Qualifications and Certificates

Lucid offers a wide range of training courses that provide the successful learner with qualifications from UK licensed awarding bodies. For a full list of the optical fibre, network cabling, laser safety, cable testing and copper jointing courses and qualifications Lucid offers please see our course list,or see our optical fibre cabling qualifications page.The information on this page is designed to help explain the world of qualifications, and in particular the UKs qualifications framework that illustrates the equivalence of academic and vocational awards.

qualifications award day AngolaThe photograph to the right shows a few of the staff of a client in Angola receiving their City & Guilds 3466 certificates in 2001. Lucid gained a dispensation from City & Guilds to deliver the training and assessments in Angola for a series of three courses at two locations. All of the equipment required for the training and assessment was carefully packed in two crates and shipped out to the client site in advance. The training was a great success, and the trainees were proud to have achieved a recognised industry qualification. Since then, we have successfully delivered City & Guilds and Open College Network qualifications in many other locations worldwide

Types of Qualifications

There are a number of types of qualifications, and within these types, qualifications may be gained at different levels. The types of qualification can be summarised into three categories:

  • National qualification with QCA approval and/or listed on the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF)
  • licenced awarding body qualification/certificate
  • company certificate

The first two are both recognised in the UK as ‘proper’ qualifications in that they are independently audited by an official awarding body. The additional QCA approval process has the main benefit of ensuring that some ‘draw-down’ funding from a learning and skills council (LSC) may be available to pay for part of the training.

City & Guilds 3666 training manualAwarding Bodies

The first question about any qualification should be “who is the Awarding Body?”. The Awarding Body is the organisation that publishes the certificate. This can literally be anybody, and as a result the qualification may be recognised by nobody. In the UK this situation is normally not so bad since the government set up the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) as the overseer of national qualifications in the UK. The QCA then licence awarding bodies such as City & Guilds and the Open College Network (OCN) to develop and oversee qualifications and awards in partnership with industry. Licensed Awarding Bodies such as City & Guilds, and Open Awards, spend a lot of time and effort not only on developing and maintaining qualification, they also oversee that assessments for their qualifications are carried out properly, typically by sending an independent External Verifier out to visit their training providers, witness practical assessments and check through paperwork at least annually.

A company or organisation can issue its own certificate, but unless they are an official awarding body, licensed by the QCA or a similar national authority in another country, Advanced OTDR level 3 manualtheir certificate is not a proper qualification. This does not necessarily mean that these certificates are worthless, since the reputation of some companies can mean that other companies recognise the value of a company certificate even though it’s not an official award.

But – if it’s a qualification you’re interested in, then do check the status of the awarding body, and the relevance of the ‘award’ they offer.

Qualifications and Award levels

Award levels are defined in the National Qualifications Framework (NQF), that was devised to indicate for trainees and employers the equivalence of various awards. Originally defined in five levels, plus higher education levels, the NQF has recently been expanded to 8 levels by the sub-division of levels 4 and 5.

The tables below are reproduced from tables provided by QCA and UK National Reference Point for Qualifications (NRP). and provide an indication of the new and previous NQF levels and how they compare to the FHEQ (Framework for Higher Education Qualification levels). Further information on levels is provided in another table from QCA lower down detailing proposed level indicators.


National Qualifications Framework Framework for Higher Education Qualification levels (FHEQ)
Original levels Revised levels
5Level 5 NVQLevel 5 Diploma 8Specialist awards D (doctoral)doctorates
7Level 7 Diploma M (masters)masters degrees, postgraduate certificates and diplomas
4Level 4 NVQLevel 4 Diploma

Level 4 BTEC Higher National Diploma Level 4 Certificate

6Level 6 Diploma H (honours)bachelors degrees, graduate certificates and diplomas
5Level 5 BTEC Higher National Diploma I (intermediate)diplomas of higher education and further education, foundation degrees, higher national diplomas
4Level 4 Certificate C (certificate)certificates of higher education
3Level 3 CertificateLevel 3 NVQ

A levels

2Level 2 DiplomaLevel 2 NVQ

GCSEs Grades A*-C

1Level 1 CertificateLevel 1 NVQ

GCSEs Grades D-G

EntryEntry Level Certificate in Adult Literacy

The use of levels in the NQF is to indicate the generally comparable outcome of an award but does not indicate that different awards share purpose, content and outcomes.

The significance of NQF levels

The positioning of qualifications at the same level only indicates that they are broadly comparable in terms of general level of outcome; it does not indicate that they have the same purpose, content or outcomes.

Proposed level indicators in the NQF

The proposed level indicators in the NQF are a guide to the range of qualifications and levels.

They describe the learning and achievement that happens at each level and show how the skills and knowledge relate to job roles. The indicators are not intended to be precise or comprehensive – they are working guides.

