Welcome to the Safeti Podcast – ‘NEBOSH or NCRQ?’ – Podcast Review
In this bonus episode, I discuss my blog post on the NEBOSH or NCRQ ? debate that is creating endless discussion across the H&S industry.
Social media is rife with opinion, people are confused!
I thought it would be useful to summarise my experiences in audio format and provide you with a few opinions from either side of the debate to help you choose.
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Safeti blog post – NCRQ or NEBOSH – extended blog post on the debate
NEBOSH Strategic Report 2017 – check out the official report from the examinations body themselves
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NEBOSH or NCRQ Podcast – Transcript
Here’s a taster from the Episode…
Hi guys welcome to this bonus episode of the safeti podcast. I’m glad to be bringing you an overview of the NEBOSH or NCRQ debate that I have a blog post posted on my website about, which has got a lot of attention. Loads of interesting comments and discussion across social media.
You will see within the health and safety realm a lot of people talking, arguing one way or the other. giving their views and experiences and I just thought it would be useful for me to summarize again what my experiences have been. Then we will tap into some of the feedback that people have given us as well and then from that hopefully it will help you decide on which route you would like to take.
Okay so let’s crack on
As I said I’ve contributed on numerous forums and blogs in terms of giving my opinion as to what the appeal for both the NEBOSH and NCRQ health and safety course offerings were from my experiences.
I wanted to just further summarize that for you, having completed the NEBOSH General Certificate and the NCRQ diploma and in recent times.
I can shed light of course only on my own experience and I will reiterate that this is an opinion piece just that obviously anything that I say is really just through my own experience and doesn’t necessarily reflect the feelings of other people.
It’s up to yourself to choose which route you might want to take. So there’s quite an amount of debate as I say about which is the best option and I can see how people would be really confused.
This is why I think it’s valuable for me to present this information again in an audio format and give some feedback again on what other people are saying as well. Just to help make the decision process maybe that bit easier.
NCRQ making an impact
When I first wrote this article a number of months ago, it felt like a really good time to pitch in on the debate. In 2017 I completed the NCRQ diploma and they as an organization had made been recent claims on Twitter I think it was. They are no reputedly the most popular Health and Safety diploma course provider in the UK.
Which was obviously a major claim and which means that they’ve really eaten into NEBOSH’s market significantly.
So the gauntlet had clearly been laid down by NCRQ and that that question of which course to tick has become even more intriguing and also difficult to answer.
As most people will know NEBOSH was very dominant for a very long period of time in terms of both popularity and also in terms of recognition from the employer side and that hasn’t really changed hugely I would say.
Although employers do appear to be increasingly recognizing other qualifications and they’ve always recognized the likes of the NVQ route as opposed to the NEBOSH qualification. And of course degree level qualifications that are similar to the NEBOSH diploma.
But the new kid on the block is really the NCRQ Diploma. Which has made a significant impact within just three or four years of its introduction.
Why has there been such a change?
So we’ll look at the reasons as to why this might be the case and as I said we’ll look at my experience of it to see if it actually helps you. We will not look at the NVQ route as I don’t have direct experience myself.
I wouldn’t like to make assumptions. One person did mention to me that it was unfair to compare the NCRQ diploma against the NEBOSH certificate. Because I hadn’t done the diploma with NEBOSH.
But, I think that it gave me really enough of an insight into how the diploma and the actual curriculum was executed and the approach.
Then you know I was able to compare that with the certificate level qualification. Which they also had to do for NCRQ. Because the NEBOSH certificate doesn’t count towards the NCRQ qualification.
Putting that aside, let’s look deeper into the potential reasons behind this apparent changing of the guard and the competition that has now came up against NEBOSH with NCRQ.
Pinnacle of Health & Safety
The NEBOSH diploma has long been regarded as the pinnacle of workplace health and safety qualifications and many quarters. It had become revered in such a way I guess that with that certificate you would automatically be inducted into the health and safety fraternity.
Particularly at the Diploma level and you know you would almost be as I said in my post assumed to be a health and safety expert if he had got your NEBOSH or you’d completed the Diploma qualification.
