Competency-based training and its impact on workplace learning in Australia

Allie Clemans, Peter Rushbrook

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Competency Based Training (CBT) is a workplace learning technology that focuses on the assessment of industry specific standardized and observable skill outcomes rather than traditional course inputs or content. In Australia, skills standards are determined nationally by industry stakeholders including peak employer groups and government bureaucrats. The agreed competencies are formally credentialed in stepped qualifications deemed appropriate to determined skills sets, ranging from shop floor operator to skilled technologist. Since the mid-1990s these skill bundles have been gathered together as 'Training Packages'. Qualifications are transferable across enterprises and are recognised in many industry areas not previously covered by traditional apprenticeship arrangements.First, we position CBT historically within the context of its intellectual origins and practice environments. Second, we map the evolution of CBT within the Australian context, including the necessary preconditions for its introduction and the tensions arising between the learning needs of the citizen and the workplace. Third, we present issues related to teaching and learning practice that have emerged through cases of competency-based workplace learning in Australia and highlight aspects of CBT that have been subject to critique for the ways in which they shape workplace learning. Fourth and finally (as our conclusion), we close this chapter by signalling issues that hold potential to enhance competency-based workplace learning.This increased transfer, depth and breadth of national qualifications is considered to offer New Millennium workers more equitable opportunities for horizontal and vertical career movements, including those groups, such as women, migrants and Indigenous Australians, previously considered disadvantaged by previous industry arrangements (Tovey and Lawlor, 2008, pp. 2-51; Goozee, 1993, pp. 116-117).Over the past two decades CBT is considered by some authors as '(a)rguably the linchpin, as well as the most enduring feature, of Australian training reform' (Harris & Hodge, 2009, p. 2), and 'in many respects the foundation of training reform in Australia' (Smith and Keating, 2003, p. 120). We agree with these remarks and seek in our chapter to locate and analyse the importance of CBT as a key signifier of latter twentieth century Vocational Education and Training (VET) transformation. Essential to understanding the apparent ease with which CBT was introduced from the late 1980s is an awareness of the way in which pre-existing forms of workplace and training policy and practice increased the receptiveness of industries and training authorities to the idea. To account for, and assess the place of, CBT in Australian training and workplace practice we have considered four themes within the chapter.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe SAGE handbook of workplace learning
EditorsMargaret Malloch, Len Cairns, Karen Evans, Bridget N. O'Connor
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherSAGE Publications Ltd
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic) 9781446200940
ISBN (Print)9781847875891
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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