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Qualifications and accreditation for tradespeople

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Understanding the different organisations looking after and providing training for the trades helps make sure you get the right qualification...

Vocational courses for the trades

  • Study or training in a trade is called vocational or competence-based training. A good qualification in a trade is accredited, which means a regulatory body checks it’s up to standard.
  • Ofqual (the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) looks after all vocational qualifications in England.
  • Then there are awarding bodies, like City & Guilds, who create the courses and qualifications you take to get trained in your trade.
  • Finally, colleges and training providers ask the awarding body if they can run those courses.

City & Guilds qualifications

Set up 140 years ago they’re now one of the leading awarding bodies and providers of construction training and education in the UK. They create qualifications and training from entry-level right up to level 6 (equivalent to a university degree), including apprenticeships.
Their qualifications are recognised by employers all over the world.

What are BTECs and NVQs?

Strictly speaking, these don’t really exist anymore. When the government vocational framework changed a few years ago they became Awards, Certificates and Diplomas. But because they were both well-known and plenty of tradespeople have these qualifications, the terminology refuses to die.
BTECs (British Technology Education Council) now come in different shapes and sizes including Awards, Certificates and Diplomas. You can still take a ‘BTEC’ if you want more of a project management or surveying career in the future.
A National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) was a popular work-based qualification - most of them are now Awards, Certificates or Diplomas.

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What are Awards, Certificates, and Diplomas?

  • An Award is any qualification with up to 130 hours of training and equal to up to 13 credits.
  • A Certificate is any qualification with between 130-370 hours of training or 13-37 credits.
  • A Diploma is any qualification with over 370 hours of training or over 37 credits.

There are thousands of courses across England, you can find the right one by asking yourself:

  • What qualifications do I need for the job I want? Check out the National Careers Service for guidance, and see our articles on a choosing a career in the trades.
  • What do employers want? Do they mention specific awarding bodies, like City & Guilds in their job ads?
  • Is this qualification a decent one? Check it’s accredited at Ofqual.

If you’re still struggling to get your head around the different bits of training and qualifications, then your local college should be a great place to go for a friendly chat and a bit of advice.

Training and skills