Competency-based training (CBT)

Nobody would deny the fact that success in terms of the industrial and economic development of a country depends heavily on the performance of the workforce involved in complicated manufacturing, servicing, administrative, and managerial processes. Professionalism of the workforce is largely determined with their educational background and personal motivation, so that smart approaches to education address long-run objectives of the national economy. One of such methods is a competency-based training (CBT), which was implemented in Australia. This method has numerous advantages, but the Australian economic, social, and policy-making context implied various obstacles and controversies on the way of introducing of CBT to the national economy. Hence, the following paper provides anaccount of CBT in Australia in regard to its critical analysis and significance in terms of various aspects of the Australian economy.

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Rationale for Introducing CBT

To start with, an apparent need for reforming the education and professional training in the late 80s and early 90s in Australia should be indicated. A standard-driven, training, education, and assessment of the performance quality were no longer applicable to the industrial and economic environments of the country (Conford, 2000). That can be explained with the evidence of the overall decline in the industrial productivity, economic recession, and general dissatisfaction of the governments with the quality of education and training in relation to a subsequent employment capacity. During the late 90s, especially in the period from 1995 to 1997, a heavy reliance on CBT can be observed. Meanwhile, the old formal system of standardisation was denied on a legal level, whereas a new approach was expected (Conford, 2000). That is why CBT, as a relatively known and simple framework for training and assessing professional skills of workers, was suggested for the implementation on the governmental level.

As a consequence, the Australian National Training Authority initiated a review of the existing standardising policies and practices in order reform them according to the competency-based training framework. The assessment confirmed a credibility of the CBT methodology and its relevance in terms of adverse economic conditions, which required a more active productivity and knowledge-based industrial practices (TAFE, 2014). Conversely, the initial attempt to implement CBT practices on the level of the entire national economics factually failed, even though the governments were generally reluctant to evaluate outcomes of their own initiative (Conford, 2000). Still, a low productivity at the initial stages was eventually observed. In this regard, a large difficulty, but still motivation for the further promotion of CBT were posed in front of the representatives of education. In fact, they expressed a common concern regarding the criteria of assessing their trainees and evaluating their practices applied to competency-based training (TAFE, 2014). The Australian CBT was facing a distinct problem in regard to the unification of CBT practices within each industry, especially in terms of education. Surprisingly, that problem became a central motivator for the further implementation of CBT.

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The competency-based training was also chosen owing to the fact that it was able to address the workplace, production of a better employability, better productivity, and formalising of existing working skills with the educational framework. In general, competency-based training attaches education to the industrial environment (TAFE, 2014). This approach is evidently practical, which is why the Australian government decided to implement it on a large industrial scale. It is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that narrowing a scope of the professional training contributes towards a better comprehension of professional skills by potential employees (TAFE, 2014). As a result, graduates with the empirically-driven knowledge will be able to meet current requirements in regard to the productivity and accountability of performance at the workplace. Likewise, the evaluation of performance on the basis of CBT is also competency-based, so that workers are assessed according to their existing skills rather than meeting specific standards, which are usually detached from production environments.

However, a rationale for the implementation of CBT can be also justified from the perspective of policy-making. The government was searching for methods of avoiding bias in terms of the standardisation of training and professional education, as a traditional testing was reported not to comply with factual conditions of performance within a particular industry (TAFE, 2014). That is why the state-based licensing arrangement was suggested instead of traditional standardisation policies. A considerable change in the methodology of measuring outcomes of professional education was also needed, whereas the Australian professional education was also in a relative decline (TAFE, 2014). Moreover, a drastic amendment of the professional educational scope of practice is impossible without respective changes in the framework. Taking all these points into consideration, the Australian Skills Quality Authority initiated a nation-wide design of the legally accredited training for vocational education and training (TAFE, 2014). The framework was sufficiently comprehensive, so that the qualification of educators and trainers was also reconsidered.