Which you know is fair enough and much of that respect is well deserved. Because the stringent cross examination by the NEBOSH examiners and the strict marking criteria used for a difficult course and as we go onto the pass rates have actually been getting consistently lower in recent years.
I guess for some of it was a way to keep the numbers down in the industry.
The danger of that of course is that we might end up with a shortfall in the actual supply of qualified ‘competent’ people to perform health and safety rules. Which is an actually a real risk at the moment and into the future as some people have spoken about. The competition coming from NCRQ is I think a really good thing and it’s not to say that NEBOSH have rested on their laurels. After an extensive consultation they most recently in November 2016, mid 2015 updated their diploma qualification to include a significant coursework element and candidates are now required to provide recommendations in a typical workplace setting.
This appears to have been very timely with the movement of NCRQ into the same market. Moving on to NCRQ then, their qualifications are said to be for the “real world.” Perhaps a reference to the failure of some other course providers to give students the tools for managing health and safety in a practical context.
NCRQ’s intent seemingly is not to equip students with the ability to recite reams of legislative references and regulatory requirements etc. etc. but they rather focus on the building of the students confidence in finding the most relevant guidance and information and then applying that reasonably and effectively to the real-life situations that confront them.
What does that actually mean in practice though? Well it includes testing the ability for the student to provide unambiguous clear advice & to pitch health and safety to different workplace audiences. Which is very much a real-life challenge and also to provide consultancy advice to clients.
The broader aim is using problem-based learning to assess the competency of individuals in dealing with both basic and complex situations. This approach is really resonated with professionals in the field and also others moving or wanting to move into the market. Certainly if the market share change is anything to go by.
Looking at how the two different institutions assess then, the NEBOSH qualifications have traditionally consisted of strict assessment criteria as I mentioned earlier and these are dominated by exams with a splash of coursework to deal with the practical side of health and safety as I just mentioned. NCRQ on the other hand have thrown all of their eggs into one basket and ditched the exam and classroom format completely.
They have favored a self- directed work book style approach which focuses on key studies and problem-based learning. Students must also meet a set of specific competency criteria for each assessment to progress further on in the course. If we look at the two by comparison, for me for NEBOSH I could really closely align this to being taught in the class leading up to just doing exam questions. which was very much in my experience of you know back in school a long long time ago was very much dependent on the level of engagement and interest that the teacher could achieve with me to actually hold my attention and get me interested in the subject matter.
So you know again, it’s very dependent on how good your teacher is as to how much enjoy being taught in that fashion. NCRQ on the other hand was a bit more like being given the freedom to do research for a project in a university context.
Where you’re given background information and a lot of it is up to yourself to go and find out and you know the actual detail and try and rationalize that and then use that information in the context of the question that’s given to you. So obviously two very different styles of learning and each person will likely have their own preference.
Looking at my own experience then. In my opinion, the NCRQ, just in the way it was produced and the way the information within the workbooks is presented in case study style format. It was very formative engaging and I felt valuable for me moreso than the NEBOSH experience was.
Critically it actually fired up my interest in the subject matter. By virtue of being self-study based, the NCRQ course is unquestionably book heavy. But that said the workbooks as I said are very well structured and you do feel a real sense of progress when working through them. Also I could relate it very closely to my daily work and working as a health and safety and environmental manager through the day during this study.
This type of self-study, distance learning format may not be to everybody’s taste and it’s important to note that. I think for me personally it wasn’t too bad. I’m fairly well disciplined to think with these sort of things & I was able to set myself some time targets and then try and hold myself accountable.
But obviously each person will be different. As I said I had very much an interest in the subject matter and the way it was presented really helped.
Saying that, when it comes to the last of the three hundred page workbooks, you have to complete the workbook without any coursework requirements to break it up. It’s leading up towards the final and largest project. It can get a little bit tedious, particularly towards the end.
Though I was able to complete it in around six months whilst working full time. Most of that obviously done in the evenings later on at night. But I felt that it was very easy to read through the content and as I said it was interesting using real-life contexts to get your brain working and keeping you interested. So really I did enjoy working through those books and you will see that reflected in comments by other people who have done it.
