 5, there is personal accountability for analysis and diagnosis, design, planning, execution and evaluation.
Work-based progression routes
There is also progression from one of these to the next. From September 2004, young people with the equivalent of 5A*-G GCSEs will have an entitlement to an FMA, and those with 5A*-C equivalent to an AMA. Young people not meeting these requirements will be able to take an E2E programme to prepare them for an FMA or employment.
Entry to Employment is a programme for school leavers not yet ready to take up apprenticeship or employment. The curriculum is based round basic skills, personal skills and vocational learning. The balance varies accordinging to individual needs. Young people follow individual programmes to consolidate their skills. Programmes are different lengths, to suit individuals. They can include vocational qualifications and/or NVQ level 1.
Foundation modern apprenticeships are for school and college leavers from the age of 16 and with the ability to gain the skills and qualifications needed to start a career in industry and business. They offer training to industrial standards with a focus on NVQ level 2. The apprenticeships are developed by employers and equip young people with a range of broad work skills that employers need.
Young people on foundation modern apprenticeships have the opportunity to develop skills in information technology, communicating in the workplace, handling numbers, solving problems, working as part of a team and managing their future development. A training agreement sets out what is expected of the employer and the young person. The length of training depends on the young person’s needs and the progress made. Most young people working towards a modern apprenticeship are employed and paid a wage.
Advanced modern apprenticeships were developed by employer-led partnerships and are open to young people aged 16 to 24; they are the main work-based training option for those aged 19+ and are widely available across industry and commerce. They offer young people a balanced and structured training programme and provide an opportunity for young people to develop the high-level skills and qualities needed to become the technicians and managers of tomorrow. Most advanced modern apprentices are employed and are paid. All advanced modern apprenticeships include:
Students who complete occupational or work-based qualifications can progress to higher levels in the same or the other two types of qualification.
FMAs enable young people to develop a wide range of broad work skills, and to adapt to new jobs and circumstances as they arise. They provide a foundation that can lead to a range of further opportunities. Many trainees move on to an AMA or broaden their education and training to further their careers.
AMAs provide young people with job-related skills, qualifications and experience that enable them to take the first steps on the ladder to a successful career.
Most advanced modern apprentices go on to further work-based training involving higher level NVQs, university degrees or other qualifications at levels 4 and 5. The new foundation degrees offered at a number of universities are designed to provide progression from AMAs.
Time Off for Study or Training
From 1 September 1999, employees who are aged 16 or 17; not in full-time education; and not qualified to level 2 – as defined by the regulations – have had the right to paid time off work to study or train for approved qualifications. Certain employees aged 18 also have the right to complete study or training already begun. The legislation, part of the wider Connexions strategy, aims to help these young employees get the skills and qualifications they need, and to help businesses to be more competitive.
Further information can be found on the DfES website - Time Off for Study or Training.