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About the Building Blocks and Industry Models

What is the Building Blocks Model and how was it developed?

To support the development of industry competency models, ETA worked with industrial/organizational psychology experts to develop a generic model of competencies essential to work performance. The model, referred to as the Building Blocks Model, provides a structure or framework for developing the personal effectiveness, academic, and workplace competencies required by an industry or an occupation.

Why is the Building Blocks Model portrayed as a pyramid?

The Building Blocks Model is portrayed in a graphic format to help users quickly grasp the key features of the competencies required. The pyramidal shape conveys the increasing level of specificity and specialization of the content on the upper tiers of the graphic. Tiers 1 through 3, called Foundation Competencies, form the foundation needed to be ready to enter the workplace. Tiers 4 and 5, called Industry Competencies, show competencies that are specific to the industry or industry sector. The top tiers represent specialization or the knowledge and technical competencies within specific occupations within an industry.

What is the difference between building blocks and competencies?

The tiers on the model are divided into blocks. The blocks represent competency areas, that is, the skills, knowledge, abilities, and other factors essential to successful performance. A table of the competency definitions or key behaviors follows the graphic and provides additional detail or explanations of the competencies.

Why doesn't the model specify the 'levels' or 'degrees' of competencies?

The competency model framework identifies competencies, or the knowledge, skills and abilities needed for success. When curricula or standards are developed around the competencies identified for an industry or occupation, the level or degree of competence must be considered by the developer. For example, plane geometry is an example of a competency needed for carpenters, drafters, and architects, but the level of competence varies with occupation. The industry competency models do not include performance indicators or measurement criteria for each competency content area. Performance indicators of competence must be developed by industry.

What are tiers?

Each tier in the model includes a set of related competencies, for example Personal Effectiveness, Academic, Workplace, Industry, or Occupational competencies. The tiers are arranged in a pyramid. At the base of the model, the competencies apply to a large number of occupations and industries. As a user moves up the model, the competencies become industry and occupation specific. The arrangement of the tiers in a pyramidal shape represents the increasing level of specificity and specialization of the content on the upper tiers of the graphic.

Why does the competency pyramid appear to be hovering above Tier 1?

The Personal Effectiveness Competencies shown on Tier 1 hover below the pyramid because these competencies are essential for all life roles. Often referred to as "soft skills," the Personal Effectiveness competencies are generally learned in the home or community and are reinforced and honed at school and in the workplace. They represent personal attributes that may present some challenges to teach or assess, or may more often be developed through coaching and similar techniques.

What do the different colors on the model mean?

For easy reference, similar competencies have been grouped on tiers. The colors provide a visual point of reference for the groups. Competencies on Tiers 1-3, referred to as Foundation competencies, are shown in shades of red. The technical competencies that are cross-cutting to an industry or industry sector on Tiers 4 and 5, called Industry competencies, are shown in shades of yellow. The knowledge and technical competencies that are specific to an occupation on Tiers 6-8, called Occupational competencies, are shown in shades of blue.

Where can I find information about occupational competencies?

The lists of knowledge, skills, and abilities found in O*NET OnLine Occupational Profiles are a good source of information for identifying the competencies required for an occupation.

What does it mean for a competency model to be industry-wide?

Industry-wide means the model encompasses the broad baseline skills and competencies needed for the entire industry, not just an industry sector or occupation. For example, the advanced manufacturing model is very broad including cross-cutting competencies applicable to various sectors such as pharmaceutical manufacturing or aerospace manufacturing.

Why do the competency models focus on industry rather than occupational competencies?

In a rapidly changing economy that relies on innovation to maintain its edge, it is important that workers have a core of foundation and technical skills that are valued and applicable across occupations. By identifying the competencies that cross industries and industry sectors it become possible to create career paths for entry-level workers and to identify career ladders or lattices to ensure upward mobility. In the 21st century economy, a flexible workforce is needed - one where workers can shift work roles within the workplace as demand dictates - or who can work well in a variety of cross-functional teams.

How are the industry competency models developed?

The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) works with industry leaders to develop models of the foundation and cross-industry technical competencies required for success in an industry. This effort builds on existing national and state skill standards, technical curricula, and recognized certifications in the respective industry. After identifying and analyzing these key resources, a draft model is developed using the Building Blocks Model as a framework. ETA collaborates with industry subject matter and technical experts to review and provide feedback on the draft model. This input ensures that the competencies are those critical to the industry.

How are the competency models validated?

For each model, ETA reaches out to industry associations, labor organizations, educators, and other subject matter experts to review the draft model. Comments, feedback, and suggested revisions are collected and incorporated into a revised model which is then sent out for further review. The review and revision process continues until the validators agree that the competency model represents the skill and competency needs of the industry.

How are the models kept up to date?

During the validation process an industry champion is identified for each of the industry-validated models. The role of an industry champion is to promote the use of the model, provide feedback, and serve as the lead in identifying the need to update the model. It is advisable to do an annual review of a model to see if changes in work processes or technology indicate that the model requires an update. A formal review of a model's content should be undertaken at least every three years.

For which industries will models be developed?

The initiative targets education and skills development resources toward helping workers gain the skills they need to build successful careers in industries that are economically important, are projected to have long-term growth, or are being transformed by technology and innovation.

How do the industry competency models relate to O*NET?

O*NET information on Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and other variables for key occupations within an industry are reviewed as one of the resources used in drafting each industry competency model. In addition, on the Competency Model Clearinghouse Web site, for each of the specific industry models there is a link from the occupational tiers of the model to the list of O*NET occupations for that industry. From there a user can select an occupational title to view the full O*NET occupational competency profile for the occupation.

Do the validated models cover each state's requirements?

No, the validated industry models do not include all the states' specific requirements. The industry models include common competencies that represent as closely as possible the workforce demands of the industry.

Do the industry models contain examples of 'green' knowledge, skills, and abilities?

Yes, the models contain many competencies, key behaviors, and technical content areas that reflect 'green' practices. For specific examples of green competencies, see Greening of Competency Models.