Using competence frameworks for CPD

A guide to using competence frameworks for continuing professional development (CPD).

What is competence? 

Competence can be defined as the ability to perform activities to the standards required in employment using an appropriate mix of knowledge, skill and attitude.

To determine whether you are competent you will need to define the knowledge, skills and attitude required for the tasks you undertake in your role. These should include both specific technical aspects and generic skills and behaviours. Together these form the overall competences required for a role and make a framework.

Building competence frameworks can be a complex process and it is best if they are bench marked against similar roles in other organisations or sectors. In many areas, this work has already been done and there are several existing frameworks that you can draw on to provide the basis for your personal competence profile, for example UK-SPEC and SFIA. There are also other sector or role specific frameworks that you can use and many larger organisations create their own.

How do I identify the competences I need?

Where possible, the IET recommend using your employer’s framework if one is available. If not, you can use existing frameworks to make an individual profile that reflects your role.

The IET’s online professional development tool, Career Manager, enables you to build a personalised competence framework for your job role by choosing individual competences from one framework or combining relevant competences from different frameworks to build a profile that suits your needs. The frameworks available in Career Manager include:

  • UK-SPEC (CEng, IEng and EngTech);
  • ICT Tech;
  • SFIA;
  • Control and Automation;
  • Safety Critical Systems; 
  • Software Engineering.

Alternatively, you may choose to create your own competence statements from scratch. This is not a route the IET would recommend unless you work in a role or sector that is very specific and not represented by an existing framework. If you do decide to do this, the IET provides guidance on creating your own competence framework.

How to assess your level of competence

Existing frameworks usually have a formal scale or grading system and guidance on how to assess your level of competence. The frameworks available in the IET’s Career Manager online system all have skill levels and assessment guidance to help you self-assess your level of competence.

If you have created your own competence statements or are using a framework without guidance, assessment will be difficult without some indicators to help you, so you will need to set your own. See our guidance on creating your own competence framework which includes some examples of scales you could use.

When using competences to plan and monitor your CPD, you should re-assess your level of competence regularly, usually once a year. You may find it helpful to share your assessments with a mentor who can provide calibration of your self-assessment and act as a sounding board for ideas about your on-going development. The IET’s Career Manager system allows you to share your assessment with a mentor or manager using online guest ticket functionality.

When sharing your assessment, it will be very helpful to provide context to help anyone else who sees it to understand the circumstances in which you operate. A statement of context might include information about your sector and role, the level of responsibility you hold and any specific technologies or equipment that you use.

Recording your competence

Keeping a record of your assessments will help you show increasing competence over time. If possible, the IET recommend you use an employer’s system or the IET’s online professional development recording tool, Career Manager. In Career Manager you can save up to eight previous assessments to demonstrate your competence development.

It may be useful to map your desired level of competence against your current level to identify the gaps you need to work on and help monitor your development. Career Manager enables you to set objectives for the competences you have assessed against and would like to improve upon and you can also set other CPD objectives that are not specifically linked to competences.