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Apprenticeships in Care and NVQ


By Rebecca Brooks, Senior Business Development Manager - Apprenticeships

In the Health and Social Care industry there is some confusion over the differences between Apprenticeships and NVQs.

There are a number of areas where one is mistaken for the other which can result in muddled messages and misaligned expectations for both employee and employers. The following should help to clarify the two.

The apprenticeship model is a hands-on route to gaining both the practical and theoretical skills needed to perform in a specific job role. They are made up of multiple qualifications, and within those, multiple units. Apprenticeships are work-based, and Apprentices learn alongside competent professionals, experiencing the day-to-day activities of their desired career path.

There are multiple Apprenticeship levels available to cater for different levels of responsibilities. So, they will benefit someone just starting in their chosen career path as well as someone who has more experience, right up to higher management. See examples shown.

Apprenticeships concentrate on a particular specialism – for example Health and Social Care. They are available at every ability level and include a blend of practical work and study. An Apprentice must pass assessments and tests to demonstrate that they can put into practice the skills, knowledge, and behaviours that they have learnt.

Apprenticeships are delivered by colleges and training providers, in the workplace. They are awarded by nationally recognised bodies, for example City and Guilds. One of their defining features is that they are classed as long-term education. Level 2 apprenticeships last approximately 12 months, for example, whereas diplomas at Level 5 can be achieved in 18 months.

Apprenticeships are either funded by the government, or via the Apprenticeship Levy scheme.

Apprenticeships have a broad learning focus. There are vocational modules, but also literacy, numeracy, and digital skills to learn too.

The word Apprenticeship can often mislead someone into thinking that it is an option for a school leaver-in fact it is very much a personal development option for all ages (no upper age limit) and experience levels.

What is an NVQ?

In contrast to Apprenticeships, National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) were work-based awards in England, Wales and Northern Ireland that were achieved through assessment and training. They were withdrawn in 2015.

However, the term "NVQ" may still be used if qualifications are based on occupational standards, work-based, or if simulated work-based assessments are used and they claim to translate to occupational competence.

To achieve an NVQ, candidates had to prove that they had the ability to carry out their job to the required standard. NVQs were based on National Occupational Standards that described the "competencies" expected in any given job role. Typically, candidates worked towards an NVQ that reflected their role in a paid or voluntary position. For example, someone working as a Care Worker may take an NVQ in Health and Social Care. There were five levels of NVQ, ranging from Level 1 - which focuses on basic work activities - to Level 5 for senior management. Most Apprenticeships will integrate an NVQ within them, so for an example the Level 2 Apprenticeship will have elements of the NVQ Level 2 incorporated, however; as you can see Apprenticeships and NVQs are not the same.

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