Skills, knowledge and behaviours required to perform
Imagine a professional association has just embarked on the path of developing a competency profile for its members. Your competency profile outlines the skills, knowledge and behaviours required to perform a given profession. What you include in it will inform your certification exam, continuing education, and professional standards required to retain membership.
So, where should your organization start looking for information to develop the first draft of the competency profile? What sources of information are likely to be useful?
In this day and age, finding occupational information online is easy. Finding trustworthy information from reliable sources may be more challenging. A wide variety of written documentation can be used to support a competency development effort. Useful documents include professional practice standards, career profiles, job descriptions, occupational classification systems, results of job/practice analyses, and competency profiles from the same or similar profession in other countries.
Job descriptions provide rich information on job responsibilities of employees in a particular role in an organization. They are readily available on employer’s websites and through career search engines.
The review of job descriptions will give you a sense of breadth of the discipline or occupation. Great variability in job titles and duties signifies a broad discipline. This will have direct implications for the scope of your competency profiling effort. You may decide to develop one competency profile for the entire discipline or break it down into sub-disciplines and develop a competency profile for each. Should you pursue the development of one broad competency profile, you would need to consider the similarities between various job descriptions.
Occupational Classification Systems
Valuable occupational information can also be found in occupational classification systems. These are rich databases of occupational information derived from large-scale national job analyses. Major occupational databases in North America are National Occupational Classification System (Canada) and O*NET (U.S.A.).
These databases can be searched by a keyword. For any occupation, they offer a generalized list of job tasks, which is a good starting point for drafting a competency profile.
Course names and descriptions
Apart from surveying job descriptions and occupational classification systems, it is worth browsing the websites of educational institutions that offer programs in relevant disciplines. The names of courses, course descriptions, and learning objectives can give you an idea of the knowledge required to enter the profession.
Depending on the nature of the competency profile, you may also use Human Resource documents, industry codes, and legislative acts to better understand the behaviours and knowledge required for safe and competent practice in a profession. For example, the development of a jurisprudence profile warrants the review of legislation and applicable codes and standards.
So, the information for the initial competency draft may come from a variety of sources. The key is to then validate your draft with practitioners and educators in the field. They must ensure that the content of the competency profile accurately reflects knowledge and behaviours required for safe and competent performance in the discipline.