From education to employment

New qualifications can boost career confidence


One of the key points raised again and again by employers is the suitability of training courses for the career paths that they are intended to lead to. Whereas some job roles, such as nursing, plumbing and bricklaying, have always had very specific training pathways, this is not always the case. This is why we have NCFE Occupational Studies, a range of qualifications tailored to give learners an introduction to specific careers, offering a taster of particular occupational areas.

The Occupational Studies suite is intended to be accessible to learners of all abilities. It incorporates a unique ‘hands on’ approach to provide practical skills, knowledge and understanding across 14 occupational areas. The qualifications, which can be taken either on their own, alongside, or as a precursor to, other courses, help learners to prepare for work through real or simulated workplace situations.

The qualifications offered within the Occupational Studies suite are not intended to lead to full competency, which can be achieved through competence-based qualifications such as NVQs or their QCF replacements. The core aim is to give learners a platform upon which to further develop their skills and learning, helping to provide the building blocks towards apprenticeships.

In essence, this is about preparation for the world of work, giving learners a clear picture of what they can expect in their chosen career, helping them to decide if it’s definitely for them and, if so, giving them a basic introduction to the skills and knowledge they will need. We envisage that it will also help to motivate young people on their competence-based courses as they will have a clear idea of what they can achieve through hard work and dedication.

Students will often have the opportunity to work with a range of people in different environments away from traditional classroom-based learning. This will help develop greater tolerance and understanding of others in the workplace, as well as improving their social, practical and life skills.

The trend for employers to demand clear career commitment from new recruits is reflective of the current economic situation and the large pool of workers, particularly young people, they are able to select from. As with Higher Education, although not to the same extent, students are going to consider their eventual choice of career much more carefully when making educational choices. While vocational learning has always been more directly linked to specific career paths, the NCFE Occupational Studies suite is proof that we are adapting to new realities with further enhancements.

From Agriculture to Construction and Hairdressing to Leisure, there is an NCFE Occupational Studies unit to suit most learners and we will continue to develop the extent of the portfolio where a need is identified. Each vocational area has units at Entry Level 3, Levels 1 & 2, providing a clear progression route for learners who can take as many or as few units as they wish.

Following the successful completion of any of the Occupational Studies qualifications, learners may progress to work-based learning and develop the skills, knowledge and understanding necessary to demonstrate competency through NVQs. Progression to further learning within the FE sector is also possible and there are many qualifications available to learners, offering them a broad choice of options.

To find out more about the NCFE Occupational Studies suite and the content of each unit/qualification, please visit

David Grailey is the chief executive of NCFE, the qualification awarding body

Read other FE News articles by David Grailey:

Working in partnership to give young people the education they need

How education providers can help young people into work

A leisurely outlook for training and employment

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