Training Quality Standard

by | Apr 30, 2009 | Articles

The Training Quality Standard: what is it?

TQS helps training providers deliver learning solutions that make an impact on an employer’s business. It is an accredited Quality Mark but the real benefit is that it drives a dialogue between a provider and an employer. This was clear from a CFE event for training providers delivered in London on 28th April 2009.

TQS is a Quality Mark developed by the Learning and Skills Council and managed by CFE (a not for profit company)   The philosophy and approach is similar to the European Foundation of Quality Management; indeed obtaining the TQS also ticks the appropriate boxes in EFQM accreditation. TQS is an assessment framework designed to recognise and celebrate the best organisations delivering training and development solutions to employers

What does it do for organisations?
The real benefit to a training provider is going through the process of assessment for the TQS.  Providers have to ask questions of their customers (employers not learners) about the business benefit they obtain from the learning provided. The key statement is “Employer’s assessment of impact on business needs shows an improving trend on a sustained high level of performance”; this is about business impact. Working through the process is more important to a provider than displaying the mark. This was well illustrated by a comment from Paul Kendall one of the presenters; “It is not the badge that counts; it is the attitudes and processes that TQS encourages you to pursue that delivers the benefit. “. He went on to say that his company EDF Ltd (Employee Development Forum) gained value from the external view that the assessor gave; it provided valuable feedback.

Who is using it?
About 260 training providers are en-route to (or have already obtained ) the TQS quality mark. This gives them a nationally recognised accreditation backed by the LSC and valid for three years, an external independent view of their internal processes and indicator statements describing what good looks like. The TQS website lists those companies that are already accredited. Some of them are user organisations. They have deemed it worthwhile to be assessed to check that they are delivering internal training that is making a difference to their businesses.  This is a valuable benchmark. TQS is suitable and valuable for all companies of all sizes. Successfully used by a training partnership of two people to large commercial providers like Thatcham Automotive Academy  The list includes a number of employers; such as BMW Group Academy UK (see a TM employer story), Rolls Royce UK Apprentice Training and British Gas Engineering Academy. (A full list can be found here.)

A recent pilot with SMEs with less than 20 staff, turnover less than £500K and on one operating site proved highly successful. Some of those gaining the standard stated they had already won extra business because of TQS. Interestingly providing statutory training is often a key impact indicator for employers; that is employer’s assessment of impact shows an improving trend. Towards Maturity reports a number of employer stories where compliance has been a catalyst for the deployment of a learning technology.

TQS represents a shift from learner focused delivery to employer focused. Whilst no training provider should forget the learner it is not enough for the UK to have lots of competent people; they must be competent in the skills that deliver business results and gainfully employed in using those skills. TQS moves training providers towards playing their part in achieving that goal. There is still a long way to go with an estimated 10,000 training providers in the UK, 3000 of whom have Learning and Skills funding, 1,000 of whom have Train2Gain contracts.

Why should it be used?
The Standard’s Assessment framework was developed by working with over 600 employers across the country, gathering information about what really matters to their business when buying training. Top of the list for 43% was training relevant to their business and top of the list for 23% was quality delivery. In the same way that Towards Maturity seeks out examples of real business benefit being gained from learning technologies so the standard encourages training providers to deliver learning solutions that deliver real business benefit for their customers; the employers of their learners.

Also CFE have just (27th April 2009) published an article giving a broader perspective on the need for this Standard and reporting highlights from research published by UKCES; Skills for the Workplace: Employer Perspectives’

How does it work?
The standard is in two parts. Part A includes indicators assessing the process used to achieve results for the employer. This leads from strategic definition of aims and required results through managing people, resources and information, understanding needs, delivering learning, relating to customers and finally making an impact on an employer’s business and improving their business performance. The twenty indicators in this process may sound daunting but represent nothing more than good business and training development practice. Applicants for the Standard will assemble information that supports the various indicators. The applicant submits an application and an assessor’s visits. The assessor will talk to people as well as looking at documents. Perhaps the most useful part of the visit is this external view that reflects what really happens and compares it to what management thinks happens. Talking to people at the frontline gives a better view of reality than reading management guidance.

One of the most useful tools on the TQS website is the readiness checker; indeed I would encourage any training provider to use this just as a quality check on their internal processes; it doesn’t replace the more in depth feedback a provider will get from an assessor. Two additional indicators within Part A reflect the way in which a provider learns from what they do and continuously improve their products and services.

Part B assessment works in the same way but the focus is on a Training Provider meeting the needs of a sector. The ten indicators in Part B measure the way a sector’s needs are met and results achieved. It demonstrates a providers capability of working within a sector.

Benefit to employers
The fact that some large employers have gained the standard indicates they see value in internal training departments working in ways defined by the TQS. Other employers gain the benefit of knowing their suppliers are committed to quality and ongoing improvement.

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