Framework level  Level indicators Examples of qualifications
 Entry Entry level qualifications recognise basic knowledge and skills and the ability to apply learning in everyday situations under direct guidance or supervision. Learning at this level involves building basic knowledge and skills and is not geared towards specific occupations. Qualifications are offered at Entry 1, Entry 2 and Entry 3, in a range of subjects
 Level 1 Level 1 qualifications recognise basic knowledge and skills and the ability to apply learning with guidance or supervision. Learning at this level is about activities which mostly relate to everyday situations and may be linked to job competence. NVQ 1; Certificate in Plastering; GCSEs Grades D – G; Certificate in Motor Vehicle Studies
 Level 2 Level 2 qualifications recognise the ability to gain a good knowledge and understanding of a subject area of work or study, and to perform varied tasks with some guidance or supervision. Learning at this level involves building knowledge and/or skills in relation to an area of work or a subject area and is appropriate for many job roles. NVQ 2; GCSEs Grades A* – C; Certificate in Coaching Football; Diploma for Beauty Specialists
 Level 3 Level 3 qualifications recognise the ability to gain, and where relevant apply a range of knowledge, skills and understanding. Learning at this level involves obtaining detailed knowledge and skills. It is appropriate for people wishing to go to university, people working independently, or in some areas supervising and training others in their field of work. Certificate for Teaching Assistants; NVQ 3; A levels; Advanced Extension Awards; Certificate in Small Animal Care
 Level 4 Level 4 qualifications recognise specialist learning and involve detailed analysis of a high level of information and knowledge in an area of work or study. Learning at this level is appropriate for people working in technical and professional jobs, and/or managing and developing others. Level 4 qualifications are at a level equivalent to Certificates of Higher Education. Diploma in Sport & Recreation; Certificate in Site Management; Certificate in Early Years Practice
 Level 5 Level 5 qualifications recognise the ability to increase the depth of knowledge and understanding of an area of work or study to enable the formulation of solutions and responses to complex problems and situations. Learning at this level involves the demonstration of high levels of knowledge, a high level of work expertise in job roles and competence in managing and training others. Qualifications at this level are appropriate for people working as higher grade technicians, professionals or managers. Level 5 qualifications are at a level equivalent to intermediate Higher Education qualifications such as Diplomas of Higher Education, Foundation and other degrees that do not typically provide access to postgraduate programmes. Diploma in Construction; Certificate in Performing Arts
 Level 6 Level 6 qualifications recognise a specialist high level knowledge of an area of work or study to enable the use of an individual’s own ideas and research in response to complex problems and situations. Learning at this level involves the achievement of a high level of professional knowledge and is appropriate for people working as knowledge-based professionals or in professional management positions. Level 6 qualifications are at a level equivalent to Bachelors degrees with honours, graduate certificates and graduate diplomas. Certificate or Diploma in Management
 Level 7 Level 7 qualifications recognise highly developed and complex levels of knowledge which enable the development of in-depth and original responses to complicated and unpredictable problems and situations. Learning at this level involves the demonstration of high level specialist professional knowledge and is appropriate for senior professionals and managers. Level 7 qualifications are at a level equivalent to Masters degrees, postgraduate certificates and postgraduate diplomas. Diploma in Translation; Fellowship in Music Literacy
 Level 8 Level 8 qualifications recognise leading experts or practitioners in a particular field. Learning at this level involves the development of new and creative approaches that extend or redefine existing knowledge or professional practice. Specialist awards

Currently, qualification titles such as ‘certificate’ and ‘diploma’ are not indicators of the level of a qualification.


Within the communications cabling industry National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs), gained through building a portfolio of evidence for the work you do, have not been popular. This is largely because of the time taken to become qualified and fulfil all of the evidence requirements, and the cost of evidence verifiication by qualified assessors.

The practical considerations are that NVQs can be provided at a reasonable cost where there are several candidates at the same location and the cost of assessor visits can be shared. In an industry where locations change and work is more fluid so the assessor may not witness what is needed at the time of his/her visit the costs can escalate. Since an assessor’s time is often charged at around the same rate as a day of training, many business prefer trainer led courses that lead directly to a qualification without the need to build a portfolio of evidence.

In short, the industry recognises a range of qualifications, and when
done properly NVQs can be very good, since they are ‘real-world’ qualifications
involving real work and not training simulations. However they are only
normally done by the largest companies in the communications industry (such
as telecoms operators BT and Orange for example), often as part of an apprenticeship
scheme and sometimes encouraged by government funding. For smaller to medium
sized businesses other vocational training and qualifications are generally
preferred, such as the City & Guilds 3666 or 3667 Vocationally Related
Qualification (VRQ) at level 2.

FIA Qualification Scheme

The Fibre-optic Industry Association (FIA) is a body committed to supporting and promoting the fibre optics industry. The FIA is not a licensed awarding body and did not aim to become one. The FIA did, however, recognise that the wealth of training provision had resulted in some confusion within the industry over which qualifications should be sought or specified for a job. The FIA Qualification Scheme has been designed to ensure learners gain recognition for the depth and breadth of their learning by allowing several smaller awards to be built into a larger FIA award.

The scheme is designed to be flexible so it can adapt to a fast changing industry, and it aims to ensure that training providers are committed and well-resourced professionals so that learners know they are getting good value.