Some great replies!
This matter came to light recently when we unfortunately had to offer two members of the team redeployment with the local medical engineering group being the only suitable destination. Luckily for those concerned they had vacancies. One tech who had been in dialysis 5 years operating at band 5 level had to be down banded because although having various mechanical and electronic certificates and 5 years experience working on what I consider to be the most complicated piece of medical electronics in the health care system he didn't have the golden HNC. Could he fix as well as those in the department with a degree - of course. While I would never want to dumb down the job I think experience in the field is just as valuable.
We have another senior member with 15 years under his belt at the top of band 6 but not a HNC in electronics. In terms of redeployment he too would only be offered band 4.
It just got me thinking about the whole thing. Like some of you guys I was lucky enough to start as a trainee on what would now be band 2 and got day release for the HNC. Not everyone is so lucky though.