Category Archives: Frequently Asked Questions

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,, 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.


Write Technical Reports Assessment Prep: Answers and Tips to Help you achieve Competency in the Unit


by Karen Taylor Bennett


Q1. How many reports will I have to write on the assessment?

This is a typical question that I get from learners preparing to sit the Level 2 Write Technical Reports (Basic) assessment. Rarely are you asked to write more than one report on the assessment paper.

Q2. What are some common question formats presented in the assessments offered by HEART Training institutions and other learning institutions offering vocational qualifications in Jamaica?

Questions are given as writing prompts. They may be form atted as a summary of the the incident facts. You may be given a single question or options to choose from. There are usually no multiple choice objective -type questions.

Study these sample past paper questions for a idea of what questions look like.

  1. Choose ONE of the writing prompts describing a different incident below. Write the report.
  1. You were installing fluorescent bulbs in your company’s warehouse, when you slipped off the ladder and broke your hand.Write an incident report detailing when, where, how and why the accident happened.Use a memorandum format for your report.

2. While working in the electrical lab yesterday, a fire started. Write an eye witness account addressed to your supervisor tracing the events surrounding the fire. State your conclusions about the surface causes of the fire and make recommendations to prevent a recurrence of fires caused by these factors.

3. Sometimes a photograph or illustration of an accident scene is used with specific details of the scenario. As far as possible use these details given in your report.

Use the picture below to describe the circumstances under which your work colleague received an electrical shock that caused damage to his hand and the loss of two fingers.

Write the report based on what you observed and facts you would have gathered, addressed to your Supervisor. Include the relevant details that your company would need to know about the incident.

Involuntary Muscle Contraction

This  worker fell and grabbed a powerline to catch himself. The resulting electric shock mummified his first two fingers, which had to be removed. The acute angle of the wrist was caused by burning of the tendons, which contracted, drawing the hand with them.

                mumified habnd

3. Do I have to write all reports in memo format even if the question does not state this?

You are usually expected to write a memo report. A memo report is just a report which uses the Memo format. Even if the instruction does not state this, expect to address your report to a superior. Common designations are the Supervisor or Head of Department. In some instance you’ll be told to write to the Manager or Contractor. You are writing a fictional report so prepare to make up not only the incident, but names of the people and places involved. A standard Memo report begins with the Heading.

The Heading has four parts:

i) Memorandum

Write the word Memorandum top center of your page.

ii. To: line

Below the word Memorandum, in the left margin, write To: (Use the Tab button if you’re using a computer, or measure about one inch space behind the colon, and start writing the name of the person you are writing the report to, for example, John Black or J. Black). Next, write Mr Black’s job designation.

You can choose to write this beside the person’s name horizontally so it looks like this:

To: John Black – Supervisor

Note that I’ve capitalised the T in the word To: and added a colon (:) behind it. If you are writing the job title beside the name, separate the words with a hyphen as seen in thee example above.

iii) From: line

The writer’s name goes here. Add same tab space as the To: line behind the colon to enable uniformity of presentation, and then write your name.

iv) Date: line

Write the date on which you are writing the report. The preferred style for the sake of clarity is November 25, 2013.

v.) Subject: line

Give busy employers, and other readers in the busy workspace a chance to get a quick idea of what your report is about by creating a brief subject that sums up what the report is about. The Subject is your topic. It should be short and concise. Write it like a newspaper headlines. Study some headlines on the front page of your daily or weekly newspaper to get an idea of what I mean.

4. Can you share some tips for writing effective subjects for incident/accident reports?

Candidates writing the report often commit these three unpardonable crimes in writing reports. They write

  • vague, one-word      subjects, for e.g. Accident, Injured or Fire

Readers may discard a report that has a heading that is too vague.

  • complete      sentences for the Subject.

E.g. I Broke my Arm in An Accident onsite This Morning.

Two key words to remember when writing the Memo’s subject are concise and specific.

  • Long Subjects      that extend to two or more lines

While some business memos may warrant this kind of Subject, try to summarise and constrict what you need to say to one line.

