Stefan Thresh, Managing Director of Qube Vocational Development Ltd gives an evaluation of the benefits of procurement vocational qualifications compared with traditional academic forms of study

The procurement diplomas are competency-based qualifications which require learners not only to prove their knowledge and understanding but also to demonstrate the application of knowledge in the workplace by carrying out the practical activities contained within the units of competence. This is achieved by putting a portfolio together using outputs of the learner’s work e.g. tender docs, emails, contract docs, spreadsheets etc.

The qualifications are very practical as the learner is expected to demonstrate their procurement skills and their procurement organisation will be effectively benchmarked against the qualifications which represent the latest procurement/supply chain practice. If there are any gaps in systems and procedures, these will be highlighted. These qualifications can also be used as an effective personal development tool i.e. by selecting optional units for activities which may be currently outside the learner’s current role with the organisation providing the appropriate opportunities for them to gain the required experience to prove their competency for these units.

Who are these qualifications suitable for?

These work-based qualifications are suitable for procurement/supply chain practitioners at all stages in their career, from trainee buyers to heads of procurement, who wish to prove their competency and demonstrate the application of knowledge and understanding in the workplace instead of perhaps taking knowledge-based exams only. These qualifications have the support of major UK employers both in the public and private sector and provide a significant amount of knowledge, understanding and skills development that underpins occupational competence in the procurement and supply chain sector.

How do the QCF Procurement Diplomas compare to exam-based qualifications?

The QCF Procurement Diplomas are considered to be much more user-friendly than studying for exams as they facilitate a healthier lifestyle balance as it is about what the learner does in the workplace and they are outcome focussed rather than memorising knowledge which is tested in a written examination. Many learners and their employers complain about the difficulties of finding time to attend evening classes at college, attend exam revision courses and the lack of relevance to their current job role or organisation etc.

What about Professional Accreditation?

Levels (NQF) 4 or 5 of the former Supply Chain Management NVQs, together with appropriate experience, used to be accepted for full membership of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (MCIPS). For over 15 years there has been a competency route to MCIPS available, until now. It is disappointing, therefore, that following a so-called mapping exercise to compare their academic qualifications with the QCF Procurement Diplomas, CIPS have decided not to accept these NVQ replacements for membership. Their decision has effectively disenfranchised many procurement practitioners who are unable for various reasons to take their examination route to obtain full membership. The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) has confirmed they will accept specific QCF levels for certain grades of membership:

Membership (MILT):

Level 3 or 4 Diploma in Procurement plus 3 years of relevant experience.

Level 5 Diploma in Procurement plus 1 year’s relevant experience.

Chartered Membership (CMILT):

Levels 5 and 6 Diploma in Procurement plus 5 years experience.

The Institute of Supply Chain Management (IoSCM) will also accept the new QCF Procurement Diplomas for the following grades of membership:

The International Institute for Advanced Purchasing & Supply (IIAPS) has confirmed that “after reviewing the comprehensive and extensive materials” submitted to them,“ someone with the Level 6 Diploma in Procurement (QCF) (assuming they have over 3 years work-related experience) will satisfy the IIAPS entry requirements for participation in the International Green Belt in Advanced Purchasing and Supply Programme”.

Whilst professional accreditation is desirable it should not be seen as essential as it is the level of qualification achieved that is relevant. A commitment to continuous professional development (CPD) is now the norm for most people contemplating the advancement of their career. It is essential, therefore, that both employers and employees alike choose educational pathways that best suit the individual and also the wider training and development objectives of the organisation. For many individuals and employers, work-based qualifications offer the ideal solution owing to their flexibility and practical nature which not only confirms knowledge and understanding but also the practical application of procurement skills.


Stefan Thresh

Managing Director

Qube Vocational Development Ltd


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