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Jonathan Winterton and Travis Turnbow

The following account describes the evolution of competence theory, its influence in recent European policy and an example of how it has been used in practice by the European transnational company Airbus. Competence, like skill, is a contested and sometime controversial concept, but there is broad consensus that it encapsulates the skills, knowledge and behaviours necessary to perform to the standards of employment in a work context. How such competence is developed, assessed and deployed inevitably varies substantially between sectors and occupations, but there are also profound theoretical differences between countries. Therefore, when the European Commission was seeking to create a credit transfer system for vocational education and training, and ultimately the European Qualifications Framework (EQF), it was necessary to find the best fit with existing approaches to competence. The team that developed the competence typology for the European Credit transfer system for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET) analysed the three dominant approaches in Europe and proposed a unifying framework based on the common factors.