Nowadays, training is crucial both prior to and during your career. Students are encouraged to develop their skills and gain new ones by signing up for work experience or work-study courses. Regular training for employees and workers is now a must rather than an optional extra. Training can also provide a springboard for young school leavers and career changers. Taking even a short training course can make it easier to find a permanent or temporary job, and your extra skills could help you to climb the job ladder to a more secure or better-paid role. There are a range of vocational training options in the UK for job seekers at all stages of their careers, which we’ll explain in more detail below. Read our advice and you’ll be ready to get started!
If your aim is to find a job quickly, focus on the sectors with the highest recruitment levels. Currently in the UK, transport/logistics and construction are two of the highest-recruiting industries. There are a range of temporry jobs available, but you may need sector-specific training to access them. So whether you fancy being a crane operator, welder or warehouse manager, make sure you do your research to find out what skills you’ll need.
If you’re looking to get into the construction and logistics sectors, you may well be required to operate some kind of machinery. In a warehouse or loading yard, this might be a forklift truck or stacker. On a building site, you could be working with cranes, diggers or lifting platforms. It’s crucial to be safe when working with this equipment. You’ll also need to know about warehouse or site procedures and how to avoid safety breaches.
The CPCS (Construction Plant Competence Scheme) and the CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) are affiliated programmes which issue a range of cards for different skills and levels. Initially, you’ll first need to pass the CITB Health, Safety and Environment test. You’ll then need to complete any other required qualifications or exams within two years of this test.
The objective of these schemes is to ensure that machine operators are competent and versed in health and safety knowledge, to keep building sites and warehouses safe. It reassures employers that their staff have the necessary skills to do their job.
NPORS (National Plant Operators Registration Scheme) is an alternative to the CPCS scheme. In practical terms they are very similar. Although NPORS often costs less, there is no difference in quality. Both schemes adhere to stringent competence and safety measures.
Although the CPCS is still generally considered to be the industry standard, NPORS has gained ground. If you’re given a choice between the two, have a chat with your employer or agency consultant about which would suit you best.
Construction and logistics are not the only sectors in which short training courses can open doors to new employment opportunities. Vocational training is available for a wide range of sectors with great employment potential, including accountancy, childcare and ICT.
The UK system can be confusing, as it differs slightly between the four nations, and there are over 130 awarding bodies for vocational qualifications. Qualifications are vetted by inspection bodies such as OFSTED to ensure that high standards are maintained. Most courses are delivered by schools, further education colleges, universities and private training providers, both face-to-face and online. These providers usually receive government funding, and can advise you on how to train for your dream job. Your employer may also offer training courses on or off-site.
There are many different types of vocational training on offer in the UK. We’ll explain some of them in more detail below to help you decide which qualification might be right for you. Some are based in the classroom, some ‘on-the-job’ while many courses are a combination of the two. If you’re looking for something more flexible, you may want to opt for distance learning.
If you’re thinking about a change of career, you’re not alone. According to Investors in People, in 2018 47% of people were looking for a new job.Vocational training is a great place to start when moving to a new role of industry, especially if you are not 100% sure about your chosen sector and don’t want to commit to a university-level course.
You might also benefit from gaining some experience and knowledge of your target sector by volunteering, doing temporary work or speaking to someone who already works in that field.
NVQ stands for (National Vocational Qualifications), and are awarded by registered charity City & Guilds. These on-the-job qualifications cover all of the skills required for a specific occupation. It’s impossible to fail an NVQ, as it works by gathering evidence in a portfolio to prove that you have fulfilled the requirements of each component. Assessors will watch you work to make sure you have all of the necessary skills and knowledge.
There are seven NVQ levels, with Level 1 equating to GCSE grades D-G, and level 5 equating to a Master’s degree or PGCE. There is no set timeframe to complete each level, but levels 1-3 usually take around one year each to complete.
In Scotland NVQs are known as SVQs (Scottish Vocational Qualifications).
Apprenticeships are primarily aimed at young people, providing mainly on-the-job training for a particular occupation or trade. They generally last one to four years. You don’t necessarily need to have qualifications in order to find an apprenticeship – they’re available at all levels.
Apprentices work in a real job with a salary, holiday entitlement and sick pay. You’ll work towards the qualifications you need for their role under the supervision of an experienced staff member or mentor, and may also complete some classroom learning as part of the process. You’ll also gain organisation and time management skills by fitting your studying in with your job.
Alongside NVQs and apprenticeships, there are also classroom-based vocational qualifications which can be taken alongside A Levels. Applied General Qualifications include BTECs and OCR Cambridge Nationals, and provide learning in a general job sector, such as Leisure and Sport, or Sociology and Social Policy. Level 2 is equivalent to GCSE, while Level 3 is equivalent to A Level.
‘T Levels’ or Tech Levels are a new qualification launched in September 2020, offering a pathway to students looking for jobs in skilled professions including ICT and digital. They are not yet being offered by all training providers. You can find more details here.
Have you thought about distance learning? This is a great solution for studying alongside family commitments or a job. Most distance learning courses are available on demand, so that you can study at a time that suits you.
You can access distance learning courses through a range of providers include further education (FE) colleges, which will train you on the skills you need for a specific job or sector. You’ll work towards an NVQ level in your subject of choice.
If you’re looking for a cost-effective alternative to an NVQ, there are a range of free MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) available, and YouTube offers training videos for many different skills. You may not gain a qualification from these, but you should still add any relevant training to your CV.
As well as gaining experience, working as a temporary worker can be an indirect way of accessing training. The temporary worker market has undergone a transformation in recent years. Temporary work agencies and employers now offer better training opportunities with a greater emphasis on temporary workers’ wellbeing. Moreover, businesses are increasingly attracted to the convenience and cost-effectiveness of temping agencies to fulfil their recruitment needs. Temporary work therefore now spans a wider range of sectors, including healthcare, education and IT. The number of executive and high-level temp roles available is also growing, with a number of specialist executive temp agencies springing up in recent years.
Temporary work can be a great option for a wide range of people. It provides access to jobs for young people without qualifications or those excluded from the school system, as many temporary vacancies don’t require high levels of education. Young people with vocational qualifications such as a BTEC or T Level can also benefit from temporary working to gain the experience that they need on their CV.
Temporary roles can also benefit those who are considering a career change, as many people have during the pandemic. Temporary work not only allows you to continue earning, but also to try out different sectors so that you can see what is right for you, and make informed choices about your career. You may also be able to do on-the-job training and gain NVQ qualifications.
Finally, increasing numbers of highly qualified executives who want greater flexibility and variety in their careers are now opting for temporary contracts, often to try out a new career path.
Regardless of whether you’re a temporary or permanent employee, or your level of education, the best way to gain job security and improve your employability is to undertake regular vocational training, CPD and lifelong learning throughout your career. Vocational training can enable you to achieve your goals, whether you want to progress in your career, retrain for a new job or simply pad out your CV.
Vocational training doesn’t only cover the basics. For example NVQs range from levels 1 to 7, with 7 the equivalent of a Master’s degree which is aimed at experts in the sector.
There are a number of UK bodies who can provide advice on vocational training and career changes. They include the National Careers Service (England only), which also offers an online chat service: https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/
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