The Integrated Vocational Route (IVR): an employer-driven learning programme in health & social care practice at the FE/HE interface

Coleman, Phil and Mendelson, Felicity (2011). The Integrated Vocational Route (IVR): an employer-driven learning programme in health & social care practice at the FE/HE interface. In: The Future Agenda for Higher Level Skills and Work-Based Learning. University Vocational Awards Council Annual Conference., 11-12 Nov 2010, York.



In 2006, the Open University Awarding Body, Faculty of Health & Social Care and the Vocational Qualifications Assessment Centre began exploratory discussions with health and social care (HSC) employers regarding the creation of a flexible programme of vocational and academic development which would seek to bridge the FE-HE divide, embed learning in the workplace rather than the classroom and facilitate progression in this field of practice. The product of these discussions was the ‘Integrated Vocational Route’ (IVR).

The IVR is designed to meet the needs of support staff directly involved in the provision of health and/or social care who have higher career aspirations and employers seeking to develop those non-professional care workers in their organisation whom they believe have the greatest potential to progress to more senior roles. The original programme integrates a Level 3 HSC (Adults) National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) within the OU K101 ‘An Introduction to Health and Social Care’ module (offering 60 credits at NQF Level 4). Successful completion of the IVR will therefore provide both a ‘Certificate of Health and Social Care’ (60 credits at NQF Level 4) and a full NVQ Level 3 HSC Adults award.

HSC employer consultation and briefings in twelve UK towns and cities helped shape the IVR model and four organisations (Newcastle City Council, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS Trust, Salisbury Foundation NHS Trust and Social Work Information & Interpretation Services [SWIIS] Foster Care Scotland) have been particularly influential in determining IVR design and models of delivery. One such model enables both the IVR tutor and assessor roles to be undertaken by staff within a partner organisation and tutorials to be held in the workplace. Most of the IVR learning and support materials are available online and a bespoke, user-friendly electronic portfolio has been created for the integrated NVQ. By simultaneously developing and assessing academic skills, knowledge and competence related to care practice, the IVR offers better preparation for progression to qualifying routes such as nursing and social work and scope for credit transfer.

A second IVR integrating a full Level 3 HSC Children and Young People (CYP) NVQ within the K101 module was offered for the first time in 2009. The IVR is currently being re-developed to accommodate the new vocational Diploma qualifications which replace Level 3 NVQs from 2011.

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