Career Progression Gateway

Career Progression Gateway2024-03-13T12:27:34+00:00



The ‘Career Progression Gateway’ (CPG) is an online assessment to evaluate performance. This system is straight-forward, candidate-friendly and intuitive, removing much of the stress associated with assessment events for all involved. The CPG ‘brings to life’ assessment activity through interactive and relevant tasks to which both candidates and organisations will be able to relate.

An effective online approach to assessing candidates for recruitment, selection, development and promotion.

Selecting the best talent is the foundation of your organisational effectiveness. Supporting your teams of the right managers and future leaders. Properly assessing and selecting for your team, manager and leadership positions is critical to making the right decisions.

Reduced staffing and tighter budgets over the past decade have resulted in many organisations having to find less intensive methods of assessing candidates, which can vary in consistency, quality, and fairness. At times, methods used can lack depth or validity, to reliably inform the appointment of the best talent.

Our Career Progression Gateway is an exciting new way to deliver important staff assessments in a robust, consistent and more efficient way. It is easy for HR staff to set up and deliver and for candidates to understand and complete. Results have proved it to be a great solution to the challenge of selecting the best talent in the most cost effective, convenient way.

The CPG system is currently being used by over eight UK Fire & Rescue Services to select the Crew, Watch, Station and Strategic Managers of the future. Read our case study here to learn more about the CPG in practice.

Based on a recent project, it was calculated by the client that using the CPG saved them £34,800 from their previous process (an average of £600 per candidate).

Key Benefits of the CPG

  • Fire Service context assessments based on the NFCC FRS Leadership Framework

  • Reduces the cost and resources required to deliver the process by out-sourcing all admin, roleplaying and assessment
  • Improved fairness and consistency of scoring by using objective and highly-qualified assessors
  • User-friendly and easy for candidates to access and complete tasks via laptop

  • Convenient and quick to deliver, less time away from normal operations for candidates (usually 2 hours max assessment time)
  • Assessment tools are valid, with consistency in results across projects and reliability in candidate performance across testing occasions
  • All activities will meet British Psychological Society best practice guidelines for assessment and development
  • The CPGs have been designed by a team of Occupational Psychologists
  • CPGs can be run on-demand or via our ‘Open CPG Calendar

We have Exercises from Firefighter Recruit to Strategic Manager level (Area Manager and above).


Timetabling can be handled via an online appointment booking service which gives candidates flexibility to choose a ‘slot’ from allocated times and dates which reduces internal administration.

Candidates can either attend their assessment at a central venue or access and complete the exercises on a computer from home.

All assessment activities will be managed through an individual ‘gateway’ screen. Candidates will access this gateway via personal login details, which we will supply. An in-house administrator can oversee the exercise (guidance will be provided), or candidates can simply read and follow the instructions and proceed independently.

“The initial booking process from the very beginning, regarding the notice of interest, to booking the briefing session, to booking my assessments with VCA was very straightforward and user friendly.”
Anonymous Candidate Feedback

Take a look at our ‘CPG Step by Step Guide‘ to show you exactly how the system runs for the candidate, assessors and HR team.


We currently have exercises suitable to support Firefighter recruitment, and 8 levels of management progression. At each level, we use two exercises; a Case Study and a video/ telephone Role-play, with an optional ‘values questionnaire’ (at Crew to Station manager levels, for use in development only).


This timed exercise (65-75 minutes depending on level) provides the candidate with several pieces of information and clear guidelines on their tasks. Depending on the level, these may include a letter or article, a proposal, project recommendation, analysis, strategy or change initiative.

Candidates read the information provided and type their responses into free text boxes during the exercise which are recorded for assessors to review and score online on completion. The exercise time is managed via an in-built timer which will log the candidate out when the time is complete.


Candidates access and read exercise information by logging into their CPG personal gateway screen and selecting the role-play assessment.

Candidates are given a set time (managed via an in-built exercise timer) to read the scenario information before an assessor video calls via MS Teams/ telephones them and the roleplay commences.

The roleplay is timed from when the candidate answers the video call/ phone.

During the call the assessor will present lines from their script and take notes of the interaction for use in later online marking.


Candidates can be invited to complete a short values assessment.

The VQ is based on brief scenarios which the candidate must evaluate using a scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree.

The results of this generate candidate specific questions which can be used in later interview (telephone or face-to-face) to further explore the candidate’s alignment with organisational values.

The results of the VQ are not included as part of the final results reporting but are added into the feedback report and can also be used for developmental purposes.

“This was my first time attending a CPG event and I found that this was an excellent and very positive way to assess. This is in comparison to other assessments that I have attended such as the ADC and other in-house assessments for my previous brigade. It was extremely useful to have relatable material in the CPG, e.g. a fire service setting. Overall it was a really positive process.”