The great thing is that they do engage you throughout the books and through the chapters by getting you to do little exercises about what you’ve learned to think in different contexts and how to apply the knowledge that you’re acquiring as you work through them and also to do research as you go through it. So that really keeps you engaged as you go through as well.
Despite the fact that I completed in six months you do have up to three years and to complete the NCRQ diploma. So it does give you lots of flexibility and the way it works is that whenever you work through a chapter in the book and you’re ready to complete the next coursework assignment, you signify to your tutor or to NCRQ that you’re ready to do it and they issue it and basically had a timer and give you an appropriate amount of time, whether that’s three weeks, four weeks, six weeks within which you must submit the assignment. So it’s very much based on your own personal circumstances and you can work through it at your own pace.
Moving on to NEBOSH then. As I said it’s mostly exams that the NEBOSH is based around and one of the biggest elephants in the room so to speak when it comes to NEBOSH is the exam pass rate. What I had written in my blog post was that the figures that I had seen in some areas and these figures are quite difficult to actually come by. Quite difficult to find accurate figures.
I’d read somewhere that the failure rate was actually up as much as 92%. Although the article from what I had took that information was actually removed then later on for some reason. So I’m not sure what the rationale was there. So as a result of that I dug a little bit deeper then later on just to try and get some answers on what the actual rates of pass were. So thinking back on where the 92% may have come from and it may have related to the number of people who have had to resit at least one exam. This would make some sense. But don’t quote me on that.
I wanted to know what was going on with the pass rate. So it tried to dig into the NEBOSH website a bit further to get some answers. The website itself it’s not great for navigating and I was trying to search to get pass rate figures from the you know the last few years. Eventually I stumbled upon a strategic report. It was released in 2017. So within that report I was able to extract some information looking at the trends on the cumulative pass rate for NEBOSH national and international diplomas.
The report itself shows the graphs. But it only really refers to the average pass rate across the last twelve odd years from 2006. It fails to discuss the steep downtrends in the pass rates that are actually being seen in the graphs. So there is a lack of clarity. It wouldn’t really give you a lot of confidence as a prospective candidate. So what I’ve actually seen and what you see in my article I’vw posted on the site is that the graphs indicated that the NEBOSH national diploma from around pass rate of 90% percent in 2009 and 2010 is now towards more like 50% to 60%. Which is a massive drop.
I would say that the results after the changes that I spoke about earlier haven’t been publicized yet. So that may have an impact and maybe that’s an attempt for NEBOSH to try and bring those pass rates back up again. But again I’m just trying to interpret the information that I have. The NEBOSH international diploma has actually come down even harder and you’ll see from the graphs that it’s actually sitting at around 40% to 50%. It itself was up at around sort of 90%- 95% a long time around 2006 and 2007. So again a steep downward trend in the pass rates. I’m not sure why this is.
The changes that were made from NEBOSH in 2016 included a renewed focus on softer skills and such as those that are focused upon by an NCRQ and this includes you know the ability to influence organizational change and also they’re putting more of an emphasis or trying to put an emphasis on proportionate sensible risk management. Which again looks like it’s aligning closer to the school of thought that NCRQ have approached the market with. Which is all about reasonableness and risk based health and safety management.
So whether or not the level of difficulty in passing the NEBOSH diploma has served health and safety industry in a positive way, we don’t know. But certainly there’s a downtrend there and a lot of people that have been trying to pass NEBOSH ranks seemed to have switched over to NCRQ as an option. Perhaps this increase in difficulty has started to become an issue for NEBOSH in terms of actual market share.
Having considered the different routes to diploma I really felt like I aligned better with my progressive approach to health and safety management within a business context and their educational objectives resonated with me. For me, certainly in the health and safety context, it’s much more about being able to engage with the audience that’s presented in front of you using the information and expertise that’s available to pragmatically reduce risk through processes of engagement with the workforce or any stakeholders and know I feel like NCRQ really nurtured that better.
The learning approach is arguably better aligned with the realities of being in an HSE advisory role. You’re often having to research completely new subjects for home familiar processes and hazards etc. within short timeframes and you know you’re not going to be able to memorize or be an expert in all of these areas.
