How We Develop National Occupational Standards

National Occupational Standards (NOS) are a key building block for a range of qualifications. These include Scotland’s Modern, Technical and Professional Apprenticeships.

Read on to learn what they are, how we develop them, and why it’s vital to get your feedback as part of the process.

What are the National Occupational Standards?

The NOS are formal statements of the defined competencies and functions that an individual performs in their job role.

National Occupational Standards are the basis for:

  • Apprenticeships
  • Vocational qualifications
  • Job descriptions

In practice, organisations use the NOS for appraisals, creating job adverts, and as a benchmarking tool for employee behaviour and performance.

National Occupational Standards take on extra strategic importance in Scotland due to their application in vocational training. Here, they form the foundational layer of apprenticeship frameworks.

To ensure that they can be used for this purpose, the NOS have to go through a process of level identification and credit allocation. This work can be undertaken by sector skills councils such as ourselves.

How do we develop National Occupational Standards?

We work with the relevant authorities, organisations, and stakeholders to develop National Occupational Standards.

Primarily we work with Skills Development Scotland (SDS) to develop NOS for use in Scotland.

Scottish qualifications are approved by SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority), the executive non-departmental public body of the Scottish Government responsible for accrediting educational awards. Every stage of our work is overseen by the SQA Accreditation Manager. This relationship functions as a two-way quality assurance process.

Step 1: Plan the Workflow

The consultation process begins with an agreed date of completion. From here our team can work backward, block out each stage of the consultation process, and identify relevant milestones.

Each NOS suite is unique and requires its own level of preparation and input. In the planning stages, we will access the current version of the NOS (the one that is to be replaced) and break it down into an occupational map. If there are no previous versions of the NOS, we will develop an occupational map as required.

Step 2: First Consultation

Any development of the National Occupational Standards relies on one vital element – your input.

We encourage contributions from relevant professional bodies and unions. Yet the voices we prioritise in the consultation process are those of employers and training providers with direct experience of the job roles in question.

To begin with, we will engage with our network and relevant organisations. We can extend this engagement via liaison with relevant sector bodies. At this stage, we do our best to ensure we talk to the right people.

The consultation process often takes the form of a survey. The first stage is the shortest, with the survey gauging feedback on the necessity for changes to any given NOS.

At this point, we will also gauge interest in joining the “steering group” for the consultation.

Becoming part of the steering group is volunteering to become a trusted stakeholder in the development process. Much like being a board member, with the steering group you have a clear voice in defining the skills required in that job role.

Join our consultation network – register here

Step 3: Developing the Draft

Following the initial round of feedback, we move on to collating your input and identifying where the NOS needs to change.

As job roles evolve, the related National Occupational Standards can become redundant. Following the first consultation, we develop a better understanding of where responsibilities have merged or new roles have come into play. From here we can develop new drafts of the standards as required.

We may liaise with the steering group during this process to clarify details and to ensure we action the feedback accurately.

Step 4: Second Consultation

The second consultation concerns the revised standards. We share these drafts with as wide an audience as possible.

The feedback we aim for at this stage helps us to ensure that the new NOS are consistent and applicable to the majority of organisations.

Sometimes, changes to a National Occupational Standard can trigger updates to related qualifications. In Scotland, we will relate these instances to SDS, who will then update the qualification.

Step 5: Producing the Final Drafts

Once we have actioned all critical feedback, we produce another draft of the standards.

We then submit our work to the National Occupational Standards database. At this point, a representative from SQA will either request further information or approve the work as it is.

When the SQA has approved our updates, we create and submit the final drafts. SQA publishes these on to the NOS database, and they become the new, active National Occupational Standards for the job role.

Join Our Consultation Network

Creating and developing National Occupational Standards is only possible thanks to the engagement and input of our professional network.

Your view is vital. As a part of this network, you can shape the future of skills and career development in your industry.

Register here to join our network today.

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