Vocational qualifications are changing
They’re becoming more responsive to the demands of employers and learners. They’ll be more relevant to employers’ needs and more accessible to a wider range of learners.
An essential tool in this reform of vocational qualifications is the QCF.
What is the QCF?
It’s the new framework for creating and accrediting qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
It will give a wider range of learners the opportunity to get the qualifications they need, in a way that suits them. QCF qualifications are designed with the help of employers so learners can be assured that they’re gaining skills that employers are looking for.
• Recognises smaller steps of learning and enables learners to build up qualifications bit by bit
• Helps learners achieve skills and qualifications that meet industry needs
• Enables work-based training to be nationally recognised.
The Skills funding Agency is responsible for implementing funding, planning and performance measures to support QCF qualifications in England. It’s also delivering the QCF Service Layer, which stores learners’ achievement data from awarding organisations.
Find out more about the Service Layer and funding.
Ofqual is responsible for regulating the QCF in England. Visit the Ofqual website to find more about QCF regulation.
European Qualifications Framework
QCDA was also involved in referencing the QCF to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). The EQF links European countries’ qualifications systems to each other and makes it easier to cross-reference qualifications between countries. For more information on the EQF and how the QCF works within it, visit the QCF readiness resources page.
QCDA and higher education
QCDA has produced a publication that provides information on how the QCF links with higher education and explores the opportunities and impact the QCF will bring. More guidance and support can be found on the QCF resources page.
The names of the qualifications in the QCF tell you three things – how difficult it is, how long it takes and what it’s about.
The level shows how difficult the qualification is. There are nine levels in the QCF, from Entry level to level 8.
Next is the size – that’s how long the qualification takes to complete. Every qualification in the QCF comes in one of three sizes – Award, Certificate and Diploma.
And the content – that’s what it’s about – could be retail, or leadership, or maybe sport.
Here are two examples of qualification titles, showing how the three parts fit together:
Level 1 Certificate in sport and active leisure
Level 8 Award in strategic direction and leadership.
Every qualification in the QCF is made up of units. So if you’re doing the certificate in sport and leisure, you could include units on how the body works and planning your own fitness programme. Every unit has a credit value that tells you how long the unit takes to complete. A credit is about 10 hours’ work, so a unit with a credit value of four, like the unit on how the body works, will take about 40 hours to do.
The total credit value of a qualification tells you its size – that’s whether it’s an Award, a Certificate or a Diploma. Awards are made up of 1 to 12 credits, Certificates 13 to 36 credits and Diplomas 37 credits or more.
In the QCF you can build the same qualification from different combinations of units, to suit your own circumstances, interests and skills. Most qualifications are made up of some units you have to do and some that you can choose. We’ve worked out how units can be put together to make qualifications. As long as the units you’re taking fit our rules about combining them, they’ll add up to a qualification.
The QCF also lets you put together your achievements from different places. So your qualification could be made up of units from your training at work and units that you completed at college.
Nobody wants to learn the same thing twice, and in the QCF you don’t have to. If part of your qualification is made up of units that you’ve already completed for another qualification, you can simply transfer the credit you’ve gained to your new qualification. Once you’ve learnt something, it stays with you as you move in and out of education and training, and from job to job.
Lots of employers give their staff great training at work. This in-house training is now being formally recognised as units and qualifications in the QCF. Not only that, but we’re getting employers involved in designing qualifications to help shape training and education for their industry’s future.
Employers can even become awarding organisations in their own right. These days McDonalds, Network Rail and FlyBe are not only household names – they’re accredited awarding organisations as well.