The importance of foundation skills and knowledge

The Australian competency-based VET system defines competency as the consistent application of knowledge and skills to the standard of performance required in the workplace. [1]

This definition highlights the importance of skills and knowledge as foundations for effective performance at work.

Two types of foundation skills

The Australian VET system has two types of foundation skills:

  • Foundation skills from the FSK Foundation Skills Training Package
  • Foundation skills for each Unit of Competency

Foundation skills from the FSK Foundation Skills Training Package

The FSK Foundation Skills Training Package describe the skills and knowledge that underpin vocational performance. It provides an opportunity for registered training organisations (RTOs) to select and deliver foundation skills units and qualifications that will enable learners to build the specific foundation skills required to achieve vocational competency. [2]

The following are four units of competency from the FSK Foundation Skills Training Package:

The above examples shows how the FSK units of competency focus on the development of learning, reading, writing, oral communication, and technology skills at a really low level.

Foundation skills for each Unit of Competency

Foundation skills are described or implied within all units of competency in the Australian VET system. These are the focus of this article, covering:

  • A brief history of foundation skills
  • Integration of foundation skills
  • Integration of knowledge
  • Putting it all together

Examples are provided throughout this article. Please prepare yourself for a long but informative read.

A brief history of foundation skills

It has been 30 years since Australia commenced the implementation of the competency-based VET system that operates today (this article was published in 2022). At the very beginning, there was a recognition that skills were needed to perform work tasks, and it wasn’t just about having the technical skills. Non-technical skills, such as communication skills and other generic skills, were recognised as being essential for effectiveness in the workplace.

1992

In 1992, a committee, chaired by Eric Mayer, released a report that identified the generic skills needed for effective participation in future work. Isn’t it interesting that the requirements for ‘future work’ was being considered many decades ago. Both ‘generic skills’ and ‘technical skills’ were seen as necessary for a person to have the capability to perform work tasks. These employment-related generic skills became known as the Mayer Key Competencies.

The seven Mayer Key Competencies were:

  • Collecting, analysing and organising information
  • Communicating ideas and information
  • Planning and organising activities
  • Working with others and in teams
  • Using mathematical ides and techniques
  • Solving problems
  • Using technology

The Mayer Key Competencies were integrated explicitly and systematically with technical competencies. The first Training Packages contained information about how the Mayer Key Competencies related to each Unit of Competency.

There were three key competency levels that related to effective workplace practices:

  • Level 1 where work is within set conditions and process
  • Level 2 where the management or facilitation of conditions or process is exercised
  • Level 3 where the design and/or development of conditions or process is required.

The following is an example of the Mayer Key Competencies for the BSZ407A Deliver training session unit of competency (initially released in 1998).

Many trainers found the Mayer Key Competencies difficult to understand and difficult to integrate when delivering training. A number assigned to each of the seven key competencies lacked information to be useful.

2002

In 2002, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and the Business Council of Australia (BCA) released a publication titled, ‘Employability skills for the future’. This publication presented eight generic competencies as an alternative to Mayer Key Competencies. These became known as the Employability Skills.

The following table compares Mayer Key Competencies with the Employability Skills.

The Employability Skills replaced Mayer Key Competencies in Training Packages. The Employability Skills were described for each qualification and explicitly embedded in units of competency.

Employability skills for a qualification

The following two pages is an example of Employability Skills being described for the TAA40104 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment qualification (initially released in 2004).

Employability skills embedded in units of competency

The following 3 pages is an example of how Employability Skills were explicitly embedded in the TAEDEL402B Facilitate group-based learning unit of competency (initially released in 2004).

In the above the 3 pages, the technical and non-technical skills were given under the heading, ‘Required skills and attribute’. The Employability Skills were embedded, and the information provided context and details.

2012

In 2012, a new Standards for Training Packages were released. This coincided with the release of the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) and the Core Skills for Work Developmental Framework (CSfW).

Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF)

The Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) is a tool which assists both specialist and non-specialist English language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) practitioners describe an individual’s performance in the five core skills of learning, reading, writing, oral communication, and numeracy. [3]

Core Skills for Work Developmental (CSfW)

The Core Skills for Work Developmental Framework describes a set of non-technical skills that underpin successful participation in work. These skills are often referred to as employment or generic skills. [4]

The Cores Skills for Work were developed to replace the Employability Skills. The following table compares the Employability Skills with the Cores Skills for Work.

Foundation skills

The 2012 Standards for Training Packages introduced ‘Foundation skills’. Foundation skills describes employment skills and LLN skills and that are essential to performance of the work task. [4]

The following is an example of the foundation skills described for the TAEDEL401 Plan, organise and deliver group-based learning unit of competency.

In the above example, one reading skills, one writing skill, two oral communication skills, and six employment skills. The Core Skills for Work framework has been used to describe the employment skills. The foundation skills have been described within the context of performing the work task.

Also, this example provides useful mapping information that clearly links each foundation skill with the relevant performance criteria.

Note: Not every Training Package developer has described Foundation Skills in the same way. And some Training Package have limited or no details about Foundation Skills.

2022

It has taken 10 years for Training Packages to implement the ‘new format’ specified by the Standards for Training Packages that were released in 2012. However, there is still a small number of qualifications that are still in the ‘old format’, for example: [5]

  • 14 qualifications in the MEM05 Metal and Engineering Training Package
  • 9 qualifications in the LMT07 Textiles, Clothing and Footwear Training Package

And some qualifications in the CPC08/CPC Construction, Plumbing and Services Training Package may not need to transition to the ‘new format’ version of the qualification until 2024.

