Competency Standards for International Trade Practitioners

Frequently Asked Questions

14 February 2015


Competencies define what is expected of a competent worker, with a particular emphasis on describing the abilities to perform proficiently in the appropriate range of contexts. The main elements of the description contain explicit statements written in the form of a standard which describe the skills and knowledge requirements. FITT competencies differentiate average workers from outstanding workers, i.e. they describe what is expected of an experienced, fully proficient worker (and not the minimum standard to enter the field of practice).


A description of what individuals have to do and know to perform various tasks or jobs.

Canadian Labour Force Development Board (1995)

A competency is a set of skills, related knowledge and attributes that allow an individual to successfully perform a task or an activity within a specific function of a job.

United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (2002) 

Competencies are defined by subject matter experts. Subject matter experts are highly experienced practitioners that represent a broad range of individuals working in international trade from across Canada, involved in the import and export of products or services. A rigorous methodology involving research and stakeholder consultation is used to set the competencies.  

FITT competencies are benchmarked against international standards. Part of the methodology included a careful look at how competencies were already defined for international trade practitioners. Subsequent research and consultation events used this information to inform the refined descriptions of the standard expected of trade practitioners.   

In addition, FITT competencies are:

¾     defined for core competencies associated with all key positions in three general levels:

[1] production/frontline (including technical workers and specialists); [2] supervisory/operational; and [3] management/executive;

¾     forward-looking and take into account economic, political, social, environmental, and technological trends;

¾     rigorous, defined and validated by subject matter experts through broad consultation; and

¾     available in both of Canada’s official languages[1]




Each competency element is comprised of several content elements:




Category Title

A general thematic area

·         Help users understand the overall content area and related task or skill

Task/Skill Area

A unique and concise title that clearly and accurately describes the task or skill element


A statement that provide a rationale on the relevance of the competency element to international trade practitioners. The statement will define the limited scope or special conditions which apply, when needed.

·         Reinforce the importance and general context of the competency element for people working in international trade

Performance/ Abilities

An explicit list of tasks or skills that a competent practitioner must be able to perform.

The statements are written in present tense, using active verbs and in simple form; this is to ensure that they can be measured.

The statements are also written in a form that supports ‘transferability’ or application across the different range of contexts intended, i.e. takes into account the different work contexts, to ensure they apply to the majority of companies providing products or services in international markets.

·         Define performance standards specific to the task or skill area



An explicit list of the required knowledge: what a competent practitioner must know in order to perform consistently to the required standard.

Knowledge statements factor in context, such as the intended pace or conditions or variables that may apply.

Knowledge may include different types: facts, concepts or theories, procedures, and meta cognition.

Statements are written in a form that can be measured, with a focus on the application of knowledge and understanding.

·         Define the knowledge standards required to perform the task or skill


Defines the range of contexts in which trade practitioners are expected to perform to the defined standard. Variables may define requirements or conditions that apply only in certain contexts.

·         Illustrates the variables which may impact on performance of the competency, and lists the range of contexts a practitioner must be able to manage in order to be proficient in the competency


A summary of terms, concepts, or acronyms contained in the competency element that have an unusual or specific meaning to international trade practitioners, defined. The definitions are consistent with the FITT Glossary[2].

·         Provide definitions to help users interpret the competency element

·         Illustrate the link to the FITT Glossary


Cited Sources

A summary of reference material that was used to help inform the competency element. Most often, these refer to existing FITT programs.

·         Provide link to supporting information or programs

Taxonomy Profile

Several dimensions on the context in which the competency element applies:

1.       Statement of the type of job roles the competency applies, e.g.

¾     Production, Frontline, Operational Workers

¾     Administrators, Mid-Level Supervisors

¾     Technical Workers, Specialists

¾     Managers, Directors, Executive

2.       Examples of job titles associated with the competency element

3.       Indication if the competency element applies to Import or Export activities (or both)

4.       Indication if the competency element applies to Products or Services (or both)

5.       Overall taxonomic level the competency represents, using an adapted Blooms framework

·         Information used to ‘tag’ or code the competency elements in order to define relevance to different applications of the competency element, such as:

¾     Human resource functions and tools (e.g. selection criteria, job descriptions, performance reviews...)

