Development and Application of the Occupational Competency Standards in Taiwan’s Agricultural Sector

Development and Application of the Occupational Competency Standards in Taiwan’s Agricultural Sector

Published: 2023.05.10
Accepted: 2023.05.10
Assistant Researcher
Agricultural Technology Research Institute, Taipei, Taiwan
Assistant Researcher
APRC, Agricultural Technology Research Institute, Taipei, Taiwan
Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan, Taipei, Taiwan


In the past decade, the Ministry of Labor in Taiwan has actively pursued the development and implementation of Occupational Competency Standards (OCSs) in various industries to better align talent cultivation with the demands of Taiwan’s labor market. These standards provide clear and comprehensive descriptions of the competencies necessary for industrial professionals, allowing for the cultivation of skilled workers who are better equipped to meet the needs of the market and industry. The OCSs address issues such as the education system's inability to keep pace with the needs of emerging industries and the gap between academic training and industry needs. Given the technological and environmental changes affecting the agricultural sector, the required skills for agricultural workers have undergone significant shifts, rendering existing certification systems for agricultural technicians less effective. To address this issue, the Council of Agriculture (COA) has collaborated with the Ministry of Labor to develop OCSs in agricultural fields, with the goal of strengthening the professionalism and cultivation system of agricultural employment. This article utilizes examples from Tea Sensory Evaluation Personnel, Pesticides Application Technician, and Agricultural Machinery Operating Technician to illustrate the requirements and process of OCS construction in the agricultural sector and explain the benefits of implementing such a system.

Keywords: Occupational Competency Standards, Agricultural Machinery Operating Technician, Tea Sensory Evaluation Personnel, Pesticides Application Technician


In light of the rapid emergence of new industries and occupations, it has become imperative for countries to strengthen their policies to develop relevant talents to keep pace with the changes. Occupational Competency Standards (OCSs), which are recognized by industry, government, and academia, have become crucial tools for talent development. By defining the required capabilities for key talents through developing OCSs for various industries, the training organizations (such as colleges, universities, and occupational training organizations) can cultivate the employees to meet market and industry demands. This also facilitates the planning of relevant courses and learning activities, providing workers with access to necessary skills and enhancing labor productivity and competitiveness. In the past, the occupational competency identification and vocational education systems in agriculture mainly focused on national certification as evidence of compliance with specific work regulations, which differs from the current focus on the ability to perform particular work (Liu et al., 2020). Thus, a new OCS system needs to be developed. Additionally, there is a need for more support for emerging occupations in agriculture that require practical skills or OCSs and licenses to prove practitioners' abilities. Consequently, the Council of Agriculture (COA) has been promoting OCSs in Agriculture in Taiwan since 2011 to develop relevant talents in line with current policies such as smart agriculture and net-zero carbon emissions.


The Occupational Competency Standards (OCSs) refer to the combination of competencies an individual needs to possess when completing a specific occupation or category of work tasks, which includes the work tasks, behavior indicators, work output items, functional knowledge, skills, and attitudes. OCSs can be widely applied in industry practices such as talent recruitment, performance appraisal, employee promotion, and salary remuneration. If OCSs can be further developed into a competency appraisal system, the establishment of the OCS with additional legal effects can be used to plan the competency specifications of professional talents that meet the needs of the industry, thereby promoting the development of industrial talents. Function-oriented courses planned on the foundation of OCSs have the training purpose of developing specific occupational work task abilities and shortening the gap between academia and industry. This not only supports the development of students' employability but also meets the industry's talent needs, thereby improving business efficiency and competitiveness (Fig.1). However, the development of OCSs must be tailored to the requirements of different industries. To facilitate this, the Ministry of Labor has established a system for formulating OCSs, with each industry competent authority responsible for setting up OCSs to meet their specific needs. Upon completion, each industry’s competent authority will submit the OCSs to the Ministry of Labor, which will then upload them to the iCAP website (, making them publicly available for reference and used by companies, industry associations, or occupational training units.

In the past, the construction of OCSs has primarily been focused on the industrial and service sectors, as most workers in these industries are salaried. There is often an incentive for employers to seek out employees with specific competencies, making OCSs a valuable tool. However, in the agricultural sector, the majority of workers are self-employed, which may lead to differences in the application of OCSs compared to other industries (Liu et al., 2021).


Since 2011, the COA has been actively developing OCSs for the agricultural sector. As noted previously, the OCSs are typically applied to employees, leading to the current formulation of agricultural OCSs primarily for workers in agricultural enterprises or organizations. As of March 2023, the COA has successfully developed and published 17 OCSs on the Ministry of Labor's iCAP website, covering various occupations listed in Table 1. These OCSs are applicable to a diverse range of workplaces, including animal vaccine factories, smart plant factories, leisure farms, frozen aquatic product processing factories, and agricultural service companies.

