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What is Competency?

Updated: Dec 20, 2021

What is Competency
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On the job training is an essential part of a company and employee’s development process.

It is a crucial process to ensure employees are not only completing training but understand the material and perform to expectations.

Competency is the capability to apply or use the set of related knowledge, skills, and abilities required to successfully perform ‘critical work functions’ or tasks in a defined work setting.

Competency often serves as the basis for skill standards that specify the level of knowledge, skills and abilities required for success in the workplace as well as potential measurement criteria for assessing competency attainment.

Competency is a measure of both proven skills and proven knowledge.

A competent person is defined as a person who is appointed or designated by the employer to perform specific duties based on knowledge, skills and abilities.

Clarifying Experience

A worker may have a lot of experience, even years spent performing certain task(s)

but may not be fully competent, as they may have picked up some bad habits over time, or was not originally properly trained etc. Competency levels can be ascertained by assessment of knowledge, skills and abilities. As a counterbalance, prior task performance records (evidence based), and levels of experience a worker is deemed to have, should be a consideration.

Recognition of Prior Learning

A record of prior learning is an assessment to confirm the skills and knowledge

that a worker has gained previously through formal or informal training, or

through life or other work experiences. For example; if a worker has been

trained and worked on a piece of plant for several years, but for some reason

has never been assessed, the RPL assessment process could be used.

RPL assessment is based of evidence supplied, this could be International

Certification that is not recognised / accepted in NZ. The RPL process should

never be used to bypass or shortcut the training assessment process. It is a

means to acknowledge that sufficient evidence has been collected to verify


NZQA will consider RPL assessments for certification processes on a case-by case assessment. Talk to your training provider or NZQA directly regarding this

process if required.

Recognition of Current Competency

A recognition of current competency is an assessment for workers who have

previously completed an assessment, been deemed competent, and are now

required to be reassessed to ensure competence has been maintained.

For example; a worker previously assessed as competent for issuing work permit’s

on a company site, may be assessed by RCC on a annual or biannual review

to ensure they maintain understanding and company standards for the process.

This review could be completed with a one-on-one observation of process or

written / verbal questionnaire of process. It is important that evidence of the

review is recorded.

How is Competency Assessed or Verified?


Assessment is the formal process of collecting evidence of the competencies

(skills and knowledge) a worker has developed through:

  • A Structured learning environment

  • On-the-job training

  • Off-the-job training

  • Other relevant workplace experience

Verification of competency should be evidence based and verified before work

commences. Competency may be verified by:

  • Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) this can be conducted through NZQA if necessary

  • On-site recognition of current competency

  • The operation’s training and development program

All verification methods must include a documented assessment. These assessments

could be in the form of:

  • NZQA RPL Assessment

  • Supervisor / management practical test or simulation and a verbal / written assessment of abilities, skills and knowledge

  • Using SOP / SWP’s as a training and assessment document

  • Record of training attendance report

E-Learning and Classroom Learning

E-Learning is becoming more common alongside classroom learning within

the training sector. It is important that when this learning is completed to

incorporate practical learning as well and not just this theoretical learning


Interactive activities are important to incorporate, as not everyone learns in the

same way. It is believed that 70% of learning occurs with on-the-job learning,

20% informal learning (observation / talking with coworkers), 10% formal

learning (e-learning / classroom and written learning).

By using multiple learning techniques (practical, theoretical and written / verbal

assessments) learners are more likely to gain competency, and the training

program more successful.

Need Assistance?

Our team are available if you require assistance with training assessments or resources

such as SOP/ SWP’s. Check out our offering here.

Please contact us if you require any advice or check out our website:

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