As part of Government’s efforts to improve technical education in the country, the Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (COTVET), has introduced Competency Based Training (CBT) as the flagship of the reforms. In technical terms, CBT is an outcomes-based, industry driven, education and training programme based on industry generated standards. In simpler terms, CBT is a system of learning where emphasis is laid on the needs of industry. Training institutions that operate CBT are acutely aware of the fact that they are not training in a vacuum. They are mindful of the fact that they are training for industry, and that their graduates should pass out with the right competencies to enable them be absorbed as seamlessly as possible by industry.
One of the key characteristics of CBT is that industry participates in deciding the content of training programmes.
Also CBT is outcomes-based, in that there should be a clear understanding on the part of both learners and facilitators, as to what the training is supposed to achieve. CBT has otherwise been described as standards based, high performance learning, and transformational education.
As the Jamaican training and development expert Paulette Dunn-Smith points out, the requirements (standards) of the workplace are transferred to the training process, so that individuals who are trained on these standards are fit for the job in which they are placed.
Additionally, rather than what is traditionally known as a course or a module, CBT is undertaken in Units, so that every skill, competency, or learning outcome is packaged in a single Unit. Unlike in the traditional systems of education, learners are at liberty to take as long as they require mastering a particular Unit. In cases where the learner already has mastery over a particular Unit, they are not obliged to take that Unit. Once they satisfy the assessment requirements, they are at liberty to skip that Unit. Learners therefore have the opportunity to take each Unit at their own pace until they achieve the required certification.
Different forms of CBT have been experimented with in Ghana. However with the introduction of the 8 level National Technical and Vocational Education and Training Qualifications Framework (NTVETQF) as spelt out in the COTVET L.I. 2195, the process of harmonizing CBT in Ghana is completed and implementation underway. Under the new reforms CBT as a national policy is not optional and all institutions are expected to take the necessary steps to comply.
Features of CBT
There are six main pillars of competency-based training;
- The focus is on competencies that are observable. These outcomes are used to establish certification frameworks and to monitor the progress of individuals in training.
- Training has greater workplace relevance as the standards used are based on the needs of employment.
- The standards are expressed in terms of performance that is observable in the workplace.
- The competence of the worker is judged based on a variety of assessments.
- All the skills the worker needs to perform the job are recorded. Those that the employee has are recognized and recorded, as are those skills that are still to be achieved. The employee and employer know what is required to be fully competent in the job. Nothing is hidden.
- The approach allows for articulation and credit transfer of competencies across occupations and prior learning is recognized.
Advantages of CBT for Employees
As compared to the traditional mode of training, there are several advantages of competency-based training to the trainee or employee on the job. CBT recognizes competencies that are acquired during the working life of the employee and these can accumulate into units of a qualification. It also allows workers know what is expected of them and what they need to do to become even more efficient. CBT is designed to develop a wide range of general and interpersonal competencies that can be applied across a variety of occupations. Finally, CBT ensures that the individual understands how the job relates to the productivity of the organization, and facilitates continuous learning and readaptation, allowing workers to adapt to new situations and changes in the working environment.
Advantages of CBT for Employers
For most organizations, their most important factor of production is their human capital, and the quality of that resource. Generating opportunities which promote innovation, continuing TVET and lifelong learning are objectives that are supported by competency-based training.
Other advantages to the employer are:
- CBT facilitates a wider selection of recruits, as selection may be done based on proven knowledge, skills and attitudes, not necessarily on having a diploma.
- Jobs can be properly filled by matching stated competencies in individuals with the standards necessary for the job.
- With CBT, the training needs of employees are more easily identified, thereby providing a sound basis for training programs to close any knowledge gap.
- CBT enables and facilitates a well-trained, flexible, innovative and creative workforce, striving to continually improve its products and services based on industry standards.
The methodology of competency-based training is a very powerful, efficient, and innovative approach to breaking down the tasks within a job, and is a very effective method for quickly determining the competencies or tasks that must be performed by persons employed in a given job or occupational area.
It enables changes to be rapidly introduced into training programmes to meet emerging technological and other work requirements, so new training modules can be introduced and existing modules can be changed with minimal disruption.
The traditional methods of education and training are being challenged by competency-based training as it allows for the individual development and performance of competencies to be achieved by learners against a standard.
There is focus on worker performance and not on the content of a course.
The approach improves the relevance of what is learned, encourages the autonomy of individuals, and transforms the quality of the outputs of the workforce, thereby improving productivity and competitiveness of enterprises.