BC Competency Assessment - Education

Learn about what it takes to submit a great Competency Assessment Record.

1. Best Practices for your APEGBC Competency Report.

Best Practice 1 - Use the APEGBC Online Template

templates image

Everybody that's successful lays a blueprint out.- Kevin Hart, actor
 

2015 became the year when all APEGBC applicants must use its competency-based assessment (CBA) reporting system.

This is handy online tool that allows you to save your work in 33 different indicators.

The templates currently look like this: template for competency write upThis module is just to get  you familiar with the tool and encourage you to use it because:

  • it stores all of your information
  • it counts the words as you type to ensure you won't go over the character limit

 

Your action: Login to your APEGBC account and get familiar with the template. 

Best Practice 2 - Validators (i.e. your References)

references imageThe five steps in teaching an employee new skills are preparation, explanation, showing, observation and supervision.

-Bruce Barton, author

 

The processing of my own P.Eng. application was held up by about 1.5 months due to a former manager who was "too busy" to take a few minutes to help me out.   I ended up asking another co-worker at that company to be my reference and she quickly complied and filled out the form. 

You need to list 4 references (which, are called validators) to account for 4 or more years of your experience.  Do you know who these people are?  There are many things that could prevent them from logging into the APEGBC site, reading the indicators assigned to them and giving you a rating for each one.  My list includes:

  • laziness
  • maternity or paternity leave
  • retirement (no access to company email)
  • extended holidays
  • sick leave

If you can, try you best to find a P.Eng. for each validator.    Once you have a list of names, pick up the phone and give them a call.  A conversation might go like this:

“Hi, John.  Long time no talk!  I hope you and your family are doing well.  How are things at Company XYZ?   Great.  I’m good too.  I’m now at Company ABC doing lots of interesting engineering work.   Now that I have over 4 years of engineering experience, I’m going to apply for my P.Eng. licence with APEGBC. I was wondering if you could kindly be one of my validators to validate my experience?  All you need to do is login to a secure website, read a few of my work write ups and assign a score to each one…. You will?  Thank you.  Can you confirm that you email address and mailing address is still the same?”

Then a couple of weeks after your submit your application and competency report, send a friendly email to your references to remind them that they will receive an email from APEGBC to complete their task.   Ask them to kindly email you once they have done it.   Check online to see who hasn't completed their review and follow up by phone and email.

Your action:  Make a list of potential validators now.  Ask yourself who the top four (or more) should be.  You need enough people to cover at least 4 years of your experience.  Give them a call to ensure they are still answering their phone and are willing to help you out.

Best Practice 3 - WWHO Formula

Key image

Number one, like yourself. Number two, you have to eat healthy. And number three, you've got to squeeze your buns. That's my formula.

-Richard Simmons, Celebrity Fitness Instructor


 

Everyone has a formula for success.   All engineering associations, including APEGBC, really want you to understand this formula more than any other thing in your submission.  

If you get this right, your submission will be looked upon favourably and you’ll dramatically increase your chances of getting a timely approval.   If you DON’T follow this formula, you’ll take much longer to write up your submission and you’ll increase your chances for an interview.

The formula that matters is: WWHO.

Understanding the WWHO formula is the foundation to a successful Competency Assessment Report.  Allow me to explain this acronym.

W - What you did (specific to your engineering background)

W - Why you did it (your reasons and your role)

H - How you did it (your tasks, challenges, methods)

O - Outcome (your contribution and the big end result)

 

Your job is to write 33 indicators that follow WWHO.

 Let's try an example 'situation' written with increasing detail.  Let's put it through the WWHO test. 

