What makes a good competence scheme – or indeed a bad one? What we first have to ask is ‘what is competence?’ and ‘what is a competence scheme for?’
The HSE state that competence is sufficient knowledge of the tasks to be undertaken and the risks involved and the experience and ability to carry out their duties. Competence develops over time. Individuals develop their competence through a mix of initial training, on-the-job learning, instruction, assessment and formal qualification.
Europe has a big influence on all things, not least H&S. The conclusions of the European Council in March 2000 shifted focus of education policy towards lifelong learning:
is no longer just one aspect of education and training; it must become the guiding principle for provision and participations across the full continuum of learning contexts
European Commission, 2000, p. 3
Lifelong learning is seen as the common umbrella under which all kinds of teaching and learning should be gathered and it calls for a fundamentally new approach to education and training.
To put it another way, Competence is the behaviour, skills and knowledge needed to undertake a task. A Competence Scheme is a mechanism that allows the employer to understand this framework as it applies to his employees. In other words define the behaviour, skills and knowledge (competence) required to undertake a set of tasks (a job) and measuring against it. This allows us to understand the difference between desired and demonstrated competence and therefore develop a plan to close the gap (training).
Therefore a good Competence Scheme has three pillars:
- It measures the behaviour, skills and knowledge of all individual employees
- It must be a continuous exercise over their entire career
- It identifies the skill gap between where the employee is and where you / they want to be
Conversely a bad Competence Scheme is one that misses any one of these.
If a scheme ignores behaviour (or any other founding element) it will not recognise the difference between an employee that knows what to do, but chooses not to (due to poor choices), one that is not aware of a weakness or is aware, but doesn’t have the skills to rectify it. Clearly the response to each of these would be very different.
If a Competence Scheme is a one-off exam – it might tell you the capabilities of that individual at that snap-shot moment, but it will tell you nothing of the evolving (and devolving) skill-set.
If a system does not quantify the skill gap – or put it another way, develop a Training Needs Analysis, it will not inform the training and all of the efforts to that point would be for nought.
After all of this – what do you do with it? The answer is train. When we say train – this no longer means just a classroom, but can be a combination of toolbox talks, classroom, practical training, mentoring etc….
Then, we start the whole process again…
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