¾     Curriculum, training, education, courses

¾     Career guidance information

¾     Professional Credentials

Registration Information/ Technical Data

The competency record management information:

·         Reference number: unique identifier

·         Developed by: job analyst/agency

·         English version number: document edition number, e.g. 1.0; 1.2; 3.44

·         Affiliated English competency elements: summary of unique identifiers for competency elements that are part of the same lineage

·         French version number

·         Affiliated French competency elements

·         Original version date (first published): original publication date

·         Update version dates: series of major edition dates

·         Status: for example: draft, suspended, published

·         Date of publication/approval: date when the competency element was published and in circulation

·         Proposed review date: assigned date for review, e.g. three years after publication


·         Information to manage the document and subsequent versions of the document


The framework is a library of all the core competency elements that have been identified for international trade practitioners, organized in a logical structure.

The framework is the first comprehensive definition of the core skills and knowledge requirements for international trade practitioner anywhere. The framework is inclusive of competencies for individual efforts and for work functions that require team collaboration. Although defined as a Canadian standard, competencies in the framework are relevant internationally: they are benchmarked against recommended and best practice to support a globally competitive workforce.


The overall structure and level of specificity of information contained in the framework allow for several practical and functional applications, for example:


¾     Businesses can use the competencies to develop job descriptions, prepare training and development plans, assess workers and other human resource management activities;

¾     Educators can use the competencies to inform curriculum, such as defining learning outcomes or the scope of a program, and development learning content or assessment tools;

¾     Professional associations can use the framework to describe the range of skills and job opportunities, articulate career options or professional development plans; and

¾     Governments or policy makers can use the framework to better understand the labour market working in international trade, with the ability to inform supply/demand research models or improve mobility of learner or workers.    


The framework is intended to be practical, accessible and simple to understand. Each of the competency elements is self-contained which enables individuals to select only the competency elements that serve their purpose regardless of their needs or company profile (e.g. small/large, import/export, product/services, new/growing/established). This flexibility also supports a cost-effective and sustainable business model: changes, such as updates or additions, can be done as needs arise without affecting the integrity of the framework. The framework is scalable beyond the addition of new competency elements; FITT may choose to integrate supporting information or tools (such as an information query tool or needs assessment/diagnostic instrument, which build on the information contained in the framework).

FITT will be using the framework to inform and update programs including CITP®|FIBP® credentials and FITTSkills.


The project aims to identify and define all core competencies for workers in Canadian companies that import or export goods or services internationally. Competencies for general business practice are not included; for example: the framework contains competencies on managing risk when conducting international trade transactions, but not on managing risk unrelated to international trade.  Please contact FITT for a complete listing of the competencies. The final library of competencies will be ready in June and are subject to changes until that time.


Educational institutions = curriculum development

Businesses = managing talent and human resource activities

Service providers = public policy, programs and services

Credential-granting bodies = develop professional credentials

Individuals = career guidance

Information on personal characteristics such as adaptability, positive attitude, responsible behaviour, reliability, general interpersonal skills, or honesty and integrity (among others) are not competency elements defined in the framework. Many of these are understood to be traits or attitudes, which are different than competencies mainly because they are subjective and cannot be measured.  


The competency elements are based on extensive research that involved extensive consultation with businesses, academics, and other specialists in international trade. The competency elements contain a level of specificity (detail, range of context, different forms of information); subsequently, they are essential to many uses. For example:

EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, service providers or trainers use competencies to develop training or education programs. Competencies are used to define learning outcomes, and provide information to make decisions on the length of programs, or to identify content elements that require greater emphasis. Competencies may be used as an outline for textbooks, to design surveys or the basis of other academic research. Competencies are written in a form that can be measured; therefore, the competencies are used to design learner assessments (e.g. course exams) or learning plans.

