The first employers to offer nationally recognised qualifications have been granted approval to act as awarding bodies, in a move which could help companies offer more valuable in-house training.
The employer recognition scheme run by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) enables companies to offer nationally validated qualifications for the first time.
McDonald's, Flybe and Network Rail are the first employers to get the green light to offer Level 3 courses which will enable staff to work towards formally-recognised diplomas.
The move is designed to help equip people for the world of work and break down the divisions between in-house vocational training and the more traditional academic courses.
The QCA will consider applications from other employers that want to formalise the training they provide so that proper qualifications can be awarded.
At McDonald's, staff will soon be able to work on a Basic Shift Management course that will cover everything from food quality to first aid. Crucially, the course will also include the vital HR elements of the business, such as basic people skills, discipline, employment regulations and even staff training.
Chief people officer and senior vice-president David Fairhurst says the firm has been working hard to win recognition for the training it provides to its 67,000 UK staff.
"Significant changes have been made in recent years to the training that our shift managers receive. Additional focus has been given to this level of management, which is essential in improving the experience of every customer.
"Every manager completes an effective and efficient development path this includes restaurant-based training, externally accredited training, personal development modules, as well as more formal classroom-based training," he says.
Basic employment law will also form a fundamental part of the new qualification so that high quality HR management is at the forefront.
"Our managers will be continually educated about employment law and HR issues on courses such as the Advanced Shift Management course and the Effective Management Practices course, both of which will be developed into a qualification," Fairhurst explains.
"The qualification places some focus on HR issues and employment law, but only at a basic management level. There are sections that focus on creating a respectful workplace and on discipline, such as understanding when to take action, how to suspend staff and understanding the need to be fair, consistent and reasonable," he adds.
The qualification will include personal development modules, restaurant-based training and classroom learning as well as first aid and customer care courses. It will usually take about 12 months to gain a qualification, using between 12 and 30 weeks of study time.
McDonald's will also be responsible for developing more qualifications, assessing the quality of the courses, helping candidates and awarding the results to learners. Initially the candidates will have to pass an exam before attending the Basic Shift Management course and starting on the road to a qualification.
If successful in the final assessment candidates will then return to their original restaurant as a shift manager and once they have demonstrated the practical application of their learning in the restaurant, the qualification will be awarded.
Fairhurst says the process for the company to become an awarding body was arduous but challenging. "There are many steps involved in gaining this recognition from the QCA, but in essence it entailed evidencing systems, procedures and resources in relation to the qualification we intend to offer.
"As a potential awarding body we had to demonstrate that we had robust and appropriate management arrangements, and policies and procedures that support and protect learners who take these qualifications," he explains.
The pioneers of this new movement are confident that it will help to drive up standards, but also make in-house training far more valuable and attractive to potential recruits.
In 5 steps
How to offer accredited qualifications
- Investigate the process fully before committing to anything.
- Make sure there is a solid business case for becoming an awarding body because it may be more appropriate to work with an existing organisation.
- Maintain a strong relationship with the relevant sector skills council - it can advise throughout the whole process.
- Don't lose focus on in-house training - it must be fit for purpose and will be mirrored in the qualifications that are developed.
- Becoming an awarding body is far easier if existing training standards are high and complemented with robust systems.
Becoming an awarding body
Employers can gain accreditation for in-house training and qualifications, effectively enabling them to operate as exam boards.
The process enables staff at accredited companies to gain officially recognised qualifications that can be measured alongside more traditional alternatives such as A-levels.
The employer recognition scheme has been created by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) and enables companies to assess, track and formally recognise workplace learning.
The scheme is part of the new Qualifications and Credit Framework which lets employers award points that build towards nationally-recognised qualifications.
It is hoped the move will help to build up the prestige of company training schemes. The QCA expects more companies to apply for validation.