November 22, 2016

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Occupational Competency Standards Based Training

Kyaw Win (Labour) 

In the working age population of Myanmar, there are many youths with educational attainments of just under middle school level who are no more attending schools. Many of them are working either in the traditional agriculture sector or are engaged in unskilled labour in the industrial or service sectors. Many more are either seeking employment within the country or going abroad to work because they hope to get better paid jobs and earn more money to support their families at home.
With the withdrawal of ‘Sanctions’ by EU and recently by USA, enactment of the new and better Myanmar Investment Law by the present Government, the efforts by the esteemed State Counsellor for the establishment of friendly relations with all countries, interest by foreign entrepreneurs to invest in Myanmar, there will surely be increasing investment in Myanmar by both foreign and National investors in the near future. The result will be that the very jobs the young people go abroad to fill, will soon be available within the country, with wages hopefully higher than at present. Occupational skills training of such youth would help them to find jobs that are better paid and more secure than casual unskilled jobs.
Most of such youths however don’t have the minimum required educational qualifications, or the time and means to attend the regular courses at the public vocational training schools for acquiring occupational skills. Hence short term intensive occupational skills training courses targeted at youths of low educational attainment are needed to enable them to acquire practical skills for employment in the newly emerging mechanized agriculture sector, industry or services sectors in the expanding economy of the country.
Such training courses to be effective could be conducted, based on Occupational Competency Standards which are advocated by the Employment and Skills Development Law (2013). The standards for training sub-professional skilled workers have been set at four levels by the National Skills Standards Authority of the ESD Law. These levels reflect the levels of competencies of skilled workers adopted by most ASEAN countries. The level descriptors are as follows:-
Level 1. (Semi skilled)
• Demonstrate basic knowledge by recall in a narrow range of area
• Perform basic or preparatory practical skills in a defined range of tasks
• Carry out routine tasks given clear direction
• Demonstrate understanding of safety requirements
• Receive and pass on information related to the work
• Access and record information related to the work
• Take limited responsibility for output of self
Level 2 (Skilled)
• Demonstrate basic operational knowledge in a moderate range of area
• Perform practical skills in a range of varied tasks
• Demonstrate a prescribed range of functions involving known routines and procedures
• Perform tasks that involve some complex or non routine activities autonomously or in collaboration with others as part of a group of team
• Receive and pass on information related to the work
• Access and record information related to the work
• Take some responsibility for the quality of outputs
Level 3 (Advanced skilled)
• Demonstrate some relevant theoretical knowledge
• Apply a range of well developed skills
• Apply known solutions to a variety of predictable problems
• Perform tasks that require a range of well-developed skills with some judgment as required
• Interpret available information
• Take responsibility for own outputs
• Take limited responsibility for the work of others
Level 4 (Supervisor/ Technician)
• Demonstrate understanding of a broad knowledge base, and apply some theoretical concepts
• Apply solutions to a defined range of unpredictable problems
• Identify and apply skills and knowledge to a wide variety of contexts
• Identify, analyze and evaluate information from various sources
• Understand and take responsibility for quality, safety and environmental issues
• Supervise the work of others
• Take limited responsibility for the quantity and quality of the outputs of others
Occupational Competency Standards set at the above four levels are designed to form a carreer path which builds up skills and knowledge at a pace determined by the worker himself/herself. A job seeker may complete Level 1 and enter employment as a semi-skilled worker in an occupation. After acquiring the Level 1 Competency Certificate the worker may, through on the job experience, and off the job training for level 2, in the form of short courses, acquire the skills and knowledge required for Certification at Level 2 and so on up the career path. The worker need not feel trapped at one level without hope of higher level jobs. At level 4, there will be bridging courses and opportunities to pursue education and training up to the levels of Associate Professionals (Technicians) or Professionals. Short courses based on Occupational Competency Standards have to meet the learning outcomes commensurate with the standards, be it related to skills, knowledge or attitudes.
