Using Competency Models and Performance Based Objectives to Build Strong RTI Programs

As federal investments in apprenticeship continue to grow, recipients of U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (ETA) grants are leveraging lessons learned from one grant to the next. One such grantee, funded by the American Apprenticeship Initiative (AAI), is the Advance Michigan Center for Apprenticeship Innovation (AMCAI).  Led by Southeast Michigan Community Alliance and Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan, AMCAI is comprised of six Southeast Michigan community colleges, including Henry Ford College.

To build curriculum responsive to business needs, Henry Ford College used the tools and resources of the Competency Model Clearinghouse to develop Performance-Based Objectives (PBOs) for a variety of advanced manufacturing occupations. PBOs are competency-based models that include the skills a student should demonstrate to confirm his/her competence in a course of study, and describe what an apprentice’s expected competency or knowledge must be, the tasks he/she must perform, the conditions under which he/she must perform them, and the criteria for success when evaluating the apprentice. Henry Ford College and other AMCAI grantee colleges continued to use Competency Model Clearinghouse resources in developing PBOs for their targeted occupations to achieve the goal of expanding apprenticeship opportunities throughout Michigan.

The use of competency-based PBOs improves collaboration and communication among the key workforce development stakeholders. Educators and industry partners can develop customized checklists to assess apprentices’ skills in the classroom or at the worksite. Employers can identify which skills they need, and how these needs change over time. Education and training providers can leverage a standard, industry-recognized set of PBOs as a resource in aligning, improving, and creating curriculum. Educators and employers can improve their partnership by using PBOs as a communication tool.

Although many participating employers still used time-based apprenticeship models, AMCAI grantee colleges also used PBOs, their customized version of the competencies delineated in ETA’s Advanced Manufacturing Competency Model to capture the skills apprentices need to have when they complete the program and to establish standards with apprenticeship employers. These standards have two key components:  Work Processes (what work is learned and practiced on the job) and Related Technical Instruction (the classroom training provided by educational institutions). Using a checklist of the PBOs that apprentices need to know to be successful, college representatives confer with employers to customize the curriculum they will provide. To view a sample PBO checklist for individuals apprentices who will be working in hydraulics occupations, click here:  

In addition to facilitating the goal of expanding apprenticeship opportunities in the state, the AMCAI initiative has also resulted in several improvements in the apprenticeship experience.  These include reaching out to underserved populations and accelerating the process for employers to establish registered apprenticeships.

To learn more about the Competency Model Clearinghouse, visit to find videos, tutorials, tools, and resources to help get your organization started using competency models.