Often people ask my wife, Bernadette, and me what we do for a living. Our stock answer is that we’re competency-based learning consultants. This triggers some people’s interest to delve deeper into how we got into this business in the first place. There’s a remarkable story behind it, with many converging paths that have taken us to where we are now.
In the 1980s, I was the public affairs manager for a large industrial plant. One of our staff trainers returned from a session at Holland College in Prince Edward Island with a DACUM (Developing a Curriculum) chart of the skills needed for a specific trade at our plant. The DACUM chart is a skills analysis tool that Holland College used as the foundation for curriculum development. Who knew back then that down the road, Bernadette and I would specialize in this field.
When the plant closed, Bernadette and I explored career opportunities in Prince Edward Island. With ten years of experience as a dietitian, Bernadette was hired by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to set up a new dietetic internship program and facilitate the training of students. This was also the island’s first competency-based program for health. Bernadette, with Bill Reese of Holland College, developed learning materials using a DACUM chart of a dietitian’s required skills. Students had hands-on training using the modules, with senior dietitians as mentors. Vocational educators led by Dr. Don Glendenning had earlier developed this revolutionary adult performance-based learning and implemented it at Holland College.
My own exposure to this learning philosophy came about in 1989, when I was appointed Director of Marketing and Special Projects at Holland College. My boss, Larry Coffin, Dr. Glendenning, and other academic professionals had carved a new direction that valued the ability to apply learning over mere acquisition of knowledge. Industry practitioners were interviewed on what skills should be in a vocational curriculum and hired by the college to mentor students. Working with different occupations to determine what people did in their jobs was exciting and challenging. I quickly learned to facilitate sessions with DACUM charts, adapting or revising this method for over 50 programs during my six years at the college.
In the meantime, Bernadette had advanced through a number of positions to be the Director of Human Resource Development for Health and Community Services in Prince Edward Island. She had earned a master’s degree, and I my diploma, in adult education. In 1997, Bernadette decided to start Future Learning Inc., a consultancy firm offering alternative delivery methods for adult learning. I would join her for special projects, specific to skills identification.
By 2000, she had established a solid business. Clearly, learning anchored in competency was taking a hold in industry and the capabilities brought forward from our Holland College experience became very valuable. eLearning was the new technology, an obvious alternative to traditional, in-class learning. However, as complex as novel educational platforms became, learning objectives and content tailored specifically for this medium were needed. Future Learning had the expertise to identify learning outcomes, and from there, it was relatively easy to develop content for eLearning.
As well, industries across Canada were moving to national occupational standards developed from a competency perspective. Our competency-based methodology of engaging industry experts in the process fit the demand like a glove. From that time on Future Learning started to really take flight.
With Bernadette firmly at the helm, I became her full-time business partner as we focused on new projects. Many challenges came our way, including a massive project to retrain all federal employees of Veterans Affairs Canada as they adopted their new charter in 2004-2005. Our staff of four blossomed to over 50 employees and contractors during that six-month period. Other projects entailed developing the foundation for competency-based learning in various sectors such as electricity, mining, bioscience, tourism, food processing and health, among others. Our staff grew as young people eager to break new ground got involved and many subject matter experts shared their knowledge on specific projects.
In January 2011, we rebranded our organization as The Competency Group. This captures in essence our mandate as innovators of competency-based learning to achieve optimum job performance. After 14 years of growth, with the support of its stakeholders, The Competency Group has emerged as a strong leader in this niche.
In a fast-paced, constantly-changing world, continuous learning with effective training is critical for the progress of business and industry. So we’ve boldly stepped forward as a driving force in the transition to a performance-based approach with measurable outcomes. In the beginning, we were fortunate to be in the right field at the right time. Ultimately, we attribute our achievements to building the right team of people who share our vision and core values of hard work, commitment, service, quality and integrity.
Our new name, The Competency Group, reflects our mission. Together, we build workplace skills for great results. And we pursue it with passion.