Fifteen women from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, have had a variety of domestic tasks included in the evaluation of a National Vocational Qualification level 2 in Business Administration, equivalent to a good pass GCSE or an O-level.
All skills learnt outside the workplace, including unpaid and voluntary work, were assessed. Each woman then completed a portfolio of competence in those areas.
Brian Platt, area manager for the Kirklees and Wakefield Chamber of Commerce, said previous experience was supplemented with conventional teaching in typing, filing and office work. 'A lot of women do things in the home that they do not realise can be transferred to the office,' he said.
The women's previous experience in such things as home budgeting, writing letters to shopkeepers and businesses, helping at a child's school and making and receiving telephone calls were tested in the classroom and were externally verified by assessors from the London Chamber of Commerce.
Ernest Lee, associate director of the London Chamber of Commerce, one of the main awarding bodies for NVQs, said he expected more 'prior achievement' to be taken into account in awarding qualifications.
Voluntary work at the Citizen's Advice Bureau was accredited for one of the women on the course while recognition was made for the skills acquired by a farmer's wife who managed the farm accounts and the sister of a publican who took over the business while he was on holiday.
Sue Lawson, 37, had been unemployed for more than a year after having to leave her job as a presser and examiner in a textile factory because of illness.
She said: 'I had no confidence whatsoever. I never expected to work in an office as I always had worked in a clothing factory and before that was an apprentice hairdresser.
'But you do a lot of things at home that can be used at work,' she said.
Ms Lawson begins work today at the Chamber of Commerce as a receptionist while several of those on the course are on work placements with other firms.
The ability to take previous experience into consideration has meant that the time taken to achieve NVQ level 2 has been cut to 20 weeks. School-leaver trainees can take up to two years on Youth Training to reach the same standard.
Barnsley and Doncaster Training and Enterprise Council, which funded the project, is expected to develop further training for women returners.Reuse content