Recognition: Forty-six-year-old Tshering Phuntsho is one of the senior transmission and distribution (T&D) lineman with the Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC).

The father of five from Pam, Trashigang had encountered several near-death experiences during his 23 years of service as a lineman with the corporation.

Fifteen years ago, during a regular assignment in Gasa, a tree fell off from the cliff where he and his team were erecting a pole. “I thought that was it for me,” Tshering said. “But the tree got stuck in the middle and we were saved.”

Yesterday, Tshering and 168 other transmission and distribution lineman were declared competent. Out of the 178 assessed in October, 168 received the national certificate level (NC) I and II.

The assessments were conducted through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) system to recognize the vocational competency gained by a worker through hands-on experience.

The RPL is a competency-based assessment that operationalizes the assessment and certification components of the Bhutan Vocational Qualification Framework. According to labour ministry, it is the recognition of skills, knowledge and competency currently held by an individual regardless of how, when and where the learning/training occurred.

According to Karma Loday, chief programme officer with Standard and Qualification Division of labour ministry, the certificate recognises an individual as a competent skill worker.  He said that some of the individuals who have been working with a company for more than 10 are still not considered competent.

Regulations mandate that an individual must be certified to perform any sort of technical job. “What’s the use of working for about 25 years and not being allowed to work just because you don’t have a certificate,” said Karma Loday.

He added that RPL is a competency-based assessment where almost 80 percent of the evaluation is based on practical sessions. “Educational background is not required for an individual to be certified as competent under the RPL.”

More than 50 percent of the total candidates assessed were illiterate.

Muktinath Rai was awarded NC-II certificate. The 32-year-old lineman from Tsirang said that although he couldn’t pursue VTI training in the past, the certificate he received qualifies him as any professional. “It will make a big difference in the working environment henceforth,” he added.

RPL was first tested in 2007 on the request of Chhukha Hydro Power Corporation Limited to assess and certify their experienced skilled employees without formal education and qualifications.

The assessments were carried out based on the national occupational skills standards (NOSS) that was formerly know as occupational profiles until 2009. After the introduction of NOSS in 2010, the first RPL was conducted for 25 transmission and distribution lineman with BPC in 2012.

“Now with a national system in place, it is more credible and the quality of the national work force can be improved over the time through this system,” said Karma Laday.

As of 2015, a total of 771 individuals have been assessed by the ministry on the request from the authorities concerned.

Younten Tshedup