Training on the job in Scotland will often lead to an SVQ - a vocational qualification equivalent to an NVQ.

Chef holding a plate of cucumber

See this cucumber? I chopped it myself.

What does SVQ mean?

SVQ stands for Scottish Vocational Qualification and can be taken at five levels. Like an NVQ, it recognises real skills in real jobs.

How do they work?

SVQs are based on standards, or ‘competencies’, that have been agreed by professionals in their respective occupations, such as catering or business management. They are built up through units and assessed through practical work and a portfolio you will develop with an assessor over time.

Who can do an SVQ?

Anyone who’s employed, studying at college, has a part-time job, or access to a work placement. Occasionally, you can do them if you’re at school.

Where can you do them?

Most SVQs are offered through the workplace, as this helps with assessment of the practical elements. It is also possible to do an SVQ at college or school, but you’ll need to find an opportunity to demonstrate the practical parts or relate it to past experiences.

Do I have to pay to do an SVQ?

Often your workplace will pay for you as part of their staff development. But if you are liable for fees, make sure you access all the funding that is available to you.

What kind of subjects can I do?

SVQs are available in a huge range of areas – there are over 650 to choose from. The majority fall into these areas:

  • Business and management
  • Sales, marketing and distribution
  • Healthcare
  • Food, catering and leisure services
  • Construction and property
  • Manufacturing, production and engineering

How are they assessed?

You’ll be assigned an assessor from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) who will guide you through the process from beginning to end. They’ll help identify which skills you already have and which ones you need to work on. They will also help you evidence your work, which is a crucial part of the assessment. There are no grades, but the assessor will ‘sign off’ units when you have reached the required standard. Then you are deemed either ‘competent’ or ‘not yet competent’. In Scotland, the SQA is responsible for all aspects of the SVQ – its development, accreditation and awarding.

How long will it take?

There is no set time, but the average time is about one year to complete an SVQ at level 1 and 2, and around two years for an SVQ at level 3.

Do I really need to do an SVQ if I can already do the job?

Sometimes parts of the SVQ can seem tedious, e.g. writing down in detail the process you take to do a task that is second nature to you. This can be frustrating, but for many jobs an SVQ is becoming a requirement and, importantly, it also means that you can get paid more than someone else doing the same job without the qualification. It also gives you an advantage over other people if there is a chance for promotion, or moving to a higher-qualified job.

Where will it lead me?

As well as the financial and job prospect advantages, doing an SVQ can lead on to further SVQ training; with a level 3 you could also go on to study in higher education in areas such as:

  • Higher National Certificate
  • Higher National Diploma
  • Foundation Degree
  • Other vocational specializations

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015