Awarding bodies accredit a wide range In-House Learning Programmes – one of them, for example, claims to accredit more than 500 qualifications within 28 industry sectors.
Offering an employer an existing qualification which accredits In-House Learning Programmes is certainly the most cost-effective proposal out of all the possible qualification solutions available from an awarding body. The costs of developing the award are likely to have been already met (developing assessment advice and a network of external verifiers) and therefore there is little need for the awarding body to delay offering it to an employer.
With so many qualifications available in-house to an awarding body, unsurprisingly awarding bodies are keen that those qualifications are picked up and used, and are often prepared to customise or ‘tweak’ qualifications to suit a new market – always dependent upon being able to make a compelling business case for the development.
The costs of customising the qualification will of course have to be passed on to the customer via registration fees, however the increased fees are unlikely to be prohibitive.
Identifying the elements within a learning programme which need to be accredited and linking them to a qualification is known as ‘mapping’, and this process is so much easier (and much, much quicker) when the original learning programme has been developed to meet specific National Occupational Standards and the accreditation is also linked to same NOS.
New Qualification development
There is a point at which initial scoping work indicates that there is no pre-existing qualification which can usefully be customised to the learning programme. The development of a new qualification must be considered if accreditation is to be achieved.
Typically the sort of information by awarding bodies when scoping out the business case for a new award will include:
What does it cover?
How long does it take to deliver?
Where is it taught?
How is the programme assessed?
What level is the assessment at?
What pre-requisites do students need to enter the programme?
What does successful completion of the programme enable students to do next?
Most importantly, what does qualification uptake look like in terms of realistic numbers over a 3-year period?
Qualifications that are likely to attract 500 or more (ideally more than a 1000) candidates per year are pretty safe bets for the awarding body. Qualifications likely to attract less than 300 candidates per year are less likely to pass the awarding body ‘gateway’ process – unless registration fees and the employer input to qualification development is significantly increased.
What is the purpose of the accreditation – is it to recognise locally the skills being developed or is the accreditation needed to meet a national agenda?
If, within initial scoping of qualification requirements, a local qualification is required to meet a local need, the awarding bodies are generally well set up to work with employers and learning providers to develop the qualification. If the learning programme has not been mapped to NOS, it might be a useful time to do this in order to minimise the time and cost of further development. Whether the learning programme has been mapped to NOS or not, the awarding body will need to develop a basic business case to present to their internal accreditation boards.
If a qualification has a national dimension, the qualification will need to develop further and be submitted to the national Qualifications and Credit framework. This additional work to ensure that the qualification meets a national need normally involves obtaining approval of the most relevant Sector Skills Council (or ‘SSCs’) – such as Skills for Health, Skills for Justice, Skills for Logistics.
If approval from the SSC is achieved, the qualification will consist of units of assessment which in their totality will create the qualification.