NVQs given 'too low a profile'

January 19, 1996

The Government quango charged with introducing national vocational qualifications is bungling the development of new NVQs, according to the head of the leading awarding body of job-related qualifications.

Christina Townshend, chief executive of the Business and Technology Education Council, is deeply critical of the National Council of Vocational Qualifications, as well as the Department for Education and Training.

Speaking in the wake of the review of NVQs by industrialist Gordon Beaumont, she said that "in marketing terms, NVQs should be a dream" because they take at least two years to develop, and employers and training specialists co-operate closely during the developmental stage. "The NCVQ shouldn't have to spend so much as a penny on marketing," she said.

The NVCQ receives Pounds 3 million to carry out a marketing strategy that was severely criticised in the Beaumont report. Dr Townshend said the root of the marketing problem lies in the fact that senior members of the NCVQ and the DFEE are not involved in the day-to-day development process. "At these development meetings, who do you ever see from the NCVQ and the DFEE? You get a technician. That's the best you ever get."

She said that this has a discouraging effect on employers, and explains why most planning meetings are attended "not by employers but by representatives of employers". She described the case of a board director of a leading blue chip company who made the effort to attend the developmental meetings. "At no stage did the NCVQ or the DFEE see it as necessary to send somebody at undersecretary level," she said.

Dr Townshend added that the NCVQ agenda also did not encourage employers to send people of "real reputation" to the planning meetings. "It's all about technicalities. No strategy, no policy - just technicalities," she said. "So if you ever had an employer, you've lost them after six months."

BTEC, the biggest vocational qualifications awarding body, has just teamed up with the University of London Examinations and Assessment Council, the biggest academic qualifications awarding body, and there are plans to establish a new vocational-academic certificate by the end of the year. Dr Townshend said that BTEC would like to see a single regulator in the future.

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