When you are looking at taking a qualification, what do you look for?

It depends why you want the qualification really. For instance, if you want to learn how to decorate a cake for your nephew’s birthday, you might be perfectly happy to do an online course, or one run by a local cake supplies shop, and have a piece of paper at the end that will just go in a drawer. You’ve got what you wanted – the skills to make your nephew smile on his birthday because his favourite auntie or uncle has made him a fabulous cake.

But what if you are going to hand this over to a prospective employer? What if this is something that your career is going to depend on?

Then you might want something that others are going to look at and instantly know that the qualification you have taken can be relied upon or – as the regulator tends to describe it – that it’s a valid qualification.

There are four regulators in the UK – Ofqual (England), Qualifications Wales (Wales), CCEA (Northern Ireland) and SQA (Scotland) – all of whom have statutory powers under various Acts of Parliament. Because of the strength of regulation behind the qualifications that they recognise and the reputation of these regulators, qualifications which hold any of these brands are accepted worldwide. They are the same regulators covering our GCSEs and A-Level qualifications that people use for entry into University.

Awarding bodies who have gained recognition by one or more of these regulators have to have shown that their qualifications are of a very high standard and are ‘fit for purpose’ – that the people who hold a certificate have all attained the same level of skills, knowledge and understanding for the same qualification. They can be relied upon.

Previously, professional membership bodies would offer their own qualifications, and these were generally accepted in their sectors, but over the last decade, more and more have become recognised awarding organisations because they have seen the value of having a regulator’s logo on their certificates. Employers across the world accept it as a badge of quality, an assurance that the person holding the certificate has level of knowledge they are looking for. There are currently some 18 Professional Bodies who are recognised by one or more regulators as an awarding body, including:

There have been some claims recently that Professional Bodies are moving away from regulated qualifications, but that is not what the evidence suggests. Rather, Professional Bodies are all seeing the benefits of offering fully regulated qualifications that offer their learners something more than a piece of paper to be stored in the back of a file somewhere, but something they can proudly display; something that offers them a real return on their investment in time and money.

There are, of course, many good training organisations offering unregulated courses which deliver excellent training and which absolutely have a place in the market of vocational and technical qualifications for professionals, but they may not be recognised outside the small business sector that is aware of that brand.

NALP became a recognised awarding organisation in 2009 and we know the value of the Ofqual logo being on our qualifications. Having that recognition has led to our receiving applications from Centres overseas, as well as in the UK. Recently, we approved one of the top training organisations in the Kingdom of Bahrain to offer our qualifications – Origin Training Centre. Because of being Ofqual recognised, the Bahraini Government has accepted our qualifications to be included on their list of approved qualifications for their citizens.

Offering fully regulated qualifications is a lot of work to maintain the high standards required, but we are proud of our Recognition and that our learners gain qualifications that are accepted throughout the world.