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Why NVQs are letting us down

LETTERS Prize

Sir, I am an assessor working for a centre based in the south-west specialising in On Site Assessment and Training.

Having read Grant Prior's Agenda article, 'A wealth of problems' in the June 8 issue of Construction News I would like to add a few comments.

The reason why many trainees fail to gain NVQs mainly lies with the CITB/City & Guilds external verifiers.

If you gave f ive external verifiers from across the country the same completed portfolio to sample you would get five different outcomes.

Which external verifier an assessment centre gets depends on its location. The trouble is, each external verifier has his or her own ideas on how a centre should be operating - including the completion of NVQ portfolios - so, when we employ the services of assessors from other centres they struggle to use our (very simple) portfolio system and fail to work to the standards set down by the awarding body, so we end up having to retrain them. But most of the time they go back to working for their original centre because their external verifier is happy with the way they work.

On one occasion we used an assessor who works for the National Construction College. He completed several portfolios but, when they were internally verified, they were not good enough, so he had them back with a list of actions needed to put them right. The portfolios came back again but, following internal verification, were still not completed properly. This was an assessor who was qualified and had been assessing for a number of years.

If every external verifier was singing from the same hymn sheet then in theory each assessment centre should be operating in the same way.

Why does every assessment centre have its own portfolio system? Shouldn't there be a standard portfolio with standard paperwork? If this was to happen then everything would be standardised.

Centres are put on sanctions for good reasons in most cases, but the length of time it takes to get the sanctions removed needs addressing. If a candidate is registered with a centre that is suspended, then to avoid disadvantaging the candidate, he should be able to register with another centre without having to pay another registration fee or having to wait 10 weeks for certification.

To avoid disadvantaging any more candidates, every external verifier needs retraining to ensure they are all working to the same standards. When a centre requires an external verifier visit, it should be a random visit. This will prevent the process becoming stale.

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