These subject writing bloopers described above makes you sound like a novice rather than a professional. Keep it succint and newsy while maintaining a formal, professional tone. Remember, this is business writing, not a short story narrative.

5. What should I pay attention to in regard to the presentation of a report?

So now that you have an edge on writing effective Subject lines, it’s time to look at Presentation. Marks are often alloted to the visual aspect of the report so spend some time especially on getting your spacing right. You may not be given the opportunity to type your report in the assessment. But you should still present a professionally handwritten paper that is visually appealing.

The standard memo format presents the heading section of a memo to have a LINEAR look.

In this format, all lines are aligned uniformly beneath each other. Personally I prefer this style, as it makes the presentation look neater which is what you should aim for.

Standard Format


The heading segment follows this general format:

TO: (readers’ names and job titles)

FROM: (your name and job title)

DATE: (complete and current date)

SUBJECT: (what the memo is about, highlighted in some way)


Style 1


To: John Black – Supervisor

From: Karen Taylor Bennett – Electrical Technician KTB(Signature)

Date: November 25, 2013

Subject: Report on Fatal Electrical Accident at Plant

Note: Some assessors expect to see an affixed handwritten signature beside your name in the From: line.

Style 2

Note: You may notice that I have used double space between each of the elements below. This is not standard. I can’t find spacing deature in WordPress page to apply the correct spacing. When you write your heading, apply single space between the person’s name and job designation and doublespacing between the To, From, Date, and Subject elements.


To: John Black


From: Karen Taylor Bennett KTB (Your signature, required if presenting as hard copy)


Date: November 25, 2013

Subject: Report on Fatal Electrical Accident at Plant



Some Additional Writing Tips to Help you Craft an Effective Subject

You might need additional practice in summarising to help you improve in this area.

Try this: Take a sentence from the first paragraph of a newspaper and condense its main idea to four or five words. First, cross out all the prepositions and conjunctions. Keep the noun and verb words. These are called content carrying words or key words. Try to find a general word or category to replace synonymous words or words that share a common idea.

Another way to practice your summarising skills is to create a telegram from the first paragraph of your report. Prune the unnecessary details until you have the required word limit while maintaining the essence of the message you wish to convey to your reader in 30 seconds.

If you’re having difficulty coming up with an effective subject at the start of the assessment, don’t sweat it. You don’t have to write the subject first. You can write your report draft and then come back to writing the subject.

To get your writing juices flowing, try this brainstorming method.To brainstorm for a subject idea, first ask yourself this key question,

  • What is the news?

To explore this further, ask yourself

  • What type of accident happened?

Type of Accidents are Fire, Fall, Electrocution, Collapse of Trench, Collision, Altercation, Chemical Spill

  • What was the outcome of the accident?

Describe it in terms of a fatality, injury or near -miss. For e.g. Eye Injury, Back Injury, Inhalation of fumes, Fainting, Broken limb, Lacerations to a body part, Loss of limbs, Minor Wounds. You can also identify the person injured in the SUBJECT.

Try this: Jot down on a piece of paper the following words:

Report on . . .

State either the name of the accident or the accident outcome where the ellipsis ( . . .) is.


Here are some examples to help you get started:

  • Report on Electrical Fire at Crossroads Plant
  • Report on Fume Inhalation Accident in Welding Workshop
  • Report on Trench Collapse and Workers’ Injury Today
  • Worker Injured in Construction Site Accident
  • Colleague Electrocuted
  • Martin Brown Loses arm in Machineshop Accident
  • Back Injury Sustained in Fall at Factory Today
  • Forklift Accident in Warehouse
  • Workers Seriously Injured in Highway collision
  • Eye Witness Account of Altercation at Security Post
  • Break-in at Stores
  • Warehouse Fire Leads to Lost Hours

Backhoe Image obtained from

Electrical burns image obtained from OSHA Construction eTool www.


More Useful Resources to help you with Memo writing

In another post, I’ll talk about planning strategies- getting the facts together to write your report and managing your time within the assessment.


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