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Q: What is a competency?

A: A competency is an ability, skill, proficiency, or expertise.


Q: What is a competency-based approach?

A: A competency-based approach is a system whereby the competencies required to do a task or a job are identified, described and measured. Once the competencies are listed, a competency system allows a person’s competencies (as proven) to be matched with the specific requirements involved.


Q: Why would I want to use a competency-based approach? What are the benefits?

A: Properly done, the use of a competency-based approach provides many benefits. They include, but are not limited to:

• Recruiting and selecting new staff with the actual skills required to be an effective employee
• Identify and plan training required to fill your enterprise’s competency gaps
• Develop an enterprise human resource inventory
• Improve succession
• Develop redundancy of required business competencies to minimize the negative effect of the loss of key personnel

Businesses spend a lot of time choosing, researching, acquiring and installing the right equipment and systems. The same diligence in securing the right people who fit can have a positive effect on profitability. People are often the most important aspect of a business and can make or break a company. Therefore, it is a worthwhile investment just like many others that fall to the bottom line.

Q: Competency-based assessment appears to be time consuming. How can it save time and money?

A: Using a competency-based approach need not be very time consuming. Developing the framework/competency continuum is the most time consuming step, but most SME owners have a solid understanding of their needs and this will shorten the time required for this work. The time that this process takes depends on many factors:

• The complexity of your business
• The size of your business
• How intensive you want the definitions and assessments to be

Most companies do not fully understand the costs of not securing the “right fit” (an employee with the right competencies), the first time. Not doing so can prove very expensive. A bad fit means that you are likely to have to spend money on: exit costs, recruitment, interviews, orientation, training , compensation & benefits while training, lost productivity, and administrative costs. In addition, trainees may result in lost productivity and increased customer dissatisfaction, which can lead to a loss of business volumes. Matching both technical and non-technical skills accurately can prevent turnover and also minimize orientation, training and adjustment time.


Q: One of my main concerns is language facility. How can I be sure that an IEPs language competency be appropriate?

A: If an IEP has reached a short list and is granted one or more interviews, and concerns persist, a good way is a simulated job situation. In addition, the Canadian Language Benchmark web page has self-assessment tests that you can require the applicant brings to interviews or provides with documentation. Caution: verification of who took the tests is difficult because they are online, but formal, monitored in-person tests can also be provided and required.


Q: I have done some research into competency-based approaches. It is quite a vast field. Is the system proposed here part of this overall structure?

A: Yes it is. Using competencies is becoming a sensible, practical and effective way for businesses to gain competitive advantage and become more profitable. If you start with a competency framework, you can expand the application and usage of competency-based approaches and tools within your operations. There are plenty of resources available. Many are listed on this website.


Q: Are competency-based approaches only used for Internationally Educated/Trained Professionals (IEPs)?

A: While this project focuses on IEPs, any of the approaches and tools can be used for all employment and business situations. This does not only apply to IEPs, but it is especially useful, given the labour market issues they face and lack of usefulness of credential comparison systems.

Q: Is there a difference between competencies, core competencies and main competencies?

A: While all are competencies, core competencies are those competencies that define your business and competitive advantage. What is it that your business and staff do that is different from you competition and why does that give you an edge. Of course, the opposite may be true and you may wish to analyze their competency framework to inform your way forward. Main competencies are those competencies that a person must have to do a particular job. Given that job descriptions are giving away to position profiles, it is good that an employee have the main competencies required to do the base job, but it is equally important to determine what other competencies an employee may have that could benefit the success of your business.

Q: Are there resources to help if I want to buy them?

A: Yes. There are many resources available. Be careful that you understand what you are getting. I would try the “do it yourself” process first to identify those areas wherein you may need professional help.

Q: Are regulatory bodies using competency-based approaches for credential recognition?

A: Competency-based approaches are gaining a lot of favour with regulatory bodies. The Ontario College of Nurses, The Association of Ontario Land Surveyors and the Royal Society of Architects, to name a few, are actively involved in using competency assessment in their credentialing process.


Research report

Immigrant Labour Market Integration in York Region and Toronto

Identifying Needs and Opportunities for Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises

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