Developing competency in your workforce

A competency program can identify workers with the skills, education, training and experience to safely do their jobs.

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What makes a competent worker? We can probably all agree that, at the very least, they should have the education, training, knowledge and experience to allow them to safely perform every task expected of them to a suitably high standard.

One way to ensure consistently high standards across an organization, particularly one with multiple locations or field workers, is to implement a detailed, formal competency program.

At the recent CEPA Foundation Safety Summit we heard from experts from across our industry on the importance of well-designed competency programs. Based on their presentations, here are six things you should know about how the pipeline industry designs and runs its competency programs to help ensure worker and public safety:

1. Why a competency program is important

A competency program defines, in detail, the skills, knowledge and training that each employee will need to be successful in their specific role. It has benefits that will be felt across the organization:

    • Identifies skills gaps and training requirements
    • Makes workers aware of their responsibilities
    • Makes supervisors aware of requirements for their team members
    • Verifies that workers are trained and competent
    • Ensures consistency across the organization

2. Closing the skills gap

Canada’s energy industry is experiencing a chronic workforce shortage. A competency system can help alleviate this shortage by making sure every employee is working efficiently and effectively. It can also help identify skills and competencies in employees that are being underused. It also provides the ability to support employees’ career development by providing appropriate mentorship and training.

3. Developing a competency profile

The first stage in developing a competency program is to develop a profile for every job description. This will include the following:

    • A full list of tasks or duties that a person must be able to complete in order to perform their job safely and work independently
    • A list of skills needed to complete those tasks
    • The knowledge they must have to understand their tasks
    • The education or training they will need – role specific training, minimum educational requirements, etc.
    • Professional or job experience requirements

Competencies can be divided into those that are critical or non-critical depending on their risk and time sensitivity.

4. Staying up to date

A competency system is only effective if it’s current. Job competency profiles, and the profiles of the people doing those jobs, should be updated annually so that new skills or requirements can be identified. Competency observations, focus inspections and performance evaluations will help play a role in identifying employee skills that are being underused.

5. Recruitment

When competencies are well-defined it makes it easier to identify suitable job candidates and eliminate those who are not qualified.

6. Onboarding

Orientation, role-specific task training and ongoing evaluations should all be part of the competency program to ensure consistency across the organization.

If you would like to know more about implementing a competency system in your own organization, read our blog on the Canadian Pipeline Competency System (CPCS).

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