Anonymous Candidate Feedback

Exercise Validity

There is a wealth of evidence for the validity of an assessment centre that is well-designed and professionally run. The use of two exercises and highly experienced Occupational Psychologist assessors promote fairness, and the ‘remote’ method of assessment decreases any potential for bias. Researchers note that there is “stronger predictive validity emerging when psychologists assess candidates”.

Enhanced assessment centre validity can be found where exercises are designed specifically for “the organisation and job in question”. For instance, the Fire & Rescue Service specific CPG exercises were not only designed specifically for the Fire & Rescue Service, but also to match the requirements at each role level, including in-band. These CPG exercises have a foundation of relevant, job critical criteria i.e. the FRS Leadership Quality Framework which has been thoroughly researched on an FRS population.

The rigorous implementation of the CPG assessments is also a key factor to its reliability, with the IT system and administrative processes drawing on VCA’s twenty years’ experience of running assessment centres, including with over thirty Fire & Rescue Services.

We conduct analysis bi-annually on the available data and will continue to review in line with BPS assessment centre best practice guidelines for validation of exercises. We work with an independent Occupational Psychologist, who has conducted numerous independent validity studies for the Fire & Rescue Service, to evaluate the tools and results.

Client feedback to date has confirmed that the exercises have good face validity, that results are aligned with other test reporting and reliably identify suitable candidates for progression.

“A fairer, more transparent process for the candidates.”

Donna Trowsdale, Development Officer, Shropshire Fire & Rescue Service

Bespoke Tools

You may have existing assessment tools developed in-house which you would prefer to use. We can import your assessment content onto our platform to allow your candidates to use your materials, supported by our ‘remote assessment’ system. This covers written exercises and one to one role-plays.

The candidate will complete exercises remotely, timed and managed by our software. Your assessors can continue to mark candidate responses using your existing methods.

Another option is that we can adapt our existing exercises to be more specific to your organisation. Contact us to discuss the possibilities here.


Assessment and scoring are done remotely, either by experienced VCA occupational psychologist assessors, or by internal assessors where preferred.

Our assessors assess the candidates’ performance using a leadership based behavioural framework* with scores from 0 (no evidence) to 3 (significant evidence) for each behavioural area. This generates a percentage score for overall CPG performance and per behavioural criterion, for ease of interpretation. Our assessors provide evidence to support each evaluation made, which is reflected in an automatically generated feedback report. Where appropriate, assessors also provide developmental guidance, adding value to the feedback report.

All results reports are generated automatically, providing organisations with a table of scores within a few of days of all assessments being completed.

On completion, the final feedback report on candidate performance can be accessed via the CPG portal by Learning & Development/ HR personnel.

*The marking criteria can be adapted to reflect your own organisational competencies where possible.


We believe feedback is as important as the assessment. Getting it right can have a huge impact on candidate wellbeing, efficacy, performance and motivation.

We generate detailed feedback reports for each candidate, including a personalised psychological evaluation of strengths and development needs, plus suggestions for next steps in developing potential and skills.

An option which candidates report finding incredibly useful is a telephone feedback sessions with one of the assessment team. We discuss with candidates their performance on the exercises and how they can take these on board and action them i.e. what support to seek from their line manager. We help them address areas where they need more experience or could benefit from the experience of others e.g. through coaching or mentoring input.

“It’s the first time someone has gone through my feedback report for any situation in the Fire Service, its good to hear from a professional what I do well and also not so well. Also recommendations on how I could develop myself further whilst still in the Service.”

“I found the telephone feedback session really helpful.  It was helpful to have a week or so to reflect on my performance, read my feedback and gain some tips from the assessor for the future.  I have never done anything like this before and looking back have learned lots already”

“I found the feedback useful for identifying a blind spot that I scored low in”

Anonymous candidate feedback obtained through survey

Candidate Feedback Summary 2023
Coming Soon

Feedback LITE

In the NEW CPG LITE version, the exercises, criteria and standardised scoring are the same as the full version CPG. The difference is that instead of the assessor writing a paragraph of evidence to support each of their scores, the CPG Feedback LITE allows assessors to choose two statements from a pre-written list as evidence for each score. This list of statements is developed from hundreds of previous assessments completed by psychologist assessors, and are therefore highly relevant and targeted. The feedback reports for both the full CPG and CPG Feedback LITE are automatically generated from the assessment content which has been either written or selected.

Due to the reduction in time taken to write up the evidence, the NEW CPG Feedback LITE is offered at a reduced price. This option may be best suited to assessments at Crew and Watch manager where there are high numbers of candidates.

Whilst VCA assessors objectively assess and score your candidates, removing the burden on internal staff, there is the option for internal assessors to be trained to evaluate performance using the CPG Feedback LITE.

