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The demise (in England) of National Occupational Standards

29 March 2016

Some will have seen the recent announcement of the closure of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES). Some of you will have your own views already on the UKCES.

Our sector has often had a difficult relationship with UKCES, particularly in relation to the Employer Ownership of Skills, and it failed to deliver long demanded changes on funding to Apprenticeships.

But I note here the accompanying announcement that government in England (but not so in the rest of the UK), no longer sees the value of National Occupational Standards (NOS).

Until now, NOS were key statements of skills, knowledge and understanding deemed necessary by employers in the sector for being effective in a particular job role. Awarding bodies (such as City and Guilds) would look at the NOS and build their qualifications around them; in essence they would put together a qualification which would ensure competence as defined by employers in the sector.

Some employers would also use NOS as the basis for job descriptions or training schedules, and individuals might refer to them as they looked to develop their careers. They could look at their current skills and see gaps that needed filling with training or experience in order to secure that next promotion.

Of course, that was the theory. In reality, NOS were often developed by small groups of employers with particular views about the sector and its future.

In my experience however, they were often very useful to SME employers. By funding them, government ensured that the next generation of qualified workers were competent and work ready. They were a way to minimise waste on training, because qualifications actually were often NOS requirements added to legislative obligations.  

But now they are gone and so we must wonder what the future will look like. Awarding bodies, Training Providers and Trade Associations will likely take up the slack, hopefully ensuring that qualifications deliver value for money for the current workforce, as well as ensuring that the future workforce is suitably developed.

David Coombes, Founder and Managing Director of Logistics Job Shop