• Tim

Do I need a Qualification?

Updated: May 5, 2021

Providers use all sorts of words to describe their courses and people often ask me what the differences are. Read on to find out...

Essentially, there are two different types of course - those that lead to a qualification, and those that don't. Neither is better, they are just different, and we offer both.


Qualifications are regulated by governments to ensure standardisation of the outputs. This means that individuals and employers can be confident in what they are getting when someone provides evidence that they hold a particular qualification.

In England, this is done by OFQUAL for first aid and other vocational training. The other nations in the UK have their respective bodies that do similar work. One of the key responsibilities of OFQUAL is to maintain the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF), a register of all of the qualifications that are regulated by them.

Qualifications have 2 descriptors - level and size. The level describes how academically difficult the content is. This can range from Entry Level, the easiest, to Level 8 a PhD. The size describes how long the qualification is likely to take, for example, an ‘Award’ takes less than 120 hours. As an example, successful completion of the Mental Health First Aider course leads to a Level 2 Award in Mental Health First Aid (RQF) qualification.

Awarding Organisations and Centres

The delivery of qualifications is regulated through strict quality assurance mechanisms. OFQUAL quality assure Awarding Organisations (through inspections), who in turn quality assure their Centres (called external quality assurance) who in turn quality assure the delivery and assessment carried out by their trainers (called internal quality assurance).

Sometimes the Centre and the trainer are one and the same, in which case an external person will be bought in to IQA the trainer. This process of quality assurance ensures that the quality of course delivery and assessment are maintained across courses, creating trust in the system.

Quality assurance mechanisms operate by auditing the current processes and identifying any areas for improvement. If any are found, the organisation or individual will be required to take corrective action within a specified timeframe.

Occasionally, where there are serious problems, individuals or organisations will be stopped from delivering qualifications. As an example, this has recently happened to the Awarding Organisation AOFAQ who were stopped from awarding qualifications by OFQUAL, following an investigation.

Providers will often refer to 'nationally recognised', 'accredited' or 'regulated' training or courses, which all usually mean one thing - they lead to a qualification on a qualification framework.

So, if you choose a course that leads to a qualification, you can be reasonably confident in what you are getting.

So what about courses that don't lead to a qualification?

As the name suggests, Custom Training delivers lots of training that doesn't lead to a qualification. Read on to find out why this might be better for you...


One of the drawbacks of qualifications is that they’re not very flexible. The learning objectives, content and assessments are fixed and so the course is a ‘one size fits all’.

If we take First Aid at Work as an example, the whole industry revolves around the subjects suggested by the Health and Safety Executive. Whilst this may work for a standard benign office environment, the risks faced in different workplaces require the training to be more bespoke.

In fact, the legal requirement is to provide first aid and mental health first aid appropriate to the specific risks in the workplace, and a standard qualification may not meet that need.

And this is where bespoke courses come in, sometimes referred to as ‘certificated’ training. When an organisation conducts a risk assessment that identifies the potential for harm, one of the control measures that it should put in place is first aid training and equipment specific to the identified likely injuries or illness.

As an example, I recently designed and delivered a course for school staff who run sports activities, to focus on their specific disciplines and the injuries that they might come across. While this course didn’t lead to a nationally recognised qualification, it was completely bespoke to the need, fulfilling the legal requirement in this respect.


The other difference with bespoke training is that the assessment can also be completely bespoke. In regulated qualifications, assessment has to be largely summative (assessed at the end), so that there is a trail of evidence (usually still pieces of paper) that can be quality assured. In fact, some regulated qualifications have such an assessment burden, that the time for actual teaching and practice of a skill is minimal.

However, with bespoke training, there is no requirement for any particular type of assessment, so this can be much more relevant to the course and the learners. Formative assessment (done throughout the course) is equally valid, allowing additional time for training and practicing, thus developing a higher level of competence in the learners.

Interestingly, voluntary organisations such as St John Ambulance and the Red Cross do not deliver regulated qualifications, their courses are certificated.


So, if you need a course, then one that leads to nationally recognised qualification may be right for you.

However, bespoke certificated training allows the flexibility to deliver learning outcomes that lead to the competence that organisations and individuals need. This allows them to better meet their responsibilities, whilst also minimising the burden of summative assessment.

Please get in touch if you'd like to discuss this further.