Natural Resources Canada has developed a series of Competency Profiles for Energy Advisors that covers a wide range of skillsets and knowledge. In some ways, a skill and a competency are similar. They both identify an ability that an individual has acquired through training and experience. But the two concepts are not identical in terms of their definitions or their function. While a skill is is something you learned in order to be able to carry out one or more job functions, a ‘competency’ includes more than just the skill, it includes abilities and behaviours, as well as knowledge that is fundamental to the use of a skill.
A competency has three facets: skills are one, the other two are knowledge and abilities.
Unlike skill definitions, multi-level competencies define a specific skill at different levels of expertise and proficiency. Each competency has a series of ‘learning objectives’ that you have to be able to meet to show that your experience and training meets the requirements for becoming an Energy Advisor. There are 204 learning objectives in the Foundation Competency Profile…but don’t fear, you’ll already have some of these under your belt, depending on how long you’ve been around the residential construction industry.
Our goal at Blue House Energy is to help you see how much of this you already know, and to help you along the path to becoming an EA. And the first stop on the path is to know what areas you’re expected to understand and show competency in.
There are seven broad categories:
Communication and Computer Skills
Construction and Renovation of Low-Rise Housing
Building Envelope (New and Existing Homes)
Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (New and Existing Homes)
Building Science Principles and the House-as-a-System Concept
Along with this Study Guide, we are building a form for each competency category for you to rate yourself. The rating is from 0 (I know nothing about this topic) to 4 (I’m an expert in this topic and can handle complex tasks on the daily). Here’s the one for Communications and here’s the one for Computer Skills. They are in PDF format for downloading. You don’t have to share this with anyone else, so rate yourself honestly!
Once you’ve rated yourself, give yourself a pat on the back for the areas where you are strong, and roll up your sleeves to improve your game in the other areas.
Out of these seven categories, only #1, Communications and Computer Skills will not be on your Foundation Exam. But that doesn’t mean you should take a pass on these areas. You must have excellent ‘soft’ skills as an Energy Advisor, as you are working directly with homeowners. How you treat them is important. How you communicate with them is important. And you will be using computers regularly as an EA - you will be modelling energy usage in Hot2000 (you’ll get trained on that once you’ve passed your Foundation Exam and move onto the EA Exam), and you will be submitting reports and files, emailing people, and navigating through websites and cloud-based file systems.
Communication skills focus on ‘soft’ skills that are transferable across jobs and industries. Being able to communicate clearly and politely with homeowners, as well as your SO team, is key to your success.
Soft skills are not just important when working with homeowners. They are equally important when it comes to interacting with colleagues. Soft skills relate to how you work with others (whereas hard skills relate to you, in isolation, as an individual). Soft skills are valuable because they enable people to function and thrive in teams and in organisations as a whole. A productive and healthy work environment depends on soft skills. After all, the workplace is an interpersonal space, where relationships must be built and fostered, perspectives must be exchanged, and occasionally conflicts must be resolved.¹
We’ve pulled together some good articles and a series of videos from the US Department of Labour to help you understand what is needed in the communications and soft skills category.
If you want to take some online courses to brush up on what soft skills are, go to Udemy.com, a good source of online learning, and use the search terms:
Spelling and Grammar
You will find a great selection of courses for low cost.
7 Communications Tips for Construction Firms (US project management tool blog)
9 Essential Skills (Skills Canada website)
US Dept. of Labour Series
Learning computer skills can feel daunting, but again, there are many online courses and tutorials that can help you learn how to use word processing and spreadsheet programs, as well as how to master email communications. Most of what you will do in the field will be associated with the Microsoft suite of software, so you need to get very comfortable with at least the basics of the three key parts you will be using constantly: Word, Excel, and Outlook. There are other software suites that might be used, like Google Docs, Sheets, and Gmail, or Apple Pages, Numbers and Mail. All of these have ways to convert to and from Microsoft formats, so if you are comfortable in one, you will easily get the hang of using any of the other systems.
Your SO will have an electronic filing system as well. That system will be set up by the company, but it will likely be a ‘cloud-based’ system, like OneDrive, or Google Drive, or Sync. If you are already associated with an SO, ask them what they use, and then search for tutorials and information sessions on YouTube. It’s always better to do video tutorials for software, because you can see the movement of the mouse as the presenter is talking, and you can see how their actions change what’s on the screen. It’s more like looking over the shoulder of a teacher than trying to figure out the manual by yourself!
If you’re ready to dive into some online learning to improve your computer skills, go to Udemy.com and use the search terms:
How to use email
COMPUTER SKILLS RESOURCES:
Here’s some online tutorials that are highly rated on YouTube:
Don’t forget that your local community college will also have a good selection of classes on computer skills. It might be a better place for you to start if you’re in the ‘novice’ stage of learning word processing and spreadsheets. In the classroom, you get the opportunity to have the instructor help you out when you get stuck!
¹Extracts taken from WikiJob: https://www.wikijob.co.uk/content/interview-advice/competencies/soft-skills