- International Centre for the Environment Resource Management and Sustainability Limited
Qualification "Waste Management Operations: Managing Transfer - Hazardous Waste"
1. Origin, Institution name
2. Institution website
Waste Management Operations: Managing Transfer - Hazardous Waste (level 7 of the Scottish Qualifications Framework - SCGF L7)
Level 5 of the European Qualifications Framework (EQF L5)
4. Short description of the validation process
Validation for the “Waste Management Operations: Managing Transfer - Hazardous Waste” qualification consists of four stages as follows:
- identification of the candidate's experiences on the basis of an interview
- documentation of the candidate’s experiences (preparation of a portfolio)
- assessment of the candidate’s experiences
The assessor plays the key role in the validation process. He/she represents the validation institution, offers support to the candidate during the entire process and assesses the learning outcomes of the candidate. These learning outcomes are grouped into 12 units (sets).
The process of assessing candidates’ learning outcomes is evaluated in an internal evaluation and also periodically by an external evaluation performed by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and local divisions of the Waste Management Industry Training and Advisory Board (WAMITAB) (more in section 12.3).
5. Detailed description of the validation process
5.1. Identification of the Candidate’s Experiences Based on an Interview
The assessor has a telephone interview with the potential candidate in order to determine his/her relevant competence, knowledge and experience for the qualification.
5.2. Documentation of the Candidate's Experiences
A potential candidate who wishes to attain vocational qualifications should present the following documents on his/her experience to the validation institution:
- an up-to-date CV
- a statement about the person’s competences
- a completed initial questionnaire
ICERMS assigns an assessor to the candidate, who will work with him/her during the entire validation process (persons conducting training sessions and mentors are not employed for this purpose).
The assessor schedules an introductory meeting with the candidate. This meeting, an important element of the validation process, allows the assessor to:
- personally become acquainted with the candidate
- evaluate the candidacy for the validation process based on the presented documents
- evaluate the adequacy of the candidate’s place of work with respect to the assessment process in line with the check list of the validation institution
- determine the potential engagement of the candidate’s employer in the assessment process
- familiarize the candidate with the qualification, the process of awarding it, the administrative procedures of the validation institution, the functions of persons involved in the validation, and the roles and responsibilities of both the candidate and the institution
- provide and complete the documents of the validation institution, the SQA and WAMITAB, including:
- registration form of the validation institution
- form explaining the formal assessment procedure to the candidate
- information about the company and the workplace
- WAMITAB registration form for the candidate
- provide the candidate with the Qualification Handbook, containing a detailed description of validation
- familiarize the candidate with the appeals process
Additionally, the candidate receives a folder where he/she will place and store collected evidence and other documents during the process of documenting learning outcomes. This is a type of portfolio: the candidate adds to it after subsequent units of learning outcomes for the qualification are recognised. The electronic version of the candidate's portfolio is kept in a Dropbox folder. The assessor’s task is to check the documents made available by the candidate and to offer feedback about them via e-mail.
The portfolio is divided into sections pertaining to:
- the validation institution/SQA/WAMITAB
- information about the qualification, which is divided into sections devoted to each of the 12 units of learning outcomes; the candidate adds evidence and answers potential questions posed by the assessor about individual parts of the portfolio
- the assessment report
- the report of the internal evaluator
After the introductory meeting with the assessor, the candidate is registered in the validation institution as well as by the SQA and WAMITAB. The registration with WAMITAB s done by sending an application form by e-mail, while the SQA registration take place in an on-line candidate management system (SQA Connect). This latter process is done by the validation institution’s coordinator, who is the only person in the institution trained and authorised to use this system.
As soon as the folder is set up, the candidate starts collecting evidence on having achieved specific learning outcomes.
The candidate and assessor determine a strategy for attaining the qualification, including details of the assessment process, during the introductory meeting or subsequent interviews. They agree on the number of the assessor's visits in the candidate’s workplace. The number is adjusted to the candidate's needs; it may be reduced or increased, depending on the candidate's progress in the process of attaining the qualification (it should be noted that apart from such visits, the assessor provides ongoing support to the candidate and maintains telephone and e-mail contact with him/her).
The strategy primarily encompasses plans pertaining to how each of 12 units of learning outcomes making up the qualification will be achieved. The candidate receives:
- an assessment plan for unit 1
- questions and answers pertaining to unit 1
- an excerpt from the Qualification Manual with the learning outcomes, criteria and assessment methods for unit 1.