Essentially NCRQ’s approach is saying that yes, we acknowledge that that is the case. but using your ability to apply the knowledge that exists with your previous experience you should be able to, you must be able to make a considered professional judgment and the course correlates well with that need.
One very important point here is that point on experience. Neither course is offering to take you into a high risk workplace for six months to show you the ropes. However where both courses attempt to provide exposure to real-life scenarios in different ways.
It appears that NCRQ delivery structure is definitely working for a lot of people. But if you don’t consider yourself as a self-starter with studying, then certainly I would say that the more formal structure of NEBOSH may be more beneficial for you.
I think it’s really important that our HSE community learns from one another and we share as much as possible. obviously sharing this information in my opinion on this debate is something that I think can be valuable for people in terms of trying to make their decision and what I really want to hear is what your opinion and your experience of these courses has been or difficulty that you’re having or questions that you have terms of actually making a decision. Please bring it forward to us and hopefully some of the people involved in our conversation including myself will be able to answer those questions for you.
Okay so we’ve heard my opinion and stress it’s just my opinion on this debate and my experience of the NEBOSH National General Certificate and the NCRQ Health and Safety diploma. But let’s dig in a little bit to some of the feedback that we’ve had online and some of the social media posts and the bits that are going on. so we kick off first one person is saying here in favor of I guess NEBOSH and the reason why it’s been so important in terms of its very long respected standing in health and safety of fraternity.
He’s sort of saying that the NCRQ along with the NVQ has been troubled by the fact that it looks like it’s an easy way to get to the Diploma level and perhaps chartered status without having to do an exam. I guess that’s a stigma thing and this person saying it’s going to be a long road to change those opinions. although.
I probably counter that with the fact that a lot of the feedback coming back from people that have completed NCRQ is really really positive and looking at also the numbers that I mentioned earlier of the people actually doing the Diploma. The fact is that the market is speaking and obviously employers will have to acknowledge that at some point or other.
Okay the next opinion then so someone has been working through the NCRQ diploma and said that each assessment and assignment and the learning involved has been directly applicable to their current rule. They were at a crossroads after the NEBOSH general cert and chose the NCRQ.
It seems to be very similar to my own story. The next person then obviously a big NEBOSH fan. NEBOSH diploma all the way. I’m not sure why it’s not seen as practical given there’s a dissertation and on the application of health and safety management to an organization.
We obviously discussed that earlier. It’s saying that it helps the HSE here in the UK. Obviously this qualification you can do it internationally as well and recognized by IOSH. the person is saying that the HSE themselves, who you may encounter as a practitioner of course if they visit a site for whatever reason and put their own inspectors through NEBOSH diploma or a NEBOSH created diploma.
Plus it’s nice to have an option to top it up into a Master’s of Science degree at the various universities that recognize its value. Very good point.
However someone actually countered that by saying that you can also do that with the NCRQ. So evidently and there are options for that as well. Which this person maybe doesn’t realize. so it be good to hear your views on that if anybody’s considering it and the next person then saying I’m currently about fifty percent of the way through the NCRQ and really enjoying it and the flexibility and variety it gives and I looked at the NEBOSH diploma, NVQ and NCRQ and definitely choose the best option.
Practical real-life examples with a modern feel and good use of all skills. Not just a memory recall test. I think you probably guess that I’m pro NCRQ.
So the next one and currently a third through the answer to you and I think it’s great. Yes I understand NEBOSH has been recognized for many years. However the learning modules are fixed so lack of flexibility for some. NVRQ gives you a chance to plan your learning and assignments around your own home life work commitments and so it’s been perfect for this person. I guess it really depends on your learning style and flexibility. But again after completing the NEBOSH general cert and it looked like the NCRQ is a better option.
I’ll go for a bit of balance hearing someone who is telling us what the NEBOSH enables you to achieve. This person says that the NEBOSH diploma forces you to study for an extended period of time in an area that you would not normally be required to. As a consultant this has proved invaluable as I’m required to routine high levels of information over wide breadth of subjects. If I was in a fixed risk management role, then maybe the NCRQ would have provided all I needed. Okay that person is also saying that they’re going to also do the NCRQ for some reason, I’m not sure why. But I guess a glutton for punishment there perhaps.
