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Can accreditation be a barrier to learning?


A friend of mine has been informed that all the volunteers that she manages in a public sector body should be engaged in accredited training. We both agree that insisting on accredition may act as a barrier to learning for people who may be volunteering for other reasons.

What do you think? Can accreditation be a barrier to learning? Do you know of any research on this matter?


Nigel McPolin
Nigel McPolin

6 Responses

  1. barriers to learning
    Nigel – is your focus on accreditation or learning? I am not convinced that you can have both in equal balance – one is focused on the individual the other on the success criteria.

    One question that you could ask is why do we want accreditation? What does it do for us what does it do for the learner?

    Put yourself in their position, if they are giving time why would they want this? (it probably takes more time) Some will some will be worried as they may have had a bad experience at school.

    In addition accreditation is more expensive than non-accredation so what is your business case? Funding from an LSC?

    What is important to the organisation and all of its stakeholders – deal with people on an individual basis – accreditation will be right for some – not for all.


  2. barrier not necessarily
    Some of Mike’s comments I agree with however it does depend on whether volunteers are given the choice to gain accreditedation for the training they undertake Just because training is accredited does not mean learners have go for accreditation at that moment in time, and more importantly how it is delivered and what learner support is available. It is the delivery and lack of support that can create the barrier more so than the fact that the training is accredited.A lot of voluntary organisations see accreditation of their own training for volunteers(which volunteers need to do for their voluntary role anyway)as a way of giving recognition and retaining volunteers. If there are targets of achievement to be met due to funding then that can cause a problem. There are also different levels of accreditation that learners can do thereby giving a progression route for them and can help negate barriers. Ultimately with volunteering good practice dictates that volunteers have the right to say no unless the accredited training is fundemental to them performing their voluntary role.

    Lynn Smith [email protected]

  3. accreditation
    Hi Lynn
    I have been active with a major charity as a vol. for many years. some time ago they introduced a policy which said that all trainers had to complete the NVQ3 and some additional units before they could do simple training. This was looking like at least 10 days work (conservativly). Previsouly to that the train the trainer course was 5 days.

    This isa not ‘optional’ and I know some people did it for the qualification then left – but the real dedicated vol’s were split between not doing that activity & doing the training.

    As a professional trainer with ITD & CIPD qualifications etc (plus a level5 HRD) I was not exempt so opted to cease my training activity with them. They later offerd APEL me and lost my level 5 portfolio!

    I agree it SHOULD be optional if appropriate – however as an ambulance technician it was important to do an IHCD qualification – which I did. If we did not then the public may query our competence – and rightly so.


  4. Yes
    Yes, I think it will act as a barrier – many volunteers give up their time to do a specific task or tasks – if accredited training is a legal requirement for this then it has to be done.

    But accredited training which has no real purpose other than a certificate at the end puts people off in the working world so I think you can safely assume that it will for volunteers as well.

    The NVQ program is a great example of this, for some people it’s a great way to demonstrate their skills and gain a piece of paper proving it, for many more it’s an annoying evidence collection exercise to gain a piece of paper that is not highly prized outside of the organisation they work for.

    Large volumes of employers still see it as the “Not Very Qualified” route, and despite real progress made with some of the NVQ programs – I have very little evidence to suggest that they are valuable qualifications. Employers don’t want them particularly, people who do them often feel that they are a waste of time and they don’t offer improved pay, working conditions etc.

    So my advice (as always) is only train to meet a specific business need, if that comes with a qualification great but usually a short specific course to address a priority need will have far more effect than 12 – 36 month programs that address generic needs that aren’t relevant to your organisation.

    This really goes back to the basics, do a TNA and then address the TNA. But (and there is a but) when you are a voluntary organisation there is often easy funding to be had for engaging in government funded NVQ’s, Skills for Life, etc. programs that can’t be had to actually meet your needs.

  5. Accreditation – the bane of our lives
    The public sector (in particular) is fixated on accredited programmes. This is largely due to political pressure: national government wants to show how successful its initiatives have been; local management want to prove to their political masters (ie funders) how ‘effectively’ their money is being spent; and both want to show the unions how much they’re investing in employees. It therefore falls prey to the target culture so prevalent in the sector as a whole.

    In my experience, whether employees ‘need’ accreditation is rarely considered. For some, it may be a motivator, in which case it’s got some merits. Considerations about whether learning is effective and relevant are almost forgotten if the main drive is for accreditation.

    I’d also be interested in any research findings on this, although I’d be very cautious about any such research ultimately funded by those with a financial or political interest in proving accreditation works.


  6. Volunteers’accredited learning
    “The public sector (in particular) is fixated on accredited programmes”, says David Scott in his response.

    During 42 years in the public sector I had the opposite impression. If there was a fixation it was on qualifications appropriate to the enormous range of professionals that the sector has to employ in order to deliver its services.No one would object to that surely?

    As for the voluntary sector and its contribution to service delivery,I would suggest that if the quality of service that is aspired to by paid employees is to be maintained by volunteer participation then some measure or test of appropriate skills levels is essential.Whether this is to be by recognising APL or supporting skills updating (ideally accredited I would say) or other CPD should be according to individual circumstances.To deny the value of accredited training in some circumstances is to deny the real value of the appropriately-appointed volunteer.


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