Courses v Qualifications

26 April 2023


At some point in our lives most of us will have come across courses and qualifications. And many of us would be forgiven for thinking they are one and the same.

But that’s not the case. So, what’s the difference?

Well let’s start by saying that both are valuable; the purpose of this article is not to bad mouth one or the other, rather to provide you with additional information so you gain a more educated understanding of the options available to you, particularly in the HVACR sector.

Courses, by nature will be far shorter than qualifications and may not always be ‘achievable’. I.e., a course could be something you attend, perhaps for as little as one or two days, and, on completion, you receive a certificate confirming your attendance. A course may not measure what has been learnt.

That’s not to say a good quality course does not offer value; a course delivered by an appropriately qualified and knowledgeable instructor can provide valuable knowledge. However, it may often be down to the attendee to absorb and understand that knowledge. They may not be asked to prove it.

A qualification will provide the learner with the knowledge and skills that make them suitable for a specific job role.  Unlike some courses, a qualification must always be achieved (and therefore will almost always take longer to complete); the learner cannot simply pay an attendance fee, and a couple of days later walk away with a certificate.  A qualification will also be backed by an official awarding body, meaning you can rely on the quality of the content and the learning outcomes. At the end of a qualification, it is not guaranteed that the individual will successfully achieve it.

The achievement of a qualification indicates to an employer, or a client, that an individual has a certain level of knowledge and skills, and in the case of the HVACR sector, it is the only acceptable evidence that they have the relevant competence and legal compliance to be undertaking their job role.

As per the Building Safety Act and the Construction Leadership Council’s legal requirements, the minimum acceptable proof that an operative is competent, compliant and is therefore able to obtain the relevant CSCS SKILLcard is a Level 2 qualification.

To reiterate, both courses and qualifications have value in their own right, but individuals should be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of both. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What am I looking to achieve at the end of the process?
  2. Will a course or a qualification achieve that?
  3. Who is running the course / qualification?
  4. Do they have the relevant qualifications themselves? Ask to see their credentials.

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