Qualifications in the Pipeline; OPEN & DISTANCE LEARNING

Article excerpt

Byline: SARAH RICHARDSON

WHILE business, law and financial courses have long been easily adapted to a distance- learning format, there are some subjects - hairdressing springs to mind - where you can't imagine how it works. The Open Learning Centre International (OLCI) offers more than 800 distance-learning courses, including GCSE, A-level and business syllabuses.

But what about something like plumbing? Surely you need a lot of practical training for such a hands-on career? Not so, insists marketing director Lucy Turner, who says the OLCI's course in Plumbing Installation Theory is perfect for career changers with little or no knowledge of the subject, and its Advanced Plumbing Theory is fine for people with some experience.

"The courses have been very popular, particularly following news reports that plumbers can earn up to [pounds sterling]100,000 a year," she says. "Not everyone can give up their current job to study fulltime and the beauty of these online courses is that they are totally flexible and can be completed in as little as six months with 10 hours' study a week." Turner points out that at further education colleges, plumbing courses which offer formal qualifications such as NVQs are oversubscribed, very rigid and geared for fulltime study.

"There's no legal requirement in this country for plumbers to have a recognised qualification," she points out, "and OLCI courses do include attendance at workshops. …