Organizational and Methodological Foundations of Building Vocational Competencies

Posted on:Dec 14,2017


Instability and uncertainty of the business environment, fluctuations in the volumes of freight and passenger transportations, as well as ongoing structural changes within Russian Railways, JSC require that the scientifically based approaches should be developed to ensure the effective management of staff expertise.

The competency-based approach to human resources management is considered to be the most promising one at the present stage of economic development and human resource management. A sustainable competitive advantage can be obtained due to the transition from managing functional subsystems and individual business processes to the management style on the basis of competency-based approach.

Keywords: competency, expertise, competency-based approach, foreign experience, staff training, education, transportation company

One of the main issues at the present stage of market economy innovation development is related to strengthening cooperation between science and industry. The economic system puts forward new requirements to the content of the level of competencies to be possessed by specialists entering the world economic space. This is directly related to the need to modernize higher education and to find the relevant mechanism for staff training and transition to a new level of cooperation between enterprises and educational institutions.

The modernization process makes clear the fact that changes in the education system form a basis for the future economic and social development of Russia. In particular, the modernization process implies the following development areas in the sphere of vocational training: creation of an effective system of supplementary vocational training; certification of syllabi in the sphere of management and economics; establishment of closer links between educational institutions and commercial enterprises; more active involvement of employers and other social partners in the educational processes; and strengthening of the research base for higher educational institutions.

The experience of European countries, and Germany in particular, shows how much importance the EEC gives to the development of science. The budget of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) will increase by 1.2 billion Euros in 2016, amounting to 15.3 billion Euros [1]. This accounts for three percent of the total federal budget. By 2017, the budget will increase by 25 percent more. This means that the federal government will invest more than 17 billion Euros in education and research. It should be noted that 12 years ago the volume of such investments amounted to 7 billion Euros.

The budgeted expenditures for education and research is «an expression of modern holistic innovation policy, and thus, we have a chance to win the future», taking into account changes in the emerging markets, says Johanna Wanka, the Federal Minister for Education and Research. It is assumed that the «knowledge transfer» should be maximized and widely distributed for the benefit of economy and society [1].

Analysing foreign experience of European countries, it can be concluded that the scientific and professional community of OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) interprets «competency» (skill, competence) as a bundle of knowledge, attributes and capacities that enables an individual to successfully and consistently perform an activity or task, whether broadly or narrowly conceived, and can be built upon and extended through learning [2]. In Europe, an understanding of the need to develop a list of prospective competencies to be possessed by employees appeared in the early 2000s. In recent years, the cooperation between government and employers in the sphere of education and training in Europe began to play a crucial role in shaping its future. [3]

The interaction of three interested parties – state, employers, and system of education – is an integral part of any system of developing vocational education and training (Vocational Education and Training, VET). The degree of the employers’ involvement in the functioning of the vocational education and training system in OECD countries is high enough. The employers’ participation is based on the mechanisms that are embedded into the system of education, which enables the coordination of interests of all participants of the process. It is important that the employers are either collectively or individually involved in the process of defining, implementing, and evaluating a list of competencies that are in demand in the labour market. In this regard, many OECD countries have developed national strategies for the development of competencies and are now at various stages of implementing those strategies. In 2011, the OECD prepared a «OECD Skills Strategy» Synthesis Report, which gives certain recommendations to the member countries [4].

Promising social and economic trends and emerging technologies bring about significant transformations in the sphere of labour market needs for certain specialists. The labour market requires that the employees should possess professional and applied knowledge, competencies, mobility, skills in mastering new technologies, ability to know the information flows, ability for self-learning, and ability to search and to make use of information and other resources. The main university majors are focused on building a competency-based model of training, aimed at leading the needs of business community and state in general, and the needs of railway transport industry in particular. The existing challenges of resourcing the enterprises are shifting to the sphere of human resources, although not yet perceptibly, but quite consciously already. In this context, the enterprises of real sector of economy are interested in finding an effective model of interaction with the higher education system.

The selected forms of interaction among the enterprises of the real sector of economy should be established according to three directions (see Figure 1):

  • training specialists on the basis of the developed competencies set out in the employer’s orders (professional standard);
  • development of innovative applied research with the account of specific orders for R&D, Research and Advanced Development, and Development Works;
  • building a system of built-in graduates’ training at all stages of their future career.

Figure 1 – Scheme on the interaction between industry enterprises and university

Railway transport industry in Russia is a giant economic sector, on which the country’s economy depends. The process of reforming this industry is also aimed at solving one of the major issue related to human resources policy.

Monographs written by scholars in the field of training personnel for the railway transport industry – V.L. Nesterov, S.V. Rachek, E.V. Revina, L.V. Gashkova and others – identify directions for staffing a strategy for sustainable development of the federal railway transport in the context of its reform. Issues related to theoretical and methodological and organizational foundations of staffing the industry were discussed.

