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Would you like a qualification with that?

Jibes about McQualifications shouldn’t undermine the drive for standardised skills, says Nick Gooderson

‘McQualifications’ are here and the media had a field day. You could see the headlines coming a mile off following the announcement that along with Network Rail and airline Flybe, McDonalds was to be one of the three commercial companies to break new ground by gaining awarding body status.

Will the construction industry’s household names follow suit?

Widening participation in qualifications is welcome, though our industry still has many experienced workers who entered the industry informally, we are working towards a fully qualified workforce.
But this must be done in such as way as to ensure the industry understands the skill levels of the recruits coming through.

Going it alone and developing qualifications without wider support can, as some construction companies have already found, lead to confusion.

The answer to ensuring your business gets the recruits it needs is to have standardised qualifications that have currency for everyone - employer and employee - otherwise how do you assess and compare skill levels or determine what gaps in training may exist?

To achieve this a standardised approach to qualification development co-ordination is needed.

ConstructionSkills has been doing just that with the Government-led UK Sector Qualification Reform Programme.

Working with the regulators of qualifications for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, awarding bodies and industry partners, we have put together a sector qualification strategy that delivers across the board from technicians and professionals to onsite occupations and from school-level qualifications through to lifelong learning.

Part of this work has meant stripping from the national qualification framework the proliferation of qualifications that confuse and devalue an already congested market place.
While stripping out the old we are also working closely with industry to develop qualifications such as the Construction and Built Environment Diploma, a sector specific qualification to foster the approach to work required by employers in potential new recruits.

Bespoke flexible programmes

Its development is a testament to working collaboratively with groups of employers to develop a qualification universally recognised and supported.

In this sector, training can be highly specialised and expensive, so it is essential that qualifications are developed only where demand can be identified.

It is exactly this approach that led to ConstructionSkills establishing 16 specialist apprenticeships - bespoke flexible programmes that match needs as identified by groups of specialist contractors, manufacturers and federations.

Employers have a tough enough job as it is getting the right recruits for their firms.

The sector qualification -reform has allowed us to help ensure this confusing landscape becomes easier to navigate, and employers setting up and developing their own qualifications in isolation could derail this hard work.

Nick Gooderson is head of standards and qualifications at ConstructionSkills