Situation W W H O
I verified product performance by designing and conducting tests. y      
I verified the performance of castors by designing and conducting static load testing to determine the product’s load capacity.  y y    
 I verified the performance of medical castors by designing and conducting static load testing to determine the product’s load capacity.  Using a 10 or 75 ton hydraulic press, I exposed the castor to a given weight which was increased every minute until failure or the machine maximum load.  Based on the notes taken at each load, I calculated a maximum load capacity rating for the castor.   y y y  
 I verified the performance of medical castors by designing and conducting static load testing to determine the product’s load capacity.  Using a 10 or 75 ton hydraulic press, I exposed the castor to a given weight which was increased every minute until failure or the machine maximum load.  Based on the notes taken at each load, I calculated a maximum load capacity rating for the castor.   As a result I was able to develop the product specification for the castor and ensure that customers were made aware of the load limitation.  y y y y

Now, the last example is still not detailed enough for an APEGBC indicator.  However, the purpose is to show you that in each indicator you should be able to tell yourself exactly where each WWHO element is.   Typically it looks like this:

  • Situation - overview of the project. 
  • Action - covers the What,  Why and How.
  • Outcome - tell the reader what the Outcome was.  

So there we have it.  You should be able to see how the same situation can be written with more detail to give the reviewer more information.   Now, let's break out that last detailed situation so you can see each piece. 

What -  I verified the performance of medical castors by designing and conducting static load testing;

Why - to determine the product’s load capacity. 

How - Using a 10 or 75 ton hydraulic press, I exposed the castor to a given weight which was increased every minute until failure or the machine maximum load.  Based on the notes taken at each load, I calculated a maximum load capacity rating for the castor.  

Outcome - As a result I was able to develop the product specification for the castor and ensure that customers were made aware of the load limitation. 

 

Most of the aspiring engineers that I work with miss the WWHO formula completely.   It’s as if they didn’t even know about it.  Imagine leaving out any of the WWHO elements - it would make the story of what you did incomplete. 

Tip: If your Action section is short, then you are likely not explaining the 'How' part enough.  Go back to the project details and think deeper about your role and the steps you took to overcome the hurdle. 

Your action: Take what you have written so far and put it through the WWHO test.  Does each indicator cover the What/Why/How/Outcome?  If not, rewrite or add more detail until it is clear to you (and to the reviewer) what you really did.  

Best Practice 4 - English Rules

part from a few simple principles, the sound and rhythm of English prose seem to me matters where both writers and readers should trust not so much to rules as to their ears.

- F. L. Lucas, critic

Acronyms 

If you're using an acronym (e.g. HVAC) you need to write it out the first time you use it.   It may seem obvious to you and probably to the reviewer but you still need to do it.   Don't let there be any confusion in your indicators because of an acronym that was taken the wrong way.   

For instance, let's say that in one of your indicators you say, "The data was exported to a CAM software which was the basis of the milling programming."    Well, is it obvious what CAM refers to?  If we visit Acronymfinder.com and type in CAM we get over 250 results, such as:

  • Camera
  • Computer-Aided Manufacturing
  • Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  • Conditional Access Module (digital TV)
  • Computer-Aided Machining
  • Clear As Mud
  • and the list goes on ...

The point is simple - make it easy for your reviewer by spelling out your acronyms the first time you use them. 

Spelling & Grammar

Roughly 1/3 of aspiring engineers that I work with were not born in Canada, and many did not learn English as a first language.   For the rest of us that are native English speakers, many of us went into engineering (myself included) to avoid taking those darn English classes that forced us to write.  But there are a few things that we can do about this to improve our report so that is sounds somewhat decent:

  • Read it out loud - does it sound correct?  (this works better if you're a native English speaker)
  • Have someone else review your work.  You can visit fiverr.com to hire someone to do a light English review or ask a colleague.
  • Use the spelling and grammar tool.
  • Use proper punctuation

Your action:  Review your indicators for acronyms and have someone else review for spelling and grammar before you submit. 

Best Practice 5 - Technical Focus

bridge image

Men are only as good as their technical development allows them to be.

- George Orwell, author

 

There is a need for APEGBC to ensure that its members are able to design and make decisions that will protect the public.  APEGBC takes on significant risk by licencing individuals, so it wants to be sure that those that can stamp have sufficient training and experience.  Each year, the APEGBC has to discipline a number of its members for a variety of reasons. 