The questions and answers are prepared in a way that enables the assessor to determine whether the candidate has an adequate level of knowledge in order to achieve the learning outcomes of a given unit.
The assessor, together with the candidate, aligns the collected evidence with the assessment criteria. The basis for conducting this procedure is the excerpt from the Qualification Manual for unit 1.
5.3. Assessment of the Candidate’s Experience
At the assessment stage, the previously agreed strategy for attaining the qualification is implemented.
The assessor (in line with the previously agreed plan) visits the candidate at his/her workplace.
Simultaneously, the assessor analyses the evidence compiled by the candidate.
Based on the evidence and the visits in the workplace, the assessor makes a decision about recognising the learning outcomes comprising a given unit. After recognising the learning outcomes of unit 1, the candidate’s meets with the assessor to discuss the progress being made. Subsequent meetings of this type usually take place after the next three units have been recognised.
When all 12 units have been recognised, a last visit in the candidate’s workplace is scheduled, during which the assessor may:
- finalise the process of preparing the candidate's portfolio containing evidence for having achieved the learning outcomes of all 12 units
- clarify doubts that appeared in the course of the meetings or relating to the evidence presented by the candidate (for example, request additional materials)
- conduct a visit to the candidate’s workplace in his/her presence to make sure that the evidence presented in the portfolio corresponds with the tasks actually performed at work
- give final approval to the portfolio in agreement with the candidate and clarify the next step in the validation process
Subsequently, the assessor prepares the portfolio to present it before an internal evaluator, who evaluates the decision-making process for 3 of the 12 units of learning outcomes (for the qualification discussed here, a 25% sample is needed for this evaluation). The assessor prepares the portfolio usually within one day. The internal evaluation also usually takes one day and the internal evaluator's report is given to the assessor together with the portfolio.
The assessment process is regulated by detailed guidelines presented in two documents:
- general guidelines pertaining to vocational qualifications
- detailed guidelines pertaining to vocational qualifications in the waste management sector
If the assessment and internal evaluation are completed without reservations, the assessor asks the coordinator of the validation process to enter the candidate's results in the on-line candidate management system (e.g. SQA Connect).
Qualifications in the waste management sector are guided by a formal agreement on the recognition of prior learning. Detailed guidelines were prepared by WAMITAB and provided to all institutions performing validation. Based on the terms of this agreement, the validation institution launches a procedure to formally recognise prior learning outcomes achieved by the candidate, i.e. certification. This is a two stage process.
First, learning outcomes in the area of an academic qualification are confirmed through the SQA Connect website. Within 2 - 3 weeks, the candidate receives a certificate from the SQA confirming that an academic qualification has been awarded and providing a breakdown of the credits earned.
In the next stage, the candidate sends the certificate and list of credits to WAMITAB, which issues a certificate of technical competence in a given area to the candidate.
6. Validation methods
The key methods for the validation described in this best practice include:
- collection and analysis of evidence
- observation in the workplace
In the identification stage, the key method is the unstructured interview (asking questions and obtaining answers), which already starts during the telephone call and is continued in during face-to-face meetings.
At the documentation stage, apart from the interview, the collection of evidence is the primarily used method, aimed at documenting the candidate’s learning outcomes.
When assessing learning outcomes for a given qualification, the analysis of the collected evidence is used, supplemented with observations in the workplace.
Guidelines about the methods used to assess the candidate are contained in the Qualification Handbook. For new qualifications, the collection of evidence in the form of documents from the workplace has been replaced by the interview and observation in the workplace. The ICERMS, in agreement with the candidate, still uses documents or photographic evidence from the workplace in order to substantiate the assessment made on the basis of an interview.
It should be remembered that learning outcomes can be assessed on the basis of an interview if the candidate's answers clearly indicate that the he/she has the necessary knowledge or at least is capable of finding it by using available sources at the workplace or on-line. However, this does not constitute evidence for having achieved learning outcomes, but the ability to provide answers to the questions asked. In order to be certain that the candidate has actually achieved the learning outcomes that fulfil the assessment criteria, the validation institution should ask the candidate to present evidence from the workplace confirming his/her direct involvement in performing the tasks specified in the unit’s learning outcomes. Such evidence may be a document, a photograph, a video recording, or a witness’s statement.
