Abstract Purpose. Competence is the ability of people to implement knowledge, skills and attitudes to achieve higher levels of performance, and knowledge for one’s development. A wide range of pedagogical literature has been produced on competence, but we think an additional and more dynamic definition of competence is needed.
Design/methodology/approach. Considering the results of a European project – SMEQUAL – and its theoretical insights, the paper discusses the issues of competence considering authors like Salling, Olesen and Weinert.
Findings. The paper reaches the following conclusions: the notion of competence is relevant for both technical knowledge and in terms of relations and ethics concerning people’s behaviour. We agree with Olesen’s views that there is a need for a new language of competence which moves towards a more relational and holistic view.
Research limitations/implications. This research provides a critical debate about the concept of competence.
Originality/value. The paper underlines some opportunities for a more extensive concept of competence drawing on the capability approach of Sen and Nussbaum.
Paper type. Issues paper.
Keywords: ECVET, Competence, Work-based learning, Capability approach.