London Underground set to boost vocational training

Two years into an ambitious NVQ programme for its 10,000 frontline operational staff, London Underground (LU) has stepped up its training effort by committing to vocational provision for the next decade, and aiming to expand the range of qualifications for staff.

As part of its drive to boost vocational provision for staff, LU was a key player in the move to estab-lish a Centre of Vocational Excellence (CoVE) in London earlier this year, to promote good practice and closer working with train operating companies.

The new CoVE will be led by Four Counties Training, with Barnet College – both of which are already partners, along with City & Guilds, in delivering LU’s existing NVQ programme.

LU’s partnership delivers NVQs in train driving and passenger services. So far, some 7,000 staff have completed qualifications, with a further 2,000 expected to go through this year. LU’s experience illustrates the potential of nationally recognised vocational qualifications – when the framework dovetails with training provision already operating within organisations.

LU initiated its NVQ drive following guidance from the railway inspectorate several years ago on the importance of proving the competence of its workforce, according to Iain Smith, head of engineering and technical skills.

“We didn’t have to use NVQs, but we mapped what we wanted to do against the national occupational standards, and found there was a very close fit. That told us we didn’t have to make London Underground fit the NVQ. Instead, we would have to make the NVQ fit London Underground. That was key,” he said.

Delivering NVQs on the large scale required for LU was no short order, and Smith maintains that the partnership has been critical in making the pro-gramme work, particularly in securing government funding for all NVQ candidates. It also protects the programme from being any one individual’s baby.

“One of the reasons the strategic partnership is in place is that if any of the individuals in that partnership left, all the partner organisations will work to support the programme in continuing,” said Smith. “The other was to explore further areas [for qualifications], such as customer services.”

LU also plans to roll out an apprenticeship sch-eme in rail operations, and has made the marketing of NVQ opportunities a priority with new recruits.

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