The candidate completes a statement in which he/she confirms that the evidence collected in the form of documents included in the portfolio constitutes the results of his/her own work or work performed by others, yet under the candidate's supervision.
7. Validation results
The possible outcomes of validation include the attainment of:
- the entire qualification
- an individual unit of the given qualification
- several units of the given qualification
8. Human resources
Five key functions in the validation process are distinguished in ICERMS:
- manager of the validation institution: usually selected among senior assessors or internal evaluators. The manager is responsible for managing the validation institution and assigning assessors and internal evaluators to candidates.
- assessor: an employee of the validation institution, whose appointment is subject to approval by the SQA (based on a CV sent to the SQA). The majority of assessors are former or retired managers with experience in managing waste management activities and have thorough knowledge about industry procedures and vocational qualifications systems. They are required to comply with the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme and submit a CPD report to the SQA each year. The report contains a detailed schedule of hours spent on performing assessments and a detailed number of candidates. The assessor must be qualified in the area of assessment of candidates.
- internal evaluator: an employee of the validation institution, whose appointment is subject to a similar procedure as the appointment of an assessor. The majority of internal evaluators are former or retired managers with experience in managing waste management activities and have thorough knowledge about industry procedures and vocational qualifications systems. Internal evaluators are also subject to the CPD scheme and every year, they submit a CPD report to the SQA. The report contains a detailed schedule of the hours spent on internal evaluation and the exact number of performed internal evaluations. An internal evaluator must have qualifications in the area of internal evaluation. In small vocational education centres performing validation, assessors are often also internal evaluators and this is acceptable on the condition that the same person is not the assessor and internal evaluator for the same candidate.
- validation coordinator: an employee of the validation institution who intermediates in the exchange of information between the institution and the SQA. There are no special requirements pertaining to the skills and competence of the coordinator, yet a person who has this function should understand the process of attaining vocational qualifications.
- external evaluator: employed by the SQA; this is usually a senior specialist for vocational qualifications, selected from the relevant sector relating to the scope of the external evaluation to be performed. An external evaluator is responsible for site visits to institutions performing validation as part of the SQA quality assurance system. Three types of visits are distinguished:
- annual evaluation of a validation institution
- evaluation of a validation institution when it applies for the authorisation to award a new qualification
- periodical evaluation to assess the operation of the validation system
An external evaluation of a small vocational education centre, such as ICERMS, does not last longer than one business day. In the case of the first and third types of visits, a report from the external evaluation is prepared at the end of the visit and immediately made available to the evaluated institution in electronic form. In the second case, the report is sent by e-mail to the validation institution usually within one week from the visit.
9. Organizational and material conditions
In line with SQA standards, candidates cannot achieve the 12 units of learning outcomes for the waste management qualification in a period shorter than three months from registration. Candidates usually achieve the qualification within 6-18 months, depending on the amount of time they devote to this task, which in large part relates to their involvement in the validation process.
ICERMS employs three full-time employees and two part-time employees to perform validation. It also has the technical conditions required to conduct telephone interviews and e-mail correspondence with candidates and to register candidates in the digital system. It also provides candidates with access to Dropbox. ICERMS has its own website presenting information about the centre and its validation process as well as a LinkedIn profile.
10. Quality assurance
10.1. Roles of the Persons Involved in Validation
This section should be read together with the detailed descriptions of the functions of staff performing validation found in section 9.
Every assessor employed by a validation institution is trained in the SQA standards of performing validation. The detailed course of validation depends on the candidate’s needs, yet it always encompasses the activities listed below:
- familiarizing the candidate with detailed information about the role of SQA, WAMITAB, the validation institution, the assessor, and potentially the person conducting the training of the validation process, as well as the appeals procedure
- discussing the competence standard for a given qualification
- discussing the type of evidence required to demonstrate that the learning outcomes for the qualification have been acquired, and how to prepare the portfolio
- supporting the candidate in preparing the documents required to achieve the first unit of the qualification’s learning outcomes
- assessing the learning outcomes of the units within a schedule agreed to with the candidate
- conducting the first site visit to the candidate’s workplace
- agreeing on the number of future visits to the candidate's workplace and the outlay of work required by the candidate to attain the qualification
Internal Evaluator's Role
The validation institution implements an internal evaluation to evaluate selected assessments conducted by the assessors. This is aimed at ensuring the consistency of the validation process with the SQA standard. The internal evaluator can be present when a candidate’s learning outcomes are being assessed, but only the assessor’s work is being evaluated in this case. The role of the internal evaluator is presented in detail in the guidebook for institutions awarding qualifications regulated by Ofqual (Office for the Qualifications and Examinations Regulator), i.e. the equivalent in England of the SQA.
