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Competency Based Training and Assessment

What is competency based training?

Competency based training, sometimes referred to as CBT, was introduced into Australia in the late 1980s and is now the recognised training method for vocational training.

Competency based training is an approach to vocational education and training that places emphasis on what a person can do in the workplace as a result of completing a program of training or based on workplace experience and learning.

Ideally, progress within a competency based training program is not based on time. As soon as students have achieved or demonstrated the required competency, they can move to the next competency. In this way, students may be able to complete a program of study much faster.

Competency Based Training is based on the concept that people can learn transferable skills and most training is transferable.

What is a unit of competency?

The competency standards in a Training Package describe work outcomes. Each unit of competency describes a specific work activity, conditions under which it is conducted and the evidence that may be gathered in order to determine whether the activity is being performed in a competent manner. By examining different aspects of the unit of competency, you will be able to gain answers to the following questions:

  • What is the work activity?
  • What does the work activity involve?
  • What skills are needed to perform the work activity?
  • What level of skill is needed?
  • What are the conditions under which this work activity may be conducted?
  • What evidence is needed to prove that a person is competent?
  • What knowledge and skills are needed to perform this work activity?
  • What generic work skills are needed?
  • Where should evidence be gathered?
  • What resources are required to gather the evidence?

National standards define the competencies required for effective performance in the workplace. A competency comprises the specification of knowledge and skill and the application of that knowledge and skill at an industry level, to the standard of performance required in employment. Units of competency can be either industry or enterprise based. Units of competency can be downloaded from the National Training Information Service database:

What is competency based assessment?

Assessment is the process of collecting evidence and making judgments on whether competency has been achieved. The purpose of assessment is to confirm that an individual can perform the standard expected in the workplace, as expressed in the relevant endorsed competency standards.

Where does Recognition of Current Competencies (RCC) fit in?

Existing and new employees may already have skills and knowledge that will enable them to gain a competency without taking part in a whole training program. The skills and knowledge may have been gained through study, self tuition, work or life experience. It is unlikely that a person would be awarded a qualification i.e. a set of competency units, based on Recognition of Current Competency.

Skills recognition is the acknowledgment by a Registered Training Organisation that an employee has gained an appropriate level of skill and knowledge that would have otherwise been developed through undertaking training.

Skills and knowledge obtained could have been attained through:

  • Prior formal training or study including courses at school, college, adult education and training programs at work.
  • Work experience including paid and volunteer work.
  • Life experience including skills attained through leisure pursuits such as musical, mechanical or linguistic abilities.

Registered Training Organisations generally apply skills recognition in two ways:

  1. Recognition of current competencies, previously referred to as recognition of prior learning.
  2. Credit transfer.

Recognition of Current Competencies recognises prior knowledge and experience and measures it against the competency units in which students are enrolled. The student may not need to complete all of a training program if he or she already possesses some of the skills and/or knowledge taught.

Workers (new and existing) who want their knowledge and skills recognised under Recognition of Current Competencies need to provide the Registered Training Organisation with evidence of their competency and undertake the assessment process. Registered Training Organisations take previous experience and study into account whether it was achieved in Australia or overseas.

Some Registered Training Organisations may be reluctant to offer Recognition of Current Competencies services to staff seeking a qualification. It is a good idea to link Recognition of Current Competencies and training together.

The Community Services and Health Industry Training Board in Victoria has developed a Recognition of Current Competencies model which focuses on recognising an employee's skills and experience through an interview process where the assessor assesses against the individual's competence. The model includes case scenarios and interview questions that existing employees can relate to and correspond to their current work situation.

Credit transfer

Credit transfer allows students to count relevant, successfully completed study, through study at TAFE Institutes, registered training providers, professional organisations or enterprises and universities, towards a qualification.

It works in two ways:

  • Students receive credit for competency units they have previously completed and are exempt from retaking them, therefore reducing the study load.
  • Students are exempt from certain introductory units but are still required to complete the total credit points or hours for the course.

What is a Statement of Attainment (SOA)?

An Australian Qualifications Framework Statement of Attainment is a record of recognised learning which, although falling short of an Australian Qualifications Framework qualification, may contribute towards a qualification outcome, either as partial completion of a course leading to a qualification, attainment of competencies within a Training Package, or completion of a nationally accredited short course which may accumulate towards a qualification through Recognition of Prior Learning processes.

Related links

For more information about competency based training and assessment visit:


The material on this page has been adapted from the Home and Community Care (HACC) Community Care Worker Human Resources Kit 2007 (external link - opens in a new window).

Supported by the Community Sector Investment Fund (external link - opens in a new window).