The authors in their works set out the reasons for the reduction of the quality of staff. They include:

  • transfer of a number of issues related to selection, placement, and planning of staff training directly to the railways;
  • decline in the volume of transportations, difficult financial and economic situation in the industry, forced measures to reduce operating personnel, ill-considered measures of strict limitations for hiring new employees (which affected staffing and structure of staff and contributed to the decline in the coming of young people);
  • cancellation of planned distribution of graduates of vocational educational institutions of the industry (which led to the fact that the share of graduates allocated to railway companies reduced to 40-50%);
  • abandonment of the central accountability on personnel statistics (resulted in the loss in the efficiency of monitoring the state of working with staff at various levels of management);
  • weakening of the vocational training level of general professions;
  • existing remuneration scheme, which is not fully related to the performance of staff;
  • quality of HR managers of the industry, which does not meet the requirements (65 percent of them do not have basic education in the railway sphere);
  • financing of staff training provided by the industry enterprises, which does not meet the needs of the industry;
  • virtual absence of research funding in HR policy (0.12 percent of funds allocated to science).

Consequently, the mechanism of HR policy implementation weakened. Moreover, the enterprises’ requests for university and technical school graduates declined unreasonably.

High responsibility of the industry to the state requires that modern approaches should be developed to build the capacity of the workforce, which would be able to solve complex problems.

The systematic comprehension of this issue can be achieved through a clear understanding of what kind of employee the industry enterprises need, and what should be the principles of selecting the curriculum content.

Thus, specifying the scheme in Figure 1, we can assume that the process of interaction between industry and a higher education institution in training, retraining and raising the level of vocational competencies of employees is the following (see Fig. 2).

Figure 2 – Interaction process between an enterprise and a university

In his works V.L. Nesterov determines the necessity to consider the peculiarities of both the railway industry and the specific job of would-be specialists. Accordingly, the specific requirements to the quality of training are the following:

  • good knowledge of the peculiarities of railway transport and technological processes in various industries;
  • compliance with the requirements for professional selection (individual qualities of a person, which meet a psychological model, interests, aptitudes, professional orientation, personal traits, etc.);
  • compliance with the requirements of vocational and qualification features of different jobs;
  • high level of motivation and mobility for retraining and advanced training (new positions in the staffing table, job placement after removing “old” positions from the staffing table, etc.);
  • ability to single out a certain issue;
  • ability to correctly sort out social and production priorities.

Thus, it can be seen that there is no complete integration in collaboration of industry enterprises and higher education institutions, and there is a discrepancy between training and retraining of specialists with the required list of competencies that are appropriate for their positions.

Cooperation with universities, with the leading Russian educational institutions and other educational institutions established in the transport industry allowed to create a system of training, retraining and advanced training of staff aimed at their development.

The main objective of the system of vocational t­raining of staff of all levels existing in the railway industry is, the one hand, to f­ill in the missing staff by training new specialists and re­training those that already have a certain profession or job, and on the other hand, to enhance the professionalism of employees of all levels – from top managers of transportation companies up to the staff of general professions.

One of the main directions in vocational training of transportation industry workers is to consider the establishment of a complex four-level system of continuous vocational training of staff (see Fig. 3).

Figure 3 – Model of continuous vocational training of staff

The main factor in building the necessary competencies is a balanced education and vocational training policy. The government together with employers and educational institutions should continue developing and enhancing professional standards, and requirements to professions and positions, and should further synchronize them with the federal educational standards.

L.V. Gashkova
Candidate of Economic Sciences, Associate Professor of the Academic Department of International Economics and Logistics, Ural State University of Railway Transport

S. V. Rachek
Doctor of Economic Sciences, Professor of the Academic Department of Transport Economy, Ural State University of Railway Transport

Prof. Dr. László Ungvári
President of Technical University of Applied Sciences Wildau (Germany)


1. URL: 2014/09/2014-09-11-haushalt-bmbf-2015.html (date of access December 6, 2015).
2. Towards an OECD Skills Strategy. The OECD Skills Strategy. Paris: OECD, 2011.
3. URL: youth/vocational_training/ef0018_en.htm(date of access December 6, 2015).
4. Kekkonen, A. L., Sigova S. V. Foreign Experience of Predicting Vocational Competencies Required in the Labour Market [Electronic Resource] URL: (date of access December 6, 2015).
5. Gashkova L.V. Managing the Expertise of Staff at Railway Enterprises: thesis for a Candidate Degree in Economic Sciences: 08.00.05 / Ludmila V. Gashkova. – Ekaterinburg, 2017. – 165 p.