External Evaluator's Role
The SQA and WAMITAB designate external evaluators to verify the work of institutions performing validation. The external evaluator may be present during the assessment of a candidate’s learning outcomes, but only the assessor’s work is being evaluated in such a case. External evaluators are responsible for assessing the extent to which the validation institution is complying with SQA guidelines.
10.2. Support for the Candidate
During the potential attendance in a training programme and during validation, the assessor is at the candidate’s disposal. If the candidate cannot contact a designated assessor, direct contact with the validation institution is recommended.
During the introductory meeting, candidates are able to present specific needs relating to learning, which are included in the candidate’s strategy to attain the qualification.
10.3. Equal Opportunities Policy
ICERMS implements an equal opportunities policy. At the candidate's request, the assessor can provide the candidate with the document describing the principles of this policy.
10.4. Appeals Procedure
The candidate has a right to appeal a decision pertaining to him/her. The appeals procedure of the validation institution is discussed during the introductory meeting and the document describing this procedure is provided at the candidate's request.
Every candidate participating in the validation process has the right to file an appeal. The candidates have to make sure that they have exhausted the procedure for filing appeals in a given validation institution before they file an appeal to WAMITAB.
The candidates filing an appeal can indicate a person or an employee who, if necessary, will support them during the appeals procedure.
WAMITAB observes the appeals procedures and the procedures for filing complaints established by the regulatory authorities, including the principles of confidentiality, reserving the right to change the procedure in line with changes made by the regulatory authorities within the scope of the appeals, and filing complaints.
To make sure that the appeals are examined in a fair way, relying exclusively on facts, every appeal is supervised by a WAMITAB staff member who was not directly involved in the validation process. Furthermore, based on an agreement between WAMITAB and other institutions awarding qualifications, an independent person is designated to participate in the decision-making process pertaining to the appeal.
Procedure for handling appeals
- First, WAMITAB appoints an appeals panel, which includes an independent observer who was not a member of the committees of institutions awarding qualifications for at least seven years and who is not a WAMITAB employee or assessor. The role of the independent observer is to present an objective opinion about the appeals process and the decision made.
- WAMITAB registers the receipt of an appeal in an appeals log and confirms its receipt within two business days.
- The qualifications manager checks the documents, chooses the methods for investigating the appeal and plans the time and the exact course of the appeals procedure.
- A letter is sent to the person who filed the appeal with information about the activities being undertaken and the estimated time for completing the procedure. At this stage, confidentiality of the data of persons taking part or who may take part in the appeals procedure must be ensured.
- The qualifications manager analyses the collected information pertaining to a given case and then prepares a summary with conclusions from the analysis.
- Having collected and analysed all the information, the qualifications manager issues an opinion and includes it in a report from the appeal analysis. The independent observer issues an opinion on whether the process was conducted in compliance with WAMITAB’s appeals procedure.
- A full report on the appeal is immediately submitted to the chief executive officer of WAMITAB.
- The general manager decides about subsequent actions, and consults the independent observer in relevant cases to settle the appeal and to prepare a letter to the person who lodged the appeal with information about the outcome.
- In case the appeal is unresolved, it is submitted for an independent review and another independent observer is appointed. The review is supervised by an independent institution awarding qualifications with which WAMITAB concluded an agreement for such situations, specifying the scope of support of the persons designated to investigate the case. The person who filed the appeal is informed in writing about the decision to submit the appeal to an independent review.
- If, as a result of the appeal, a change in the WAMITAB procedure is necessary, it is introduced immediately and reviewed after six months to ensure its full implementation.
- The investigation ends with an entry in the appeals log.
- Documents relating to appeals are stored for three years.
Note: Following an appeal which questions the accuracy of the validation process, WAMITAB reviews all the associated results and takes appropriate measures to safeguard the consistency and fairness in awarding the qualifications.