The establishment of an OCS is typically tied to industry needs and regulations. When regulations require specific abilities and competencies for certain positions, it can drive demand for professionals with those skills in the industry. For example, the certification of tea sensory evaluation professionals is highly correlated with the quality and pricing of tea in our country. These professionals often serve as judges in tea quality competitions, and their certification is recognized by the industry as a mark of excellence.

In addition, pesticides are one of the important materials for agricultural management, and are related to crop production and quality, as well as the food safety and environmental sustainability of people. Since 1972, Taiwan has established relevant regulations for pesticide management to enhance the safety of pesticide use. For pesticide spraying service providers, the "Training Measure for Pesticide Application Technicians" have been announced to regulate their registration and training, in order to effectively improve the safety and rationality of pesticide use in 2008. In recent years, Taiwan has faced an aging and decreasing population, coupled with the migration of rural populations and a shortage of agricultural labor, including a lack of sufficient foreign labor to fill the gap. As a result, the shortage of labor has gradually increased. Therefore, through the assistance of agricultural machinery operations, labor-intensive agricultural work can be replaced, providing alternative solutions to solve this problem and enhancing overall production efficiency and quality.

The aforementioned highlights the need for competent and certified personnel in the areas of tea quality management, pesticide application, and agricultural machinery operation. Thus, the subsequent discussion will present three OCSs for tea sensory evaluation personnel, pesticides application technician, and agricultural machinery operating technician. We will also expound on the rationale behind their development and the competencies that these professionals should possess.

Tea Sensory Evaluation Personnel

Tea is a highly valuable industrial crop in Taiwan with significant economic output. Given its importance, it is crucial to produce high-quality tea using freshly harvested tea leaves, and to have professional tea evaluation personnel who can ensure that consumers enjoy premium tea. To meet the needs of Taiwan's tea industry and the demand for skilled workers, the Tea Research and Extension Station (TRES) in Taiwan provides training, examinations, and degrees to enhance the capabilities of practitioners in tea sensory evaluation skills. The TRES has established the Tea Sensory Evaluation Personnel OCS table and capability evaluation courses to promote vocational training and certification for tea evaluation personnel. These efforts aim to cultivate more tea professionals, driving the sustainability of the tea industry. Relevant industry associations support this initiative by connecting training, ability assessment, and talent appointment. The tea sensory evaluation personnel OCS table outlines four main responsibilities, including tea evaluation preparation, tea quality evaluation, improving technology and excelling quality, and operation, management, and marketing of the tea industry. The TRES has developed five levels of tea sensory evaluation professionals’ courses, ranging from Elementary to Superior, as a basis for education and training of tea tasters and certification system in the future (Table 2).

In the context of industrial demand, the capability evaluation offered under the tea sensory evaluation personnel OCS is highly attractive to various stakeholders including tea farmers, merchants, consumers and industry operators, particularly those with a strong interest in tea and tea art instructors who frequently consume tea. Many individuals enroll in these courses to gain official, scientific knowledge that is more precise. As a result of such training, trainees develop a greater awareness of tea procurement, preparation, performance and cultivation techniques, as well as a better understanding of the distinctions between different types of tea leaves and processing technologies. Additionally, they acquire greater insight into the diverse roles and responsibilities involved in the tea industry chain as they engage in tasks related to beverages, which can have important implications for industrial outcomes and applications.

Pesticides Application Technician

To ensure the safe use of highly toxic pesticides, Taiwan’s government has regulated that only designated personnel can perform pesticide application operations to prevent misuse (Paragraph 2 of Article 34 of the Pesticide Management Law). Therefore, the COA has also formulated the "Training Measure for Pesticide Application Technicians" to train and manage people in this field. Since 2008, the Taiwan Agricultural Chemicals and Toxic Substances Research Institute (TACTRI) has offered pesticides application technician training courses, which include written or practical tests. Only those who pass the tests are qualified to perform pesticide application operations. With the influx of young farmers returning to their hometowns to engage in agricultural production, many farmers have also entered the pesticide application industry, learning how to use and spray pesticides and obtaining licenses (Liu et al., 2020).

Since its formulation in 2008, the "Training Measure for Pesticide Application Technicians" has been primarily provided by TACTRI, which formulates the training content and assessment methods. However, given the significant demand for pesticide application services across Taiwan, there is a need to develop a more systematic approach to train qualified professionals to meet this demand. Consequently, in 2020, the COA entrusted Agricultural Technology Research Institute (ATRI) to initiate a review of the training and examination methods for Pesticide Application Technicians within the OCS framework.

