Training - The assessment of occupational competence at Level 3

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Stephen Plant, business and development manager of NET, discusses how the decision to make the AM2 a formal unit of the new Level 3 NVQ will ensure greater competence within the electrical sector

The coming year will be marked by a change in the vocational education sector.  The Qualifications Credit Framework (QCF) – which was introduced by the Labour Government in 2009, and came into force in January 2011 – will alter the way vocational training is delivered; it is undoubtedly the biggest change to take hold of vocational education since NVQs were brought in during the late 1980s. The shake-up is the result of a shift in popular opinion, predominantly led by the government, which is increasingly citing skills-based careers as the driver by which the UK economy will be rebuilt.

What is the new framework?
The QCF offers a simplified learning process, allowing those responsible for training and development to invest in a more flexible qualification structure for their staff.  They can now do this because the modules that make up QCF qualifications can be taken at the employee’s pace, allowing career development to fit around professional and personal commitments.
Qualifications will be built up in units, with each unit having a level and a ‘value’.  Learners will be awarded credits for every unit they pass, where one credit represents 10 hours of learning time. From April 2011, the electrical industry’s Assessment of Occupational Competence (AOC), the AM2, will be a compulsory unit for anyone signing up for an electrotechnical NVQ Level 3 qualification:
s Level 3 NVQ Certificate in Installing, Testing and Ensuring Compliance of Electrical Installation Work in Dwellings
s Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Installing Electrotechnical Systems and Equipment (Building Structures and the Environment)

As clarification, the term NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) will still be used in titles where the qualification is competence based, and directly aligned to National Occupational Standards. So, for all trainee electricians studying for a Level 3 qualification the NVQ title will still apply.

The AM2 has long been a formal part of the national UK work based apprenticeship; but until now, it was not a compulsory requirement under the equivalent Level 3 NVQ qualification taken by adults training to enter the industry.  Embedding AM2 in the new NVQ structure under the QCF is visibly the right way forward, as it aligns requirements for all electrical trainees at Level 3, be they apprentice or adult. This will undoubtedly have a positive effect on the wider electrical industry, raising standards across the board.

The AM2 – at the heart of industry
As the AOC for the electrical industry, AM2 is the practical assessment that proves an individual’s competence in electrical work. The assessment was launched by the industry in 1985, and redesigned last year with the demands of today’s environment in mind, and with an enhanced emphasis on safety. The AM2 aims to reflect ‘real life’, assessing competence in the typical tasks and time conditions that a qualified electrician would experience at work within a property or site.

AM2 is generally the final stage of an apprenticeship or NVQ; it is taken at the end of the training period when the candidate is almost fully trained and therefore likely to be ready to have their practical ability tested across the breadth of electrical work. However, before sitting AM2, candidates have the opportunity to consider if they are in a good position to pass the assessment, by means of a pre-assessment exercise based on the tasks they will have to perform in the AM2.

Benefits to learners, employers and industry
By incorporating the AM2 into the Level 3 NVQ, employers benefit as much as learners do. Every qualified NVQ Level 3 holder will be able to provide evidence they are equipped with the right skills and employers can be confident taking on an electrician who has come through the NVQ route, rather than through an apprenticeship, is equally competent to support their business appropriately. This will be particularly important as the UK embarks on the government’s low-carbon initiatives, which will require a large number of qualified electricians to play a key role over the next 40 years.

NET has been working closely with the UK’s two awarding bodies for the electrotechnical NVQ Level 3, EAL and City and Guilds, as they incorporate the AM2 into their suites of NVQ Level 3 electrical qualifications. From next year all relevant qualifications will list the AM2 as a compulsory component, and learners enrolled on these level 3 NVQs will be required to sit the AOC irrespective of their training provider or college.  This highlights the role of the AM2 in ensuring competence within the electrical industry.