How Competency Frameworks and Apprenticeships work hand-in-hand to support Staff Development

‘Skills shortage’ and ‘skills gap’ are common phrases in the media these days.  Businesses very often say that they do not have the skills necessary to improve their performance.  However, they often will not be entirely certain about what they actually need.

A competency framework is a model that defines excellence within an organisation.  It does this not with nominalisations or abstract nouns but with a clear understanding of exactly what knowledge, skills and behaviours the business is looking for within each role and how this is defined and measured.  Done properly, this gives a crystal-clear picture of ‘what good looks like’ at every level of the organisation.

Once the business understands this, it can start doing the fun stuff such as planning how to get there by recruiting new staff or upskilling existing teams.

Whilst competency frameworks serve to create standardised expectations of behaviours within a business, the challenge then becomes finding or developing a training programme that meets or exceeds these criteria.  This is where apprenticeships can help.  Apprenticeship programmes can be a cost-effective way of building capability within a business by developing individuals to nationally recognised standards at various different qualification levels.  As these standards are already published across a huge variety of roles and specialisms, mapping them across to a business’ own desired competencies has never been easier.

Let’s take one of our specialisms: leadership and management development.

Working with businesses of different sizes and at different stages of maturity, our starting point for a leadership and management development programme can vary.

Where we start to work with a more mature business where a competency framework has already been developed, we look to ensure that it informs the construct of any apprenticeship programme, as well as looking for any key similarities or crossovers between the business’ requirement and the apprenticeship curriculum. Whilst all apprenticeship programmes have a curriculum, we can create emphasis around the core competencies that the business is looking to develop within their organisation.

In this case, their competency framework can be used to validate and justify the undertaking of an apprenticeship programme.

But there is a symbiotic relationship between apprenticeships and competency frameworks.

For a younger, less mature business, an apprenticeship programme might be their starting point. We would then work with that business to help develop their competency framework to aid their ongoing staff development and appraisal process.

In summary, there’s an iterative process; performing and defining what good performance looks like and then developing staff performance through training.

Dependent on the size and maturity of the client, we could join that loop at any point.

Importantly, businesses are waking up to the fact that setting expectations is of prime importance.

After all, how do you expect people to do things if you aren’t clear about what those expectations are?

To discuss further how we could help your business, please contact Frances Ball (

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