SCP Australia assessing competencies

SCP Australia assessing competencies

Short video (8:10) describing the matrix tools used by assessors to determine an applicant’s level of competency for each of the six key competencies required for certification.


My name is Paul Saeki and in this short video I am talking about how competency levels are assessed.
At the heart of SCP Australia certification are the six key competencies and their sub-elements.* (SPACE)
In this video we will only be referring to the competencies and not their sub-elements. Assessors, however, do look for references to competency sub-elements in applicant statements, so addressing as many competency sub-elements as possible is always helpful.
The six key competencies
• The nature, causes and significance of site contamination
• Preliminary site assessment of contamination
• Detailed site assessment involving the characterisation of contamination
• Risk assessment of site contamination
• Remediation and management approaches
• Professional practice relevant to consulting on contaminated site issues.

Each competency statement is assessed by three assessors and given a competency level. To successfully achieve SCP Australia certification applicants will need to demonstrate, through their statements and examples a level 3 or Proficient standard for Competencies 1, 2, 3 and 6, while for competencies 4 and 5, successful applicants need to demonstrate level 2 of Functional. Some calibration is required between assessors within a panel when determining an applicant’s competency level, as different assessors evaluate statements slightly differently and a consensus needs to be met before a final recommendation can be determined.

What do these four competency levels mean?
Assessors utilise an assessment matrix to assist in determining an applicant’s competency level. The matrix itself is a tool used in conjunction with an assessor’s nuanced experience and insight and is not used as a stand-alone deductive calculation instrument.
* SCP Australia recognises that assessing a practitioner’s competency is a difficult process which cannot be reduced to a tabulated formulaic process of checkboxes. This is why it is important to utilised well qualified and senior practitioners as assessors who can recognise skills, knowledge and experience beyond the framework of this matrix.*

Across the top columns are five key capability areas in relation to contaminated sites: Knowledge, Communication, Experience, Application and Awareness. The matrix has four rows, one for each of the levels. The highest level is Level 4 or Advanced, while the lowest is level 1 or Developing.
For example, If an applicant was given a level 1 for a competency, it would mean, the applicant had limited or incorrect knowledge of the competency element, it would also mean, the applicant’s ability to communicate effectively on competency issues is poor, as well as failing to demonstrate relevant experience in relation to the competency, and through their statements or at the interview showed limited or no ability to apply knowledge and experience to achieve objectives. Lastly, a level 1 ranking shows a lack of awareness of limitation to skills and/or limited ability to identify where solutions might be sought to issues.

The most looked for competency levels for certification are level 3, proficient and level 2, Functional. We’ll take a closer look at these.
Level 2, of Functional is required for competency 4 Risk Assessment of site contamination and competency 5, Remediation and management approaches. SCP Australia recognises that both risk assessment and remediation are highly specialised areas, and many practitioners may have some limitations in these areas of practice, hence the lower level required for these two competencies.

At level 2, Applicants need to demonstrate a basic level of knowledge of the competency, and also have the ability to communicate effectively within the limits of their knowledge of these two competencies. In terms of experience at this level, applicant’s may have limited relevant experience, but have the ability to apply knowledge and experience to achieve objectives for simple issues associated with risk assessment of contamination and remediation and management approaches. Also, applicants at this level are aware of their own limitations of skills in these competencies and are able to identify where solutions might be sought to issues.
The next level, level 3 or Proficient is required for competencies, 1, 2,3 and 6. To achieve this level, applicants need to convince assessors they have a sound knowledge of the competency with an ability to communicate effectively at a proficient level, have broad experience across a range of contaminated site issues and demonstrate the ability to apply knowledge and experience to achieve objectives for a range of common contamination issues. Lastly, the applicant needs to be aware of her or his limitations in terms of skills and have the ability to identify where and how to obtain expert advice for complex issues.

While these matrixes provide a good framework for assessors, the process relies on the experience and judgement of senior practitioners to identify and interpreter the nuances of a practitioner’s skills and knowledge both in writing and through the interview where required.
One of the biggest challenges for any certification scheme is trying to implement a standard across a community of practitioners with very broad, diverse and different experiences and skills.
We acknowledge that a one size fits all approach has it’s difficulties- in some cases, we find that experts in particular aspects of site contamination do not meet all the competencies at the level required. However, in order to establish a standard level of competency, across the board, the same benchmark needs to be applied to all applicants regardless of their seniority, technical experience and any references they might have.

This is not to devalue the role of the expert but simply to say that the scheme is pitched at a benchmark whereby the certified practitioner can give competent advice across a necessary range to fully address a contaminated site issue.

Lets look at an example. The minimum required levels across each of the competencies for certification are marked in the blue areas, the results of a prospective applicant across the six competencies are marked in red. In this situation the applicant has demonstrated to the assessors they have advanced levels of knowledge and skills across four of the competencies, denoted a high level of expertise in these areas, but has a weakness in one of the competencies. In such a situation, this applicant would not be recommended for certification. An applicant needs to meet all of the minimum requirements in order to be recommended for certification.

This provides an overview of how assessors apply their reviews focusing on the six key competencies. Feedback about each written statement addressing the competencies and any comments from the interview are shared with the applicant along with their notification of outcomes.
The objective of the SCP Australia scheme is not exclude practitioners, rather to create a benchmark which all practitioners can aspire to in a scheme which is assess by peers of senior practitioners and governed by a mix of stakeholders including consultants, regulators and industry.
More information about the scheme, the assessment process and what is involved in the application, as well as news and reports on assessment processes, applicant experiences and stakeholder perspectives on the SCP Australia website at