BUSINESSES use competencies to develop essential tools to manage all human resource or talent management functions. Businesses can use competencies to develop job ads, interview guides, job descriptions, hiring orientation checklists, development plans, or performance evaluations. The competencies support the use for any size of company, and are tailored to single employees or corporate-wide contexts.

SERVICE PROVIDERS, governments and other supporting service bodies use competencies to inform public policy, improve on the efficacy of programs or services directed at workers involved in international trade.

CREDENTIAL GRANTING BODIES, including industry associations or special interest groups, use competencies as the basis of professional credentials, such as CITP®|FIBP®. (ISO 17024 compliance requirements, among others, prescribe the need for an explicit job analysis. The competencies are the most exacting and comprehensive job analysis available.) These groups may also offer accreditation programs that include a need to demonstrate relevance of the program outcomes to the competencies. 

INDIVIDUALS including people working in international trade, or individuals seeking information on jobs in international trade, use the competencies to provide guidance on the types of skills and knowledge required and to facilitate career guidance planning.

Competencies can be used to build many products, which are used extensively by a diverse range of end users.


All of FITT’s education, training and credentialing programs (e.g. courses) and relevant business solutions programs will be based on the competencies.  Anyone using these programs will know the content is informed by the competencies.

In addition, FITT is currently exploring the demand for additional programs or services. For example, FITT will have a series of “off the shelf” job profiles or occupational standards that individuals or businesses can easily access. Customizable versions of these products and other services are being explored.    


A rigorous research and validation model is followed, led by trained job analysts and labour market research specialists. Key to setting standards is the need for broad consultation with subject matter experts comprised of an appropriate representation of individuals or groups that have significant experience in the field.  Most often these people are practitioners that specialize in one or more of the core competency areas, or they may be academics or policy experts in the area under discussion. Careful attention is made to ensure sufficient representation is achieved, considering factors such as: pan-Canadian geographic representation, diversity of international trade companies (e.g. small, large, urban, rural, import/export, product/services), and representation of Canada’s official languages. Various stakeholder engagement activities (research modes) are made available to ensure access and offer flexibility, including: focus group meetings, structured interviews (via telephone or in person), or e-mail and web surveys. 


The general stages involved in setting standards include:

1.       Planning and establishing a stakeholder engagement strategy;

2.       Conducting primary and secondary research, including a literature review of current norms or standards available globally, and preparing a comparative or summary (to serve as a benchmark of current, prevailing and recommended practice). This stage was inclusive of the competencies contained in the CITP®|FIBP®​ Designation or FITTSkills program (among others);

3.       Extensive consultation with stakeholders following a rigorous quality assurance research model designed specifically for job analyses, inclusive of guiding principles aimed at promoting good practice for organizations that set competency standards. The essence of developing the competency elements was situated in seven focus group meetings held in major centres across Canada. This work is further developed with secondary, corroborating research.

4.       Validation of the competencies and the competency framework – a quality assurance process to verify content integrity. This multi-phased process involves broad stakeholder review, including the Advisory Committee, all individuals that participated in any of the research activities, and international trade practitioners at large.

5.       Ratification and final endorsement of the competencies, conducted by the Advisory Committee, who verify that project objectives, principles, and quality assurance requirements were met.

6.       Finally, the competencies are published once a final edit is complete, and the material is formatted for distribution including adaptation to the second official language.



Focus groups are essential to setting competency standards, which is grounded in a social research model. (Setting standards is more than a technical exercise; it requires careful scrutiny and engagement of subject matter experts to inform the competencies. Focus group research involves organised discussion to gain information, views and experiences of a topic (often from several perspectives) not generally found through other means; and is used to gain insights into people’s shared understandings of the necessary and expected skills and knowledge requirements.  

All participants have something to offer and different experiences that contribute to the overall goal.

Information from the focus group sessions is used to write the content of the competency elements. After the series of focus group sessions are complete, all participants will be offered the chance to receive final (formative) versions of the competencies for final review during the validation phase. Participants will be asked to verify the accuracy and completeness of the final drafts.


[1] Adaptation of the competencies into the French language planned for late 2015

[2] FITT Glossary is a separate publication available from the Forum of International Trade Training