When describing competences, two main aspects are important: Core concept and structured content.
- Core concept: The e-CF describes competences upon the basic definition that competence is the “demonstrated ability to apply knowledge, skills and attitudes to achieve observable results”. This basic definition agreed by an expert group defines competence from a workplace perspective, and it adapts in parallel the learning outcome approach from the European Qualifications Framework (EQF), focusing in the whole at observable behavior and measurable items of competence performance.
- Structured content: Competences in the e-CF are demonstrated abilities. To describe these abilities, it is necessary to find a common language. Typical business/working processes and typical workplace activities are similar all over the world, across all enterprises. So in the e-CF competences are structured from processes – PLAN, BUILD, RUN, ENABLE, MANAGE – and describe typical activities and abilities on different levels.For example: The competence “Problem Management” is described as “Identifies and resolves the root cause of incidents. Takes a proactive approach to the root cause of ICT problems. …” This is further expanded in respect of levels where on level 2 the specification is “Identifies and classifies incident types and service interruptions. Records incidents cataloguing them by symptom and resolution.”; at the higher level 4 it is articulated as “Provides leadership and is accountable for the entire problem management process. (…) Has depth of expertise to anticipate critical component failure and make provision for recovery with minimum downtime. (…)”
For detailed information: Building the e-CF - Methdology documentation, chapters 3+4
The simple answer is both. The e-CF has four dimensions, with dimension 1 and 2 based upon organizational processes and therefore organizational competences. Dimension 3 defines levels of capability and in consequence encompasses the concept of attitude, which is a personal attribute. Level 3 therefore provides a bridge between organizational competence and personal competence. Level four addresses knowledge and skills required of individuals. Therefore across the four dimensions of the e-CF both organizational and individual competences are reflected.
Why is the framework based upon competences? We don’t need competences, we need specific programming language skills such as C++/a Windows Sever 2003 Specialist/an Oracle Certified Professional for Oracle Database 10g. Where are these skills to be found?
Of course, specific skills are necessary for competent work performance, but these skill requirements change very quickly. The e-CF competences are more generic and cover a wide range of different skills.
For example, a database developer is not only identified as a “Certified Professional” in a current database product but as an ICT Professional in the overall field with the competences B.1.”Design and Development”, B.3.”Testing” and C.4.”Problem Management” at level 3. In the e-CF format, requirements and activities of the database developer are comprehensively described and from a product-independent point of view. Of course it is possible, and can be very useful, to add specific skills to each competence. Some examples are given in Dimension 4 of the e-CF.
For detailed information:
- User Guidelines for the application of the e-CF 3.0, chapter 2
The e-CF was developed from an employer’s perspective by adding value to workplace competence articulation. The origins of the e-CF are grounded in a workplace environment and reflect workplace processes and organizational structures. Organizations seek simplification of structures and in recent years have commonly reduced career structures to the minimum. Five levels were identified that adequately covered the span of ICT professional activities and reflected competences within ICT professional roles.
While the EQF levels 1 and 2 were not considered as they were lower than any ICT professional activity, level 4 and 5 were merged into one as in work practice this differentiation is not relevant. The EQF is a qualification structure that reflects a broader population including pre work students and therefore contains more levels.
To enable a simple reference between the five levels of the e-CF and the eight levels of the EQF a matrix has been provided and can be viewed e.g. here.
Soft skills are embedded in all dimensions and can be extracted as illustrated by the following examples:
*Dimension 4 - The following are examples of soft skills applied within the e-CF 2.0:
- E.5. S2 propose process changes to facilitate and rationalise improvements
- D.8. S1 foster positive relationships with suppliers and customers
- C.2. S1 share functional and technical specifications with ICT teams in charge of the maintenance and evolution of ICT solutions
- B.4. S4 identify and engage expertise needed to solve interoperability problems
- A.5. S4 assist in communication of the enterprise architecture and standards, principles and objectives to the application teams
The soft skill descriptions contain verbs expressing cognitive (e.g. identify / solve), relational (e.g share / assist), behavioral (propose / foster/ engage), factors of the reference competences.
The verbs exemplified above can be detected from competence descriptions by exploring e-CF dimension 2 and e-CF dimension 3, related to proficiency levels.
- A.3. Business Plan Development – Addresses the design and structure of a business or product plan including the identification of alternative approaches as well as return on investment propositions. Considers the possible and applicable sourcing models. Presents cost benefit analysis and reasoned arguments in support of the selected strategy. Ensures compliance with business and technology strategies. Communicates and sells business plan to relevant stakeholders and addresses political, financial, and organisational interests, including SWOT analysis.
Examples of related soft skills: Attention to details, Communication/ Persuasion, Reasoning, Organisational awareness, Planning and evaluating, Political savvy
C3. User Support, Level 1 – Routinely interacts with users, applies ICT-product, basic knowledge and skill to respond to user requests. Solves simple incidents, following prescribed procedures.
Examples of related soft skills: Interpersonal skills (e.g. listening, speaking, involving, etc.), Problem solving
Within the construction of competence descriptors of the e-CF, attitudes are the glue that binds together skills and knowledge. It is conceivable that in the work place both knowledge and skills are present yet the fulfillment of tasks and processes is incomplete. The missing component here is appropriate behavior, being a reflection of attitude; without this, task fulfillment cannot be reliably predicted. Within individuals, their capability to complete work activities on time and within cost parameters, is influenced by their knowledge, skill and attitude towards the task. Hence attitude is a key component of competence.
Is there a relationship between competences and job profiles/ professions? If yes, how is this relationship established?
Traditional job profiles and the e-CF have been constructed from different perspectives and have contrasting benefits and limitations. Nevertheless relationships between profiles/ professions/ job specifications on the one hand and e-CF Competences on the other can be established for various purposes.
Starting from existing profiles a mapping activity is required; for example, all German ICT Professional Profiles (VET and AITTS) and the French CIGREF job profiles have been specified by e-Competences. In addition a recent CEN ICT Skills Workshop initiative has established a set of European ICT Professional Profiles that are founded upon the e-CF.
For detailed information:
- Die deutschen IT Aus- und Weiterbildungsberufe im europäischen e-CF
- CIGREF Nomenclature in French and English
- European ICT Professional Profiles
Competences are holistic mixes of soft and technical dimensions. If the descriptions were more detailed, there is a risk that the complexity and the essence of the competences would be lost.
Furthermore, high granularity makes descriptions too detailed and less useable in the broad range of applications that competences are designed to satisfy, from company strategic requirements such as job profiles and career paths development, to operational needs such as training or recruitment plans, etc.
No, competences and skills are not the same. According to the definition of competence in the e-CF user guide, a “competence is a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge, skills and attitudes for achieving observable results”. Hence, a competence is not a skill; on the contrary, a competence embeds skills.
Whilst competences are holistic concepts, skills are precise and definite abilities, either hard technical, e.g. make cost/ benefit analysis, develop user interfaces; or soft, e.g. deploy empathy to customer needs, negotiate contract terms and conditions.