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An essential element in all education and training programs is the determination of the critical learning objectives. In work-based learning, the necessary next step from learning objectives is to identify competencies. Competencies are specific activities that demonstrate that learning objectives have been mastered. Taken individually, a competency is a cluster of related knowledge, skills, and attitudes that affect a major part of one’s job, that correlate with performance on the job, that can be measured against standards, and that can be improved via training and development. Competency definition considers the special needs and behaviors of specific age or population groups.

Competencies in work-based learning are part of the activities of the work that the student-employee does every day. The identification and development of competencies is a joint effort of the education partner and the employer partners.


Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains

Bloom Taxonomy Slides
Developing WBL Outcomes Final (PowerPoint)
Many Jobs to Careers projects used Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains to help develop their curricula and to associate learning objectives with specific competencies. The cognitive domain, which includes knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, was particularly relevant. These categories were adopted by Oregon’s Rogue Community College (Medford, Oregon) in developing outcomes and competencies in a work-based learning format. This example shows how tasks associated with Bloom’s categories of application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation present the greatest potential for work-based learning.

Converting Traditional Training to Work-based Learning

Austin Exceed Program
In creating work-based learning programs and educational curricula, two Austin, Texas, hospital chains collaborated to develop the competencies, working closely with Austin Community College.

Identifying Competencies

Job analysis tools
Competency Identification for Work-based Learning (PowerPoint)
In Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaJobs to Careers contracted with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey to conduct a job analysis of the work being done by behavioral health workers to identify the critical competencies to include in the work-based learning curriculum.

Core Competencies for Medical Receptionists and Medical Assistants
Jobs to Careers in Hawaii developed a set of graduated competencies for all staff members to tie their ongoing need for professional development in core competencies to the center’s business model for increasing revenues. Through this program, employees learned critical competencies to improve their performance. For each of the competencies, a number of steps demonstrating advancement along a learning continuum were agreed upon by the project partners. 

From Competencies to Curriculum: Building Career Paths for Frontline Workers in Behavioral Health
This report charts the experience of defining competencies for the behavioral health workforce, and its use in developing work-based curriculum and instruction. Competencies play a pivotal role in work-based learning initiatives, and their development is a key step in designing work-based learning training programs.

Technology skills competencies (PowerPoint)
This presentation describes the competencies and curriculum developed for the health care informatics program at Rogue Community College in collaboration with Asante Health System in Medford, Oregon.

A Primer for Work-based Learning: How to Make a Job the Basis for a College Education
The experiences of partnerships of employers and educators in Arizona and Medford, Oregon illustrate how the concept of work-based learning can be applied to enhance frontline health occupations or create new ones. This practice brief describes the process of designing work-based learning in one site, and adapting this process for a very different population and health care setting.

The Jobs to Careers Work-based Learning Worksheet
This worksheet offers a step-by-step process for determining the job compe­tencies to teach, identifying work tasks that can incorporate work-based learning, and developing ways to determine when the employee/student attains the desired competencies. Users can adapt the tool to their own work settings and job requirements.