“You might think it’s a big leap, but once you get into it it’s straightforward” – Lisa’s Journey to Level 6

NCRQ are lucky to have a huge range of students from a variety of backgrounds – different experiences, attitudes and industries. It is what makes our student base such a diverse and welcoming group. It is also why the scenarios in our learning tools are so varied; we like to keep everyone as engaged and challenged as possible.

We understand, however, that it can be really daunting when considering enrolling on our qualifications – especially if you haven’t studied at a higher level before, or don’t have extensive health and safety experience. A level 6 certificate is a big commitment, and our support team receives hundreds of calls every week from individuals tentatively asking if they are ‘good enough’ to do our certificate. 

Our answer is usually an encouraging ‘yes’, but most of our students want to hear it from those who have already been there, done that, and got the lanyard. So, to help out, we recently sent a member of our team to Custom Pharma Services to meet Lisa, who was once one of those apprehensive students. Lisa has just completed the NCRQ Level 6 Certificate in Applied Health and Safety, so we wanted to get her take on what it is really like.

You’ve recently completed our Level 6 Certificate, congratulations!

Tell us a little bit more about your background – what sort of thing were you doing before you started studying with NCRQ, and what prompted you to start your journey?

I’ve worked in safety for about 3 years alongside a health and safety manager. I was doing administrative work, running safety committee meetings and generally working in the background with him.

The health and safety manager left a couple of years ago and I stepped in in the interim. That’s when I took up the NCRQ qualification – the company wanted me to gain more experience to get me to where I am today. I had never really worked on my own, but since achieving my NCRQ qualification I’ve worked more independently and taken up the role of health and safety manager.

I went through the NEBOSH certificate route a couple of years before starting with NCRQ, but it really wasn’t for me. The exam style didn’t work well and I found it hard to use the information I learnt in the workplace. I ended up choosing NCRQ after reading people’s reviews and discussions on the forums. Once I saw how it was structured, it seemed the best choice for me.

A lot of our students end up enrolling after having similar experiences! What was your initial feeling towards the learning style? How was it different to what you’ve experienced before?

I loved the learning style, it teaches you how to go out and find the information you need. If you have been in an industry for many years you learn the knowledge you need as you go along, but when you are new to something like I was in my job, and are expected to do a piece of work, it’s not always about the knowledge, it’s about knowing where to find that information. NCRQ gets that process of research in your head. I wouldn’t have changed a thing – the style was perfect for me.

It’s great you found the process enjoyable – we try to empower our students to find information and apply it, rather than rote learning information. With that in mind, lots of our prospective students worry about the jump from a lower level qualification to a Level 6. Was it as challenging as you were expecting?

It wasn’t as challenging as I expected! Don’t let it put you off, you might think it’s a big leap, but once you get into it it’s straightforward. You’re given all the information you need, you’re taken through the steps in a logical order and everything is real life. It’s always going to be something you could come across, and in real life, you would know how to deal with it. That’s what makes it easier – think about it as basic common sense.

It is like a step by step guide, which isn’t what you would get in any other qualification. If you went to uni you wouldn’t get the support you get doing the NCRQ qualification. I failed one of my assessments at the beginning, and the feedback was so helpful. I learned from my mistakes and was able to resubmit and pass the second time around. Even when you get a distinction, it isn’t just ‘that’s great, go onto the next one’, they highlight what I did right and what I could do differently. That is massive, it helps you, but it gives you the confidence that ‘yes you can do this, but you can always do it better’.

The certificate has four assessments in total – how did you feel about tackling them? Were they what you expected and did you feel prepared?

They weren’t what I expected, they were better than I expected! By the time you reach the assessment you are prepared, and there’s nothing to be scared of. I didn’t feel pressured completing the assessments, although I was super nervous every time I requested one.

The good thing is you can manage your time because NCRQ let you know the duration for each assessment in the workbooks and online beforehand. You choose when you want to do the assessment, so can go back through the stuff to refresh your memory, before you request the assignment.

The first one was the worst, as I failed it and was really disheartened, but that’s when I started using my tutors more and everything changed. I would then request my assignment, still a bit nervous because you don’t know what it’s going to be about, but the minute you start reading through it, it’s fine. They give you everything you need to complete it.

Receiving your first ‘refer’ is something a lot of our students dread! You obviously learnt a lot from this experience though, so do you have any study tips you could share to help other students?

Use the tutors, absolutely! They are brilliant. I spent about half an hour on the phone to one of the tutors once. I thought ‘oh my god he’s staying on the phone for so long!’, but he was brilliant, he couldn’t have given me any more information if he tried, without having to give me the answer. He could explain it like I was sitting in a classroom and that’s what you need. At the start, I didn’t use the tutors as much as I could have done, only because initially you feel bad that you’re contacting them saying ‘erm help!’ But that’s what they are there for, and I find the more you use them the more they will check up on you to make sure you are ok. The tutors guide you in the direction you need to get the result you are after.

We do feel really proud to have such a great tutor and support team. Do you think this level of support means that this Certificate suitable for those without extensive experience in health and safety?

Absolutely, my work experience was there, but my knowledge wasn’t to the same standard. More experienced health and safety managers I had worked with seemed to just know everything and could apply that knowledge to any situation. I had never felt that same confidence, but since completing the NCRQ qualification I realised it’s not as difficult as you think it is. Doing the course gives you that ‘oomph’ to be able to make decisions, and that’s exactly what it did for me.

Many of our students, like you, have busy careers and personal lives so it is helpful if a qualification can slot into your day-to-day, rather than you having to force your life around it. Were you able to complete this level of qualification whilst working in a full-time role? 

I continued working throughout my qualification. I did most of the learning outside of working hours, and I used some of the knowledge I learnt on the work I was doing internally. It worked together, it married up, so it was absolutely fine to complete while working.

I now use what I have learnt to teach other teams and staff members because it was so simple for me to understand and was easy to follow. With other qualifications you can’t really do that, because you are just learning from a textbook, you aren’t taught how to apply that to your real life.

We give our students 18 months for the certificate, but how long did it take you to complete while you were working full time?

It took me a little over a year to complete it, as I was taking on new responsibilities at work. I am sure if I had more time I could have completed it quicker than that, but I like the fact that you can take the time if you need to.

And finally, how did you feel once you received your certificate in the post? 

Relieved, and really excited! It’s the first proper qualification I have ever received, so it was really exciting to receive it, especially as it was from something I just didn’t ever see myself being part of.

Thanks so much for your time, your words of wisdom will surely help any NCRQ students going forward.

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