BLOG: Ever needed a builder, plumber or electrician...?

Thursday 05 Apr 2018

...then you’ll know how important it is to get a skilled person to do the job.

Anyone who carries out work of a technical nature needs to be fully trained and qualified in the right skills to carry out their tasks in a professional manner. After all, you wouldn’t want any old ‘cowboy’ turning up to fix a problem in your home, would you?

That’s where vocational qualifications, or VQs, come in. VQs are those that assess knowledge, understanding and skills that relate to specific fields of work.

And the type of work covered by VQs is truly vast. Think of people you know who work in construction, health care, financial services, tourism, engineering – the list is almost endless – and they all need to be qualified.

Here at Qualifications Wales we take VQs seriously. They provide a clear pathway to a person’s chosen employment and are just as important as general qualifications such as GCSEs and A levels.

We’ve adopted a positive approach to VQs. It’s because we value them so highly that we’ve devoted considerable resources into a series of reviews, looking at the qualifications available in different employment sectors to make sure they reflect the skills that employers need.

Our aim is not to find fault with the current system; rather it’s to shine a light on the range and quality of qualifications that are available to see if they can be amended or improved in some way.

Our latest published review, Building the Future, looks at qualifications associated with construction and the built environment (CBE).

This is one of the country’s priority employment sectors. It’s estimated that there are 13,000 CBE companies in Wales employing more than 130,000 people and contributing 6.5 per cent of the country’s Gross Value Added (GVA).

Our team of reviewers spent 15 months interviewing employers, educators and learners in depth for their thoughts about the state of qualifications in the CBE sector before coming to a series of conclusions.

We are now opening our detailed report for scrutiny and inviting everyone involved in the sector, from learners to employers, to give us their views on our findings.

The report’s key proposals include commissioning:

  • new qualifications for learners aged 16-19 on full time courses in construction and building services in further education; and
  • a new apprenticeship qualification for the sector.


Some of the issues mentioned in the report include:

  • the language used in written tests can be unclear to learners;
  • assessment can be repetitious and excessive;
  • quality assurance of assessment can be inconsistent;
  • apprenticeships can be too short – much shorter than those in other nations;
  • some skills, such as working with mineral insulated cables, have been removed from the qualifications despite many miles of the cables still existing in homes across the country which electricians need to be able to repair;
  • not enough is being done in schools to offer advice about the wide range of jobs available in vocational trades, with the emphasis being on academic qualifications and the perception that trades are the poor relation.


None of the issues raised during our research are insurmountable. Now that they have come to our attention I am confident that, working in partnership with everyone involved in the sector, we can find ways to solve these issues and improve the qualifications available in Wales.

Anyone with an interest in improving construction-related qualifications is encouraged to respond to the consultation on our proposals.

The consultation runs until Friday, 13 April and can be found here.


Cassy Taylor

Associate Director, Vocational Qualifications