The idea of
‘competence’ is sometimes coloured in the UK by the legacy of occupational
standards and NVQs from the 1990s and early 2000s. I have been involved since the late 1990s
in developing alternative conceptions and representations suited to complex work,
working with a variety of professions including heritage conservation, law,
family mediation, vocational rehabilitation, procurement and supply,
architecture and landscape architecture.
My approach is generally
to start by looking at good practice - ‘the ability to do something
effectively or successfully’ (OED) as well as ethically and using good
judgement - as opposed to attributes of the person such as knowledge, skills
and attitudes or behaviours. I then
ask how this applies across an entire profession or field regardless of job
roles or work contexts. Finally a good
description of competent practice should be able to cope with changes in
legislation, technology and preferred methods, avoiding the need for frequent
This study was
partly a follow-up to the ‘entry routes and requirements’ report that I
produced for PARN in 2007/8. It
explores how 40 UK professional bodies describe competence or practice
standards. The first paper reports on
the study, while the second two explore particular aspects of it in more
competence standards and frameworks in the UK (AEHE 2014)
standards, competence and capability (HESWBL 2014)
versus occupational perspectives on work competence (RPCE 2014).
Following the UK professions
study I worked with organisations in Greece and Poland, joined by partners
from Germany, Austria and Ireland, to further develop and trial the concepts
in different occupational fields and different national systems. The result was an Erasmus+ Strategic
Partnership Project that ran from 2015 to 2017. ComProCom agreed a definition and produced
a model of professional competence which has potential for improving clarity
across Europe without requiring any particular approach to VET, professional
formation or qualifications.
A summary paper
outlines the resulting model and discusses why it is needed, and the project
poster explains more about the model itself.
The developer’s manual explores concepts and processes in more depth,
and provides guidance on methods for developing professional competence or
► Competence: a
definition and a model
► Poster: concepts and models
► Project report.
As well as the
final report the project also produced three academic papers exploring
various aspects in more depth. The
HESWBL paper continues the discussion of professional competence from the
2014 papers above.
► Reconciling activity-based
descriptions of competence with professional work (HESWBL 2017)
► ’Competence’ and occupational
standards: observations from six European countries (Education + Training 2017)
► ComProCom: a revised model of
occupational competence (Education
+ Training 2018).
of frameworks based on standards
Two frameworks are
illustrated below that reflect the principles discussed in ComProCom.
The IDEAL Digital
Education Competence Framework was developed as part of another Erasmus+
project geared to improving the quality of digital learning. It is designed for all educators and
trainers who are using digital technology to deliver and support
learning. The framework was structured
using the principles from ComProCom.
► The IDEAL Digital
Education Competence Framework.
The Institute of
Conservation Professional Standards were developed by the UK conservation
community, initially in the late 1990s.
They have followed similar principles to those discussed in
ComProCom. The current version was
revised in 2019-20.
► The Icon Professional Standards (external