The global skills and competency framework for the digital world

#1308 Definition of Competency in context of Skills change request accepted

SFIA needs to clearly define what competency is.

SFIA uses the word competency in several of the learning related skills areas. I think it would be helpful to draw a clear distinction between competency and skills as the two words have become somewhat conflated. This clarification would be useful across all of SFIA.

My view is that competency is the combination of knowledge, skills (cognitive and psychomotor) and behaviours that a person must consistently apply in the performance of their role.

Skills are part of competency, they are not synonymous with it.

Proposed change applies to Competency assessment

Current status of this request: accepted

What we decided

SFIA reference material to clarify the distinctions. One of SFIA's design principles is that the SFIA framework supports organisations/people to develop and manage their people without needed a detailed definition of skills, competencies.

Individual SFIA skills such as Competency assessment LEDA were reviewed to ensure they are aligned. 

Matthew Burrows
Jul 14, 2020 01:52 PM

This is also a general point which needs to be thought about outside of the Competency assessment skill description, as we also talk about SFIA being a skills and competencies framework but with no clear definition of these terms. An alignment with relevant ISO standards seems a sensible approach - most notably ISO/IEC 17024:2012 the international standard for “Conformity assessment — General requirements for bodies operating certification of persons”, and ISO/IEC 24773-1:2019 the international standard for “Software and systems engineering — Certification of software and systems engineering professionals”. This also ties in with guidance on the use of SFIA in assessment and certification, and the SFIA Foundation accreditation scheme.

From ISO/IEC 24773-1 (based on the definitions in ISO/IEC 17024)
'competence - ability to apply knowledge and skills to achieve intended results
Note 1 to entry: Results are defined with respect to tasks, functions or responsibilities which in turn are job/role/title-related.
Note 2 to entry: The word competency and competencies can be used as synonyms of competence and competences. Competence can be used to refer to general ability (e.g. overall competence), while competency can be used to refer to a specific ability (e.g. competency in design of user interfaces). The word competence is used in this document to refer to a general ability; and the word competency is used in this document to refer to a specific ability.'

A skill is in general the ability to apply knowledge to perform a simple operation. A skill may be acquired in many ways, for example, taught at an educational institution or a seminar. In systems and software engineering, some knowledge is required to demonstrate a skill.
The performance level (or skill level) for a given skill indicates how well that skill is performed or demonstrated.

Competency is demonstrated by applying the relevant knowledge and skills, and having significant professional experience of performing the activities in a professional working environment through the performance of a job, role or function. Experience in a professional working environment represents the difference between a demonstrated Skill and demonstrated Competency.

As SFIA has experience at the heart, it is a competency framework. It also describes the skills, so is recognised as a skills framework. SFIA does not provide a body of knowledge for all the skills it defines, but knowledge and relevant elements of recognised bodies of knowledge can be mapped to individual SFIA skills and responsibility attributes.