Something tells me there won’t be too many people that are going to do both diplomas. Let’s see someone else then. If you prefer a practical and common-sense approach, I would recommend NCRQ. If you like NEBOSH language and want to align yourself with past generations of safety professional, then I would recommend NEBOSH. obviously quite an interesting look at it there and including the more modern approach that perceivably NCRQ are taking on this.
An interesting comment by someone here just saying that they think the reason why the NEBOSH failure rate is so high is that good NEBOSH providers should develop a range of learning resources and create lots of opportunities for feedback and discussion and use lots of practical scenarios to help you understand the information rather than just retaining the information as many of them seem to do. Also you know saying that there is plenty of choice in terms of the providers out there and perhaps that’s just an interesting an important point and to try and get a recommendation to ensure that you’re going with the right provider.
Another person here took the NEBOSH construction certificate and all those classroom course was well presented. he didn’t enjoy the NEBOSH experience of learning this, write it this way etc. he studied for the NCRQ diploma and although it wasn’t easy, he felt he learned more and he work as a health and safety consultant as well and have yet to have a client say to them here I have a question for you, but before you answer it turn off your PC, don’t refer to your notes or text books or confer with your colleagues. But they are saying that his NEBOSH in a nutshell.
So again, I suppose going back to what I was saying earlier. my opinion on it agrees with this person in terms of you’re never going to be expected to know all the details of every piece of subject matter in our profession unless you’re a very specialist niche expert in a particular area.
Another Pro NRCQ comment from someone who’s experienced both NEBOSH and NCRQ is saying they found it far more interesting and personally felt again they learnt far more from just completing the first module than they did from both NEBOSH certificates courses combined and they don’t think it’s an easier route by any means. But the assignments are challenging and will require a lot of commitment to pass them.
They’re just saying as well that it’s a weighing up the pros and cons and they have admit that NEBOSH is far more recognized at this point and it’s a fantastic addition to your CV. however NCRQ is the new kid on the block and it’s picking up momentum very quickly within industry.
Next person here is a big NEBOSH supporter saying definitely the NEBOSH diploma, not only is it the recognized gold standard. But as the qualification and occupational safety and health. Which is most frequently looked for by employers. those who take the NEBOSH diploma over 80% he believes which I discussed earlier is rapidly declined now and that wouldn’t be accurate have a firm foundation and understanding that enables them to give appropriate practical advice to employers and if you look carefully at other awards, you may find that they cover last detail on depth. Which is why they may be perceived as easier in some quarters. This person is actually a NEBOSH teacher and they’re saying they’d never heard anyone who’s obtained a NEBOSH diploma say that it wasn’t worth it.
Someone here just off the back end of a NEBOSH diploma saying they just completed it. It’s very long and devilishly, I can nearly say that, devilishly difficult. It’s the much more respected qualification but NCRQ is much more alive to modern health and safety. If I were starting out again I’d go with NCRQ.
There you go guys. I hope that gave you a good overview of the NCRQ or NEBOSH a bit. Obviously there are people on either side of the fence. There’s some people who’ve experienced both courses, both organizations and there are differing opinions out there. but my job as I see it is just to try and help you here trying to make the right decision for yourself and each person has their own preference as to what way they want to learn, how they want to approach coursework, exams or whatever method it is that’s being offered.
So look I hope this has really been helpful for you. So please listen out for the safeti podcast. You can subscribe on the site. Join our community, give us your opinions and contribute to the conversation on a range of aspects of health, safety and environment. Hopefully we can give you information to help you have more impact in your job and continue to progress your career in a positive way.
So that’s all from me. Hopefully this extra content has given you a deeper insight into this debate and hopefully it helps you make the right decision going forward. Once again thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to tune in to the safeti podcast. We hope this has been of some value to you. If you found this episode helpful, please share it with your friends and peers.
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If you missed it above and would like to hear more about the story of NCRQ, check out our podcast with NCRQ Chief Executive Iain Evans.
Just click on the image below to go to the episode!
You can also access the full course specification and apply to complete the course over at NCRQ Certificate in Applied Health & Safety