NVQs in Tunnelling
NVQs are vocational qualifications which are work related and reflect the skills, knowledge, understanding and competence in respect to specific work areas/occupations. Vocational qualifications originated from the belief that if you can assess an individual and award them a recognised qualification for their efforts, this will help to improve their ethos and attitudes towards safety and working practices on site. NVQs are derived from National Occupational Standards [NOS]. NOS are statements of skill, knowledge and understanding needed in employment that clearly define the outcome of competent performance in a given trade, occupation or profession.

As the Sector Skills Council [SCC] for the construction industry ConstructionSkills is responsible for the development and maintenance of robust and up-to-date NOS that support people in all areas of construction, including tunnelling. The process of developing the technical content for NOS is done by involving industry related associations, federations, practitioners, specialists and employers, formed into National Working Groups [NWGs] with ConstructionSkills Training Developers managing and facilitating the process. TunnelSkills has close links with and representation on the Tunnelling National Working Group.

Following a review which started in 2008, the latest revision of the national occupational standards and derived new recommended qualification structure for tunnelling operations was published in August 2009. Following publication, Cskills Awards, part of the Construction Awards Alliance (CAA), became the first awarding body to offer the new tunnelling operations NVQs. These NVQs can be achieved by registering with an approved CAA assessment centre.

The NVQ structure in tunnelling operations is designed to provide a means of recognising the competence, skills and experience of a variety of occupations in the tunnelling industry. The benefits to employees completing an NVQ include:

Achievement of a nationally recognised qualification
Allow competency in a job role to be demonstrated and recognised
Can encompass underpinning knowledge and skills alongside competency; combining job knowledge with what can be done in practical situations
Allow a relatively flexible way of learning which can be tailored to suit the individual
Recognised by industry and employers as a competence based qualification

The benefits of NVQs to employers include:

They provide a useful tool to re-skill staff to relevant national standards
They demonstrate a commitment to employee development
They boost the confidence of employees with few or no formal qualifications
They can help employees understand the business better often resulting in greater productivity and competitiveness
The employer can help choose the pace, place and way in which employees learn/achieve
NVQs are mainly assessed in the workplace and therefore employees do not require time off-site for learning/training
They help businesses demonstrate workforce competence to potential clients