The OCS for pesticide application technician mainly consists of two major responsibilities. The first is "safe pesticide use and proper self-protection," which includes complying with pesticide-related laws and regulations, identifying pesticide toxicity classifications, familiarizing oneself with safety use regulations and protection techniques, and aiming to complete operations independently under general supervision. The second is "equipment operation and pesticide application technology application," which includes indoor facility fumigation (phosphine) technology for warehouse pest control, outdoor soil fumigation technology for crop pest control, ground application methods for crop pest control, seed treatment technology for crop seed sterilization, and drone-based aerial application methods for crop pest control. These job tasks based on the job functions for pesticide application technicians will help classify the work of pesticide management and pesticide application, facilitate curriculum development and compliance, and improve the quality of pesticide application technicians (Liu et al., 2020).

Agricultural Machinery Operating Technician

Agricultural machinery is one of the essential equipment for agricultural production management. Since 2017, the COA has promoted the "Smart Agriculture 4.0 Plan" to encourage the introduction of foreign agricultural equipment. The Agriculture and Food Agency (AFA) of the COA also provides relevant subsidies for promoting the use of farm machinery. However, Taiwan’s government did not establish mandatory competency standards for operating agricultural machinery previously. This has resulted in users being uninformed about how to use the machinery properly, which can lead to accidents. Furthermore, if small agricultural machinery becomes damaged, repairing it can take a significant amount of time. However, if users are knowledgeable about basic maintenance, the machinery can be restored to its optimal function more swiftly. Therefore, ATRI established the OCS for agricultural machinery operating technician with the aim of fostering skilled professionals that meet industry demands.

The OCS for agricultural machinery operating technician includes five significant responsibilities. The first is "Basic Concepts of Farm Machinery Safety," which includes general safety precautions and related regulations, focusing on basic knowledge of agricultural safety and the use of related regulations. The second is "Pre-operation Tasks for Farm Machinery," which includes pre-operation checks, basic principles, types of farm machinery, commonly used materials, and oils to enable operators to understand the structure principles, types, and basic knowledge of commonly used oils of agricultural machinery and to perform pre-operation checks correctly. The third is "Farm Machinery Operation Methods and Practices," which includes farm machinery operation methods and post-operation tasks. The fourth is "Simple Maintenance and Troubleshooting of Farm Machinery," which includes routine maintenance, troubleshooting, and repairs. It is hoped that operators can perform simple maintenance and analyze the causes of malfunctions when they occur. Finally, "Farm Machinery Intelligent Systems" includes the usage methods of intelligent systems, automation control of farm machinery, and electromechanical integration. The establishment of these job function criteria will enable farm machinery operators and repair personnel to understand the concepts of agricultural machinery safety and related management regulations and become familiar with the operation procedures of farm machinery through practical training (Liu et al., 2021).


The 6th National Agricultural Congress in Taiwan prioritized the promotion of the agricultural capacity assessment and professional certification system, as well as the professionalism of practitioners. Utilizing the OCS in establishing agricultural professional standards and personnel training is critical to achieving this goal. Previously, the agricultural sector lacked evaluation criteria for measuring occupational professionalism, perpetuating the stereotype that agricultural work was not professional. However, through the OCS mechanism, experts in the industry, industry authorities, and academia collaborated to establish a common talent standard. These standards can be utilized for talent recruitment, performance appraisal, employee promotion, and salary determination. Implementing OCSs as a training and assessment tool for foreign labor in the agricultural industry could also increase the demand for specialized agricultural labor.


iCAP. (2023). Integrated Competency and Application Platform. online available at, last access 29 February 2023.

Yi-Hao Lin. (2020). Results of the past 4 years of organizing training and testing for the certification of basic and intermediate level tea sensory evaluation skills. Tea Industry Newsletter, (111), 17-18. ISSN:1729-2824

Yu-Shan Liu, Chin-Wei Hsu, Hsin Wen. (2020). The Occupational Competency Standard and Ability Appraisal Program for New Generation of Agricultural Workers. Annual Rural Regeneration Research Report of the Agricultural Committee of the Executive Yuan in 2020.

Yu-Shan Liu, Chin-Wei Hsu, Hsin Wen. (2021). The Occupational Competency Standard and Ability Appraisal Program for New Generation of Agricultural Workers. Annual Rural Regeneration Research Report of the Agricultural Committee of the Executive Yuan in 2021.