Describing the award of an NVQ at higher levels as being "for no more than current competences" (J. J. Sparkes, THES, April 26) demonstrates a lack of understanding of what candidates actually have to do. While the standards appear to be written as static statements of the present situation of a particular occupation the process of demonstrating competence is a dynamic, forward-looking activity.
Candidates at the higher levels wishing to achieve a higher level NVQ in management at the University of Greenwich are expected to operate in a remarkably similar manner to an MBA student. Indeed, one of the definitions of Masters level work is that on the basis of reflection on the significance and inter-relationship between theory and practice, the candidate can formulate original ideas and innovative proposals.
Initially candidates carry out a reflection on their current ability at the workplace together with an honest evaluation of current knowledge and understanding. In addition they are asked to evaluate where their knowledge and understanding originated from: is it occupational "mimicry" or really critically appraised knowledge.
A variety of development plans are established in partnership with host employers where candidates are expected to become involved in innovation. This may take the form of technical projects and may also be studies and investigations which result in organisational culture change and change in working practices. During the lifespan of these "innovations" candidates continually evaluate, not only the more tangible outcomes of developments, but also changes in their perceptions, skills, qualities as a manager and also their learning about themselves and their organisation.
These same "innovations" are written up and appropriately academically referenced - remember we are still talking about NVQ candidates here - and often circulated throughout the organisation.
It is important to remember that innovations are not only about the production of new products but also about new ways of making organisations and thus the United Kingdom economy more effective. The model of the reflective practitioner as outlined above encourages and engenders such innovation and enables managers to make a real contribution to the future of their organisation.
Director of NVQs, Faculty of Business University of Greenwich