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Challenges to implementing a competence scheme

In the C&T article in the last edition of Making Waves, we looked at “Why use a Competence Scheme?”. We highlighted the benefits to be gained from having a standardised approach to competence.

In this article, we will highlight some of the challenges IMCA member companies could find while creating and implementing a competence scheme. As we cover each challenge, we will provide some pointers designed to help members address them.

  1. Allocating the right resources to the Scheme.

While it is useful to have a single focal point responsible for the management of a Competence Scheme, it is equally important that companies are clear on responsibilities for everyone involved. These can include the Candidates being assessed, the Assessors and the Internal Verifiers who will check that the Assessors are conducting the assessments fairly. Reference: IMCA C007 Guidance on Assessor Training, IMCA C016 Guidance on Verifier Training.

  1. Creating company specific or adopting existing assessment criteria.

This is an important decision for most companies when developing a Competence Scheme. IMCA Competence Frameworks are in place for Marine, Diving, ROV and Survey positions. This is often the first place that member companies refer to. Companies may add company specific criteria to those contained in the IMCA Frameworks, for example to cover specific equipment or processes. The IMCA Competence and Training Committee encourage companies to feedback to IMCA any areas where the IMCA Frameworks need improvements. Contact: Andre Rose, [email protected]

  1. Balancing between a robust mechanism which will stand up to audits and one which is not overly cumbersome.

This is often intrinsically linked to the previous point. If a company chooses to add a large amount of additional assessment criteria, it is possible that the assessment process can become overly complicated and time consuming. Conversely, if the assessment criteria are over simplified, it is possible that assessments become nothing more than an ineffective “tick box” exercise.

  1. Choosing how to implement the scheme – is paper or electronic best?

Many companies will have historically had paper based Competence Schemes which will have progressed to some kind of electronic process. This may simply involve electronic forms which are emailed to the various parties involved in an assessment. More recently, some IMCA members have introduced systems which allow for assessment evidence to be uploaded and subsequently assessed and verified. Given that many of these systems are cost-effective solutions, the time and resources that they can save make them attractive propositions. It is important to note that systems should not be seen as a “magic sponge” for a Competence Scheme which hasn’t been implemented or communicated correctly.

  1. Communicating the Competence Scheme.

Following on from the previous point, the correct communication of the Competence Scheme is crucial to its success. This should include ensuring that the fundamentals are understood, e.g. what does competence mean to the organisation. This is relevant as members of the IMCA C&T Committee often hear different interpretations of competence assurance such as  training or certification. Reference article one. Another key message which should be communicated is how the Competence Scheme works.

This may sound obvious and while it is typically addressed via Assessor Training and Candidate Inductions, it is equally important that Senior Management not directly involved in the assessment process understand what is involved. Larger IMCA members will be able to call on their internal communications teams, however, even smaller companies can use tools such as branding their competence scheme with a name and logo and regular communications such as newsletters, posters and videos.

  1. Integrating the Competence Scheme with existing processes and systems.

Embedding the Scheme with processes and systems already in place within the company is key. Examples of these can include:

  • Safety processes such as Site Inductions.
  • Quality Management processes such as Document Control, Internal Auditing and Management Reviews.
  • HR systems.
  • Crewing systems and processes.
  1. Establishing a reassessment mechanism.

Lastly, companies should be clear on how often an individual should be assessed and indeed whether a reassessment is different to the initial one. Refer to IMCA Information Note 1234 (IMCA C 09/14) which specifies a validity of no more than 5 years.

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