How long does competence last ?

When recently asked why Higher Safety have no expiry date on training certificates, my answer was “how long does competence last ?”

Most competence certification has a five year “life,” however this misses one key component of competence … experience. Someone who uses their training knowledge immediately, and stays working with the subject matter, grows in knowledge, skill and expertise. Their competence develops with time, and they become more competent.

Another, who attends a course and passes the test of understanding but never uses their knowledge, will quickly forget most of what they learnt. Their competence diminishes with time and they become increasingly incompetent.

Regular subject updates are required, as are points of reference for “reminders” and communication of any changes within the subject matter. These form part of the CPD required to stay on top of any subject, and must be the responsibility of the delegate. Equally, the extent of change within a given subject has a bearing. Significant product development, or Regulatory activity, will require greater attention than a static subject  with little innovation.

How long should a certificate last ? .. it all depends, but I suggest that operatives using and developing skills regularly in an area of limited product development could stay competent for 4 or even 5 years ….. but managers looking across a wide range of work at height solutions types within which there is regularly significant development should perhaps look for refresher training between 3 and 4 years after initial certification.

What do you think ?


One Response to How long does competence last ?

  1. Karl Wiggins 15/09/2014 at 08:44 #

    I agree. Most manager training has been developed so we can ‘walk the talk,’ so we understand and comprehend what’s going on. The IPAF Mewps for Managers course is a classic example. A very useful workshop – and one I believe should be attended by every manager involved with MEWPs – but not one that will stay in your mind for five years while 1001 other issues draw your attention.

    Competence is indeed subjective, if not illusory.

    For instance, how competent a driver am I? I think I’m pretty good. I drive a fair amount and once drove 500,000 miles across America over a five year period without a scratch. But how competent was I at 17 when I first passed my test? And more to the point, how competent will I be at 70, or 80, when my eyesight’s fading and my reaction aren’t what they once were?

    Even more importantly how competent would I be if I had other things on my mind; family issues, money worries, arguments, frustrations, joys, etc.? How competent is the most experienced tradesman if he’s pre-occupied?

    Competence is indeed illusory, and supervisors would do well to bear this in mind.

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