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One more argument in this respect is that the CBT policy-making is capable of the quantification of working skills. This approach enables governments as well as practitioners within industries to provide a sophisticated system of the accountability in regard to the performance at the workplace (TAFE, 2014). Adverse economic conditions were in a strong need for the development of best manufacture, production, and servicing practice, which is why competency-based training was the best solution, especially in terms of the foundation of a new framework for policy-making. As a result, the national system of training packages was introduced. Thus, it meant the alignment of CBT methodologies with the governmentally approved Australian Qualifications Framework (TAFE, 2014). In such a way, competency-based training was implemented on the level of policies and frameworks. In spite of the fact that those aspects were the hardest obstacle, in fact, they motivated the government to take actions and completely deploy CBT practices in environments of the professional education and training.

Eventually, competency-based training is not limited to a particular time frame, so that a student can proceed on a higher level of competency as soon as he or she is eligible for that (TAFE, 2014). A student, who has successfully completed a related test, is able to proceed on the further training of much complicated professional competences. It is hard to argue that narrowing of the educational scope as well as a possibility to advance the professional knowledge motivates many students in terms of focusing on their professional fulfilment. Therefore, national industries and spheres of services can be supplied with new workplace-educated employees within shorter periods. This aspect was also crucial for the Australian economy, and CBT satisfied this requirement to a desired extent. At any rate, CBT had to be implemented owing to substantially crucial issues, but a possibility of the intensive growth of employment was also a determining factor in favour of introducing competency-based training.

Consequently, the rationale for introducing competency-based practices in Australia was based on the following pillars. First of all, there was a need for a better productivity and enhancement of the national economy in relation to the quality of workforce performance and more knowledge-driven approaches to manufacture and servicing. Thus, a need for the deployment of a new methodology for vocational education and training as well as their assessment was also an essential consideration in that regard. The development of a comprehensive policy-making motivated the government for implementation of National Qualifications Framework. Besides, an evident advantage in regard to the intensive support of the national economy with a regular flow of the empirically-conscious workforce played a key role in choosing of CBT.

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Research of the Literature

In regard to the relevant literature on the subject of competency-based training in Australia, it is fair to pay attention to the work written by Clemans and Rushbrook (2011). Their research focuses on the discussion of four main aspects of CBT in Australia: historic context, mapping of CBT enhancement in Australian practical environments, issues related to training and learning, and points of a potential advancement of CBT practice in Australia. The main finding of the work argues that the Australian government can manage to successfully implement a competency-based practice in relation to its primary purposes, while coherent limitations on the learning process are still present (Clemans & Rushbrook, 2011). It is certainly true that since the assurance in the education quality still varies, a particular attention is paid to education of learners.

On a separate note, the significance of the study cannot be denied, because it provides a historic narrative for the implementation of CBT (Clemans & Rushbrook, 2011). In general, a historic perspective can be recognised as an underpinning factor of the CBT rationale. Thus, mapping of competency-based training in the Australian context is also appropriate. Many educators and practitioners expressed their resentment concerning drastic reforms in VET policies, so that presenting CBT advantageous outcomes on a large scale justified its implementation to a global extent (Clemans & Rushbrook, 2011). In addition, the significance of the study can be traced in suggestions of potential ways of the enhancement of CBT in the contemporary economic context of Australia.

It is appropriate to make a general comment on the fact that competency-based training played a significant role in overcoming the economic recession in Australia, despite all the obstacles posed with a choice of a relevant framework and scope of practice for training and assessment of trainees as well as educators. Therefore, competency-based training was successfully implemented in Australia, even though some practitioners demonstrated a certain resistance to a drastic change. This evidence is quite natural, since considerable changes are always perceived with a negative attitude by a particular entity. Furthermore, practitioners and educators had sound reasons for their refusal, as a meaningful methodology and training package were not implemented in time. Consequently, CBT played its vital role in the national economy of Australia and provided a profound expertise for a future policy-making in the sphere of vocational education and training.

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