What are NVQs?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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As a set of vocational awards that are in effect in Wales and England, the National Vocation Qualifications are intended to provide practical guidelines for qualification for employment and job placement. Currently, there are five recognized NVQs within the national system, each one considered essential and inter-related to the other.

The first NVQ has to do with the expression of a solid working ability in connection with the performance of job tasks that are considered to be routine and basic to the operation of the business cited. In order to meet the criteria for this type of national vocational qualification, the individual would demonstrate competence with carrying out such simplistic tasks as data entry, basic secretarial skills and routine tasks such as filing. The types of tasks included here would easily translate to just about any business environment.

Earning a Level II vocational award classification would involve demonstrating competency with work activities that may be a bit more specialized than those covered in the first level of NVQs. Typically, these sorts of tasks would be thought of as carrying a greater degree of personal responsibility for completion, with the individual having less supervision and more autonomy to complete the tasks.


With a Level III NVQs classification, it is necessary to demonstrate knowledge and ability to perform well with non-routine tasks and shoulder a great deal of personal responsibility. With this level, there is almost no supervision and in fact the individual may be called upon to supervise others in the completion of an essential non-routine task.

The fourth level of NVQs further broadens the range of technical and professional work activities that can be employed in a variety of settings. Here autonomy is almost complete and the responsibility to oversee the activities of others as well as the effective management of other resources is present.

The final level of NVQs is perhaps the broadest of all the vocational award classifications. Involving a high level of knowledge and a broad range of experience, Level V represents substantial amounts of responsibility accompanied with complete autonomy to perform the necessary tasks. This includes handling situations that may arise unexpectedly that call for a very different response from normal operations. The ability to engage in such processes as design, planning, logical analysis, execution of resolution and evaluation of the outcome are considered essentials for this vocational classification.

Used often for the purposes of job placement, career advancement, and periodic performance evaluation, there has been some controversy about the structure and effectiveness of the NVQs for some years. However, the NVQ system presently does provide a basic framework for job placement that goes a long way toward effectively matching ability and position. Until something better is devised, the NVQs are likely to remain in place for many years to come.



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