Pre-CPG Candidate Preparation

Clients have found it highly beneficial to hold an interactive briefing before the assessments to ensure that candidates are fully prepared, know what to expect and what they need to do to maximise their performance.

Through our 2.5-hour facilitated briefing session your candidates will be able to ask questions, try example exercises, and become more familiar with the assessment methods, criteria and results reporting mechanisms. This significantly reduces uncertainty and errors on the day, and improves candidate buy-in and acceptance of the process.

This briefing workshop can be facilitated by an in-house trainer, with all trainer support materials, slides and practice exercises supplied. Alternatively, one of our consultants can deliver this workshop for you via Zoom.

Introduction – The Career Progression Gateway (CPG), benefits and key features, the Leadership Qualities in practice

The Exercises Practical – How does the online system work? Sample exercises and short practice, feedback and group discussion

Performance – Common mistakes and useful approaches, FAQ/Q&A

Self-study – The Career Progression Gateway Practical Handbook – a 43 page e-book full of support material to ensure candidates perform to their fullest potential.

Coming soon! An interactive e-learning version of the candidate preparation briefing and workbook.

“Prior to attending the CPG briefing, I was very much in the PQA frame of mind and attending the session showed that the CPG process has a more natural flow and thought process. I found the briefing session very informative and beneficial, also I found the CPG workbook useful for working through before the assessment.”
Anonymous Candidate Feedback

Frequently Asked Questions

Do the exercises measure the Leadership Qualities?2020-10-16T10:01:17+00:00

Yes, all of the exercises measure the NFCC LQs on a 0-3 scale, which makes it easier to convert these to percentage scores (which are a bit more straightforward to interpret).

What’s the break-down of the costings?2022-02-15T10:13:14+00:00

The charge is per exercise per candidate.

If we take Crew to Station level assessments, each exercise costs £325 + VAT (£650 for both exercises per candidate). This is for a best practice, professionally designed and validated assessments, using qualified external assessors and a bespoke IT platform.

The cost covers:
• Assessment/ marking (takes up to 2 hours per exercise per candidate)
• Role-player (performed by the assessor or actor)
• Exercise use
• Feedback report (including additional developmental actions for the candidate)
• Results reporting
• Use of the platform
• Use of Appointment Booking System

Are there any extra costs?2022-02-15T10:17:18+00:00

There is a project management fee of 10% added to each on-site project (off-site CPGs have a 12.5% fee applied to cover the additional IT support required). This covers a dedicated Project Manager on hand to liaise throughout the duration of the project, to assist with timetabling, IT support before and during assessments.

To enhance the assessment process, we also offer add-on services to support you and your candidates both pre and post assessment. We provide briefing options, facilitated either by yourselves in-house or by our experienced assessors, to help candidates prepare for the CPG and post-assessment developmental feedback calls with our assessors to help shift the mindset from pass/fail to development in role. Consult with our team to find what additional services may work for you and get a quote.

There are no expenses fees as part of the CPG assessment as it is performed remotely.

Can we use our own assessors?2022-02-15T10:23:03+00:00

Yes. We offer a training package that allows your own, in-house assessors to learn how to use the CPG system, after which they can then manage the process independently. We would supply log in details to the system and provide final results once the assessments are all complete.

Will prices remain the same?2020-10-16T10:11:26+00:00

We offer a 3 year fixed price contract, which enables clients to forward plan their budget, and can estimate cost savings over three years to enable you to securely reinvest budget savings, without having to hold back contingency to accommodate future price raises.

Can we see how it all works?2020-10-16T10:12:35+00:00

Yes, you can have a system ‘tour’ to see how all the pieces come together in practice. Simply drop us an email and we can send to full details.

What about adverse impact?2022-02-15T10:24:39+00:00

Our clients are satisfied that there are no adverse impacts on candidates from minority groups.

“With regard to adverse impact…it’s been pleasing to see that we’ve had females pass, people with reasonable adjustments and candidates with a wide range of length of service.”
Donna Trowsdale, Shropshire

Later this year we should have enough data to conduct full research on this

Are there reasonable adjustments for neuro-diverse candidates?2022-02-15T10:38:01+00:00

Of course! We will work with you to determine what extra support your neuro-diverse candidates may need. Reasonable adjustments can range from extra time, coloured screens to audio instructions and verbal dictation of answers. It’s important we make sure all of your candidates reach their full potential and are given equal opportunity to perform their best.

What do the candidates think of the CPG?2022-02-16T10:49:28+00:00

The feedback from the 100’s of candidates who have sat the CPG has been very positive, you can see the CPG Candidate Feedback Statistics for 2021 here or the previous year of 2020 here.

Want to see the Career Progression Gateway for yourself?

Contact us to arrange an informal, ‘virtual tour’ around the CPG for you (and your team), where we can answer your IT, exercise, feedback, and any other questions.

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