Knowing your NVQs

May 12, 1995

John Randall (THES, April 14) and John Sparkes (THES, April 28) come from opposite poles in the National Vocational Qualifications and competence debate. As both quote engineering in support of their case, a view from the centre might restore balance.

We do not claim engineering is unique, although it differs from other professions in size, type of employment, the extent of teamworking and in its world-wide market. No one could dispute that innovation is essential for prosperity, and the highest professional competence must include understanding far beyond that required simply to sustain current practice.

Mr Sparkes goes on to state that it would make no sense to award NVQs at the highest levels for no more than "current competence". Again, no one could doubt that NVQs really have to represent, through the occupational standards on which they are based, the full needs of professional competence. They must reflect the "knowledge, understanding, practical and thinking skills required for effective performance", capture the demands of the profession for "creativity, ethics and values", and go beyond being a "reflection of existing practices", if they are to satisfy the NVQ criteria and be accredited as NVQs.

No one underestimates the difficulties and by all means criticise, but please do not misrepresent.

Peter Swindlehurst Senior executive Education and training The Engineering Council

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