Attaining qualifications in the waste management industry can be financed in one of four ways:
- independently: attaining the entire qualification costs ca. GBP 2,400.00
- by the employer: this is the most frequent form of financing the validation process for the discussed qualification
- with the participation of a local company supporting entrepreneurship: governmental agencies may agree to finance the validation process for the discussed qualification, but are only able to cover 50% of the cost
- by the Scottish government: the government can provide a candidate with co-financing for 50% of the cost up to a maximum amount of GBP 1,200.00
The above mechanisms pertain exclusively to financing the attainment of vocational qualifications in Scotland.
12. Context of good practice
12.1. Legal Requirements on Waste Management in Great Britain and Scotland
The detailed legal requirements for waste management facilities differ in all four countries of Great Britain (Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland). Medical waste management falls under general waste management legislation, including where necessary, legal provisions/guidelines pertaining to hazardous waste adopted by each of the individual devolved nations.
Based on the national legislation and regulations on permits for waste management, the manager or operator of a waste management facility must “be able to demonstrate competence”. Usually, this is done by procuring the relevant waste management National or Scottish vocational qualification, and the candidate can then apply for the Certificate of Technical Competence (COTC). This is the path chosen most frequently, even though there are also other ways of demonstrating competence. The arrangements to demonstrate competence differ in each of the four countries, but what is important is that waste management facility operators and managers are required to demonstrate competence.
In Scotland, the Waste Management Licensing Regulations from 2003, up-dated in March 2011, are binding. The changes introduced affected the way technical competence is to be demonstrated. A person with such competence is no longer legally required to have a Certificate of Technical Competence, but this certificate is still a valid way of demonstrating competence in Scotland.
12.2. Vocational Education in Scotland
Vocational education (also known as further education) in Scotland is provided to persons older than 16 years of age who, having completed compulsory education, continue to study in colleges in order to attain vocational qualifications. National priorities for further education and higher education have been determined by the parliaments of Great Britain and Scotland and the assemblies of Wales and Northern Ireland. Preparing, planning and implementing education policies, including within the scope of further education, rests with government departments responsible for the national divisions of education. The Scottish Funding Council (SFC), together with Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education (HMIE) are responsible for the planning, financing and quality assurance of further education in Scotland.
12.3. Institutions Awarding Qualifications in Scotland
In Scotland, as in the rest of Great Britain, the processes of education and awarding qualifications are separate, even though they may be performed by the same institution. Private and public entities, as well as associations of employers can be authorised to develop and award qualifications. They must be accredited by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) in advance. The largest entities awarding qualifications include the SQA, non-state entities operating in the area of the entire Great Britain (e.g. City & Guilds or Pearson) and Scottish institutions of higher education.
The SQA, as an institution that simultaneously awards qualifications and accredits other institutions awarding qualifications, is responsible for the standards of awarding qualifications and has the right to include qualifications in the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework. To a large extent, SQA is a self-regulating authority with respect to how qualification and assessment standards are established, maintained and monitored. It has three advisory teams, which play a crucial role in the quality assurance of qualifications standards:
- SQA Board of Management
- SQA Advisory Council
- SQA Qualifications Committee
In line with the Scottish Qualifications Act of 2002, the ultimate responsibility for regulating SQA’s procedures rests with Scotland’s ministers.
The main institutions awarding waste management qualifications are the SQA and local divisions of the Waste Management Industry Training and Advisory Board (WAMITAB). Other important institutions awarding qualifications relating to environmental protection are the Award Scheme Development and Accreditation Network (ASDAN), EDI Plc., and NCFE.
Waste management certificates may also be awarded after the completion of an approved training programme conducted by an industry organisation. Such organisations include, for example, the Chartered Institution of Waste Management (CIWM). Another organisation that offers selected training courses (also on-line) in some areas of the environment and waste management is the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM).
12.4. International Centre for the Environment Resource Management and Sustainability Limited (ICERMS)
ICERMS is a national vocational training centre for waste management and environmental sector qualifications, registered with all UK national qualifications authorities and industry training bodies for this purpose. Its staff members belong to the Chartered Institution of Waste Management and the Society of the Environment.
ICERMS operates under the quality assurance systems of SQA and WAMITAB. ICERMS is visited every year by external evaluators from SQA and WAMITAB and subjected to periodical SQA evaluations assessing the functioning of its systems.