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About the Competency Models

What is a competency?

A competency is the capability to apply or use a set of related knowledge, skills, and abilities required to successfully perform "critical work functions" or tasks in a defined work setting.

What is a competency model?

A competency model is a collection of multiple competencies that together define successful performance in a defined work setting. A model provides a clear description of what a person needs to know and be able to do – the knowledge, skills, and abilities – to perform well in a specific job, occupation, or industry.

What is the Competency Model Clearinghouse?

The Competency Model Clearinghouse (CMC) is a Web site sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (ETA). The goal of the Clearinghouse is to inform the public workforce system about the value, development, and uses of competency models.

What is the Industry Competency Model Initiative?

In response to workforce challenges, the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration and industry partners have collaborated to develop and maintain dynamic models of the foundation and technical competencies that are necessary in economically vital industries and sectors of the American economy. The goal of the effort is to promote an understanding of the skill sets and competencies that are essential to educate and train a globally competitive workforce.

How do the competency models relate to the career clusters?

Each Career Cluster is a grouping of occupations and broad industries based on commonalities, which are then further sub-divided into between two and eight Career Pathways. The Career Clusters and the Industry Competency Models both identify foundational and technical competencies, but their efforts are not duplicative. The Career Clusters have a greater emphasis on elements needed for curriculum performance objectives, measurement criteