Opinion/training - Pulling together


Confusion reigns but QCF promises to deliver tangible benefits to the electrical  industry says Ann Watson, managing director of EAL (EMTA Awards)


For many learners, it may seem electrical training hangs in the balance as governance for vocational education and qualifications is being transferred from the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) to the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF), introduced by the Labour Government in 2009. But this doesn't have to be the case.
The QCF is noble in its objectives; to simplify the vocational qualifications system, and promises to deliver tangible benefits for all those involved. However, confusion reigns and threatens to overshadow one of the most far-reaching changes to the UK education system in decades.

It seems the speed of introduction is the main culprit for this chagrin, as the deadline for transferring all 250,000 courses to QCF was initially set as September 2010; leaving awarding organisations with only 12 months to complete the mammoth task. It is also widely anticipated only 70,000 of the courses currently available will be approved, causing concern among students the course they undertook in good faith, which they hoped would lead to gainful employment, may now cease to be recognised and funding stopped.

In addition, this rapid pace of change has meant up-to-date and timely information has been lacking, meaning employers and learners have largely been kept in the dark. Combine this with a change in funding agency during 2010, and the situation can only be called calamitous. However, a chink of light has emerged as the deadline for migration has been extended to January 2011, offering much needed breathing space to awarding organisations, colleges and training providers alike.

So, what does QCF mean to the electrical industry? Under QCF, all trainee electrical contractors will need to take the AM2 - the industry's recognised benchmark for an individual's competence. Previously, only apprentices needed to pass this rigorous assessment of occupational competence. So, in one respect, the QCF will provide greater standardisation for the electrical industry. But by delaying the introduction, ‘wanna-be' electricians beginning their studies in September this year, will now do so under the old framework. As a result, the industry will have to wait longer for AM2 qualified electrical contractors entering into the workforce.

From an employer's perspective, the rush into QCF has caused widespread confusion and there is a risk this will deter businesses - particularly SMEs - from implementing essential training programmes in the short term. Decisions to put a stop, or even delay, training will have a detrimental effect on employers, employees, clients, the electrical industry and the UK as a whole. So it is vital to remember the advantages offered by QCF; flexibility, accessibility, consistency, standardisation and simplification to name a few. We must avoid blowing the issues out of proportion in a way that causes long-term damage to the provision of professional training, as this will affect not just students but the wider industry.

As a QCF approved awarding organisation, EAL is working hard to keep training centres updated through our website [www.eal.org.uk]. We are trying to manage the process in a way that takes the pain out of the changeover for training providers, employers and learners and will do our very best to ensure that while the changeover may not be seamless for awarding organisation, the impact to the wider industry will be minimal.