What are NVQs and NVQ-Js?


Wikipedia defines National Vocational Qualifications, NVQs for short, as work- based awards achieved through skills training and performance- based assessments. They are usually certificate awards but as you scale the qualifications ladder, you can receive an undergraduate degree, namely an Associate degree, in whatever occupational skill you’ve gained competence in.

In this post, I’ll provide the answers to a number of questions which readers frequently ask when they visit, among them questions such as ‘What is an NVQ? How important are these  awards?”

NVQs  are commonly used in Australia, England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as Scotland where they are known as Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ). In Jamaica we call them the NVQ-J (Jamaica).

To achieve an NVQ, candidates must prove that they have the ability (competence) to carry out their job to the required standard. NVQs are based on National Occupational Standards that describe the ‘competencies’ expected in any given job role in a particular country.

Typically, candidates will work towards an NVQ that reflects their role in a paid or voluntary position. For example, someone working in an admin office role may take an NVQ in Business and Administration. In my blog, I focus on the building and engineering trades in particular. These persons may pursue the NVQ-J certification  in Plumbing, Electrical Installation, Carpentry or General Construction in order to obtain job opportunities and get paid well in their field.

There are five levels of NVQ ranging from Level 1, which focuses on basic work activities, to Level 5 for senior management.

They are offered to high school graduates, school leavers without certification, workers in the labour force, displaced workers seeking new skills to re-enter the workforce and entrepreneurs.

It is awarded at five (5) levels:

Level 5— Managerial, Professional Worker

Level 4— Supervisory, Specialist Worker

Level 3— Independent/Autonomous, Skilled Worker

Level 2— Supervised Skilled Worker

Level 1— Directly Supervised Worker

See this Wikipedia article on NVQs for their equivalency rating in terms of  academic qualifications.

NVQs are granted by certifying/standardising bodies and institutions in different countries. In Jamaica, the National Council of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET) is the the island’s only certification body for technical and vocational skills training.

Training and assessments are managed by the island’s national training agency, the HEART Trust which has set up skill colleges, vocational centers and community- based organisations to provide the training and assessments required by students about to enter the labour force, as well as those already in the labour force. They work very closely with the industries to synchronise standards.

How valuable is an  NVQ-J?

According the National Quaifications website, http://www.nqrjamaica.org/, the value of NVQ-Js  can be summed up in much of what has just been explained. They are

  •  awarded on the achievement of competence in a qualification
  •  recognized by employers islandwide
  •  recognized in CARICOM and Commonwealth countries
  • based on standards determined by industry
  • recognized by regional and international awarding bodies

NVQ-J and the Individual

  • Provides relevant qualifications that are internationally recognized
  • Proves that an individual has attained competence in a given set of work activities
  • Ensures a better match of pay to ability and responsibility
  • Enables an individual to make progress in his/her career by moving from one level to another
  • Provides clear learning goals so that an individual can see what skills are needed to become fully competent in a particular work function

NVQ-J and the Employer

The NVQ-J can help the employer to:

  • Find the right workers
  • Measure worker’s skill and experience
  • Recognize worker’s achievement

It is recognized island wide, in CARICOM countries and some Commonwealth states.

The NVQ-J certification is proof that you have the skills, knowledge and understanding to perform in accordance to workplace requirements.

These assessments will determine whether trainees have met the requirements outlined in the competency standards for the qualification they seek.  The NVQ-J is exceptional because it provides an opportunity for working age Jamaicans to obtain formal recognition for their competence.


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