The Occupational Competency Standards are divided into areas of performance that are referred to as ‘Competency Units’. Ideally each CU is complete in itself and can be learned and assessed at the learners own pace. For example the Occupational Competency Standards of say, Bricklayer Level 1 would comprise of the following ‘ Competency Units’:-
1. Perform basic measurements
2. Use worksite tools
3. Apply basic leveling procedures
4. Mix specific type of mortar to be used
5. Lay bricks and blocks
6. Follow safety and health procedures
7. Practice house keeping
8. Receive and respond to workplace communication
The CUs are again subdivided into ‘elements’ which are essentially ‘tasks’ with each ‘element’ having one or more ‘performance criteria’ which have to be met by the learner for performance to required standards. The Competency Units have a third component expressed as ‘Range Statement’ which enables contextualizing the tools and materials requirements to the concerned level as well as defining the range or extent of coverage of the Occupational Competency Standard. A fourth component of the CU is the ‘Evidence Guide ‘ which helps in the collection of ‘evidences’ to assess if the learner is ‘Competent’ or ‘Not yet Competent’. Under the ‘Evidence Guide’ are the ‘Underpinning Knowledge’ and ‘Underpinning Skills’ requirements to assess competency.
The knowledge requirements expressed as ‘Underpinning Knowledge’ is confined to the basic and factual knowledge required for adequate performance at the required level. For example at level 1 which is the lowest level, the learner needs to be imparted the specific knowledge which will enable him or her to be able to perform the task or job to required standard.
As is mentioned in the level 1 descriptor, the worker has to work according to instruction given. Hence the level 1 learner need not be too burdened at this stage with theories and principles related to the occupation. That will gradually be introduced as the worker moves up the levels, with as much theoretical and conceptual knowledge as would be required, gradually from level 2 upwards.
In training persons in accordance with Occupational Competency Standards, the method of instruction need to be such that the learning outcomes regarding the skills, knowledge and attitudes are preferably ‘meshed’ together. In other words it would be best to impart the knowledge component closely linked to the skills and attitude component. Hence the ‘underpinning knowledge’, which is essentially ‘knowledge required to support the performance’, would preferably be imparted by the instructor during demonstration in the ‘training location /resource room’ instead of in a class room situation as is the case in many traditional vocational training schools.
Demonstration of the task by the instructor is needed prior to practice by the trainee to help the learner to know and understand the procedure and the steps for task performance. It seems that some schools /centres consider ‘demonstration’ by the instructor as being ‘lettwe’ in the Burmese language. In fact the word ‘lettwe’ means repeated ‘hands on’ practice by the trainee. In practical training, the tasks have to be performed repeatedly by the trainee, under supervision of the instructor, until the skilled performance becomes a ‘natural behaviour’ so to speak, of the trainee. It’s the only way one can actually acquire the ‘practical skills’ required for competent performance.
This means that a Competency Based Training Instructor is required to be able to demonstrate the skills himself/herself as well as guide and provide the trainee with appropriate feedback throughout the ‘hands on’ learning process. Hence, the Instructor, to perform adequately, has to be himself/herself skilled in the occupation and to be trained in Instruction Methodology relating to CBT. The instructor needs also to be well versed in interpreting the Occupational Competency Standards of the Occupation for which he/she is an Instructor and develop curriculum and design training materials at the various levels of training in line with the Occupational Competency Standards.
As such systematic training of Competency Based Training Instructors is required before CBT can be effectively implemented. Having said that it’s highly likely that Donor agencies providing technical assistance regarding CBT to Government Organizations concerned are already providing such training with help of international experts assigned to the specific projects.
In this regard it would be helpful if Competency Based Instructor Training Courses are also organized, under a relevant project of the National Skills Standards Authority for Instructors of Enterprise Based Training such as Apprenticeship and In-house Training as well as Instructors of Private Training Centres contemplating switching over to CBT.

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