For past and recent discipline hearings visit: 

https://www.apeg.bc.ca/For-Members/Complaints/Disciplinary-Actions

The technical focus is and will be a central requirement for a successful submission.   The ability to apply theory is cricitally important, this is why APEGBC has the most competencies under the Technical Competence section.   It might be challenging to write your competencies under the Technical Competence section, if your primary work is in one of these areas:  

  • teaching
  • sales and marketing
  • military experience
  • project management & supervision
  •  operations & maintenance
  • quality control & quality assurance

If you don't have a lot of technical experience, be sure to read the FAQs later in the eLearning program to learn about your options, but in short they are:

  • Get more design experience.  
  • Transfer companies or to another branch of your company where you can get exposure to design and application of theory.  

Your action:  Review your experience.  If you lack design experience, review the FAQs to learn what you can do to increase your design experience. 

2. Common Mistakes - Review and learn from Common Mistakes

Plagiarized Content

Once in a while I see soon-to-be engineers copy and paste text from an online source.  See below for a real example: 

The plagiarism starts at “In a welded joint . . .”    It was pretty obvious for me to pick-up on this because the writing style changed voice.  We each talk in a voice when we type.  The use of different English grammar elements (e.g. verbs, adjectives, nouns) and the order we use them in makes up our written voice.  If you cut and paste content, it reduces your credibility and can result in your submission being put in the rejection pile. 

Content that is not your own has a few other problems:

  1. It eats into your 1200 character word count for each competency
  2. It is usually used to define concepts that don’t add any value to the reviewer or your report. 

Your action: Does your competency assessment report have any content that someone else has written?  If so, do your best to remove it and write only in your own words from  your unique experience.

"We" instead of "I"

banjo player photoRemember that this submission is about YOU.  Your licence depends on what you know and can do, not your team at work.   

It is natural to use ‘we’ because you are I are taught to work in teams and be collaborative with other professionals.  However, when it comes to writing your competency report, you must focus on your individual contribution.  

Let’s say you have some of your write-up already started.  Can you just find and replace all instances of ‘we’ for ‘I’?  Absolutely not.   You need to re-write the entire sentence (or even paragraph) to focus on your contribution.  Simply replacing the words will mess with the grammar as well as over hype your contributions (unless the reviewers believe that you can accomplish as much as a full team!). 

Your action:  Review your draft competency assessemnt report for the word 'we'.  Ask yourself, can I word this differently to focus on my individual contribution?

Competencies - How to Start Writing Them

Just to recap, when you write your competency, you are explaining in detail how you overcome a problem at work.  You do this through three parts:

Situation (up to 300 characters) + Action (up to 1200 characters) + Outcome (up to 300 characters).

 

How do I know which project I should use for which compency/competencies? 

I have developed a helpful MS Excel Brainstorming sheet to help you get organized.  It looks like this:

brainstorming tool

You can download it in step 5 of the course.

It's pretty simple to use.  Just follow these steps:

  1. download the file (from step 5 in the course)
  2. write out all of your employers and projects you have worked for on the left
  3. write out a brief situation on the right side
  4. look at the comments for each of the 33 competencies to see which projects match which competencies.

A few points:

  • you can have a project written about several competencies.  For instance, if you worked on a year long project where you designed a tunnel you should probably have a competency under section 1. Technical Competence, 2. Communication, 4. Team Effectiveness, and 6. Social, Economic, Environmental and Sustainability.  
  • This is your first step in writing full competencies.  Spend a little time going through this process and it will make it much easier when you login to the APEGBC site and start writing them out in full.
  • How to remember project details - you may have finished a project many years ago and it may be hard to remember all of those details.  You could try to look back at the contract specification, old emails and reply the events in your head.  If that doesn't work, use something more current.  More recent experience is better because it is fresh in your mind and more likely to follow current standards and practices. 
  • Don't feel pressured to use a situation from each employer - there is no requirement to do this.  If it was too long ago, or not very related to engineering work, list the company in your Employment History,  but don't include any competencies about your work there. 

 

Your action:  Download and fill out the MS Excel brainstorming file in Step 5 of my course to align your projects with the different competencies.