Some changes in the Australian VET system are slow. This can create issues because ‘new changes’ commence while ‘old changes’ are still being implemented. And this can lead to confusion and chaos, and people then scream out for more changes. The management of change in the Australian VET system has often been lacking. Also, we should recognise that not all changes lead to improvements.

On the 31th of August 2022, the TAFE Directors Australia (TDA) presented a webinar about ‘general capabilities’. The advertisement for this webinar stated:

General capabilities, often referred to as employability skills are increasingly important. In the process of attaining a tertiary education qualification learners will acquire and demonstrate general capabilities. These general capabilities are fundamental for success as a lifelong learner, and they are demanded by industry as necessary for successful workforce participation. Lifelong learning has become essential as workplaces demand existing workers to continually uplift their skills.

The The Mayer Key Competencies were mentioned at the start of the webinar. Then the webinar proceeded to blurred ‘general capabilities’ with ’employability skills’ and ‘foundation skills’.

The following diagram illustrates the path that the VET system has taken over the pass 30 years. We don’t need yet another thing to replace the existing foundation skills.

I believe that we should embrace ‘Foundation Skills’ as they are, and integrate these skills when delivering training to develop the capability of performing work tasks.

Note: Not every Training Package developer has described Foundation Skills in the same way. And some Training Package have limited or no details about Foundation Skills.

Integration of foundation skills

Integration means identifying when foundation skills are used to perform the work tasks, and then delivering training to develop the required skills immediately prior to, or at the same time as, delivering training that addresses the performance. Here is a 3-step process when designing training that integrates the learning of work tasks and the development of skills to perform those work skills.

Step 1 Number each foundation skill

Foundation Skills are not numbered. The following example for the TAEDEL401 Plan, organise and deliver group-based learning unit of competency illustrates one approach that can be used to give each foundation skill a number.

Step 2 Identify link between performance criteria and required skills

The following matrix is an example for the TAEDEL401 Plan, organise and deliver group-based learning unit of competency. It can be used to visually identify the link between each performance criteria and the foundation skills.

The above matrix can be used to identify the links between performance criteria and foundation skills. For example:

  • It shows that reading , organising, and technology skills are required for the performance specified by Performance Criteria 1.1
  • It shows that reading skills are required for Performance Criteria 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.1, 3.1, and 5.1

Step 3 Determine learning strategy and sequence

After identifying the linkage between performance criteria and foundation skills, we can determine the learning strategy and sequence of delivery.

Integration of knowledge

Integration means identifying when particular knowledge is used to perform the work tasks, and then delivering training to develop the required knowledge immediately prior to, or at the same time as, delivering training that addresses the performance. The Assessment Requirements for each unit of competency specify the required knowledge under the heading ‘Knowledge Evidence’.

Here is a 3-step process when designing training that integrates the learning of work tasks and the learning of knowledge to perform those work skills.

Step 1 Number each Knowledge Evidence item

Knowledge Evidence items are not numbered. The following example for the TAEDEL401 Plan, organise and deliver group-based learning unit of competency illustrates one approach that can be used to give each item of Knowledge Evidence a number.

Step 2 Identify link between performance criteria and required knowledge

The following matrix is an example for the TAEDEL401 Plan, organise and deliver group-based learning unit of competency. It can be used to visually identify the link between each performance criteria and required knowledge.

The above matrix can be used to identify the links between performance criteria and required knowledge. For example, it shows that a knowledge of learning theories and principle (KE1) is required for Performance Criteria 2.2 and 2.3.

Step 3 Determine learning strategy and sequence

After identifying the linkage between performance criteria and required knowledge, we can determine the learning strategy and sequence of delivery.

Putting it all together

A person will need to learn the required knowledge and required skills to develop their capability to perform a work task.

The following matrix is an example for the TAEDEL401 Plan, organise and deliver group-based learning unit of competency. It makes the connection between the required knowledge (Knowledge Evidence), required skills (Foundation Skills), and the performance of the work task (Performance Criteria).

It does take time to unpack and re-assemble the Unit of Competency and Assessment Requirements. However, better and more coherent training can be delivered.

Note: The above matrix can also be used as a diagnostic tool. For example, if a person is have difficulties learning the particular work task, we can determine the likely lack of knowledge or skill that needs to be addressed.

In conclusion

A competent person at work will require knowledge, technical skills, and non-technical skills.

  • Elements and Performance Criteria specify the performance of a particular work task.
  • Knowledge Evidence specify the required knowledge.
  • Foundation Skills specify the required skills.

We need to unpack and re-assemble the information in a Unit of Competency and Assessment Requirements to deliver effective training that integrates knowledge, skills and performance.

References

[1] Standards for RTOs 2015, Glossary

[2] Foundation Skills Training Package Implementation Guide v1.1

[3] https://www.dese.gov.au/skills-information-training-providers/core-skills-work-developmental-framework accessed 31 August 2022

[4] https://www.dese.gov.au/aisc/resources/standards-training-packages-2012 accessed 31 August 2022

[5] training.gov.au (search Training packages)

Do you need help with your TAE studies?

Are you doing the TAE40116 or TAE40122 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, and are you struggling with your studies? Do you want help with your TAE40116 or TAE40122 studies?

Ring Alan Maguire on 0493 065 396 to discuss.

Contact now!

logo otws

Training trainers since 1986

Author: Alan Maguire

35+ years experience as a trainer, instructional designer, quality manager, project manager, program manager, RTO auditor, RTO manager and VET adviser.

One thought on “The importance of foundation skills and knowledge”

  1. Thank you, for article on the foundations skills and how to intergrate them into workplace training

    It is nice to know spme else is using coding throughout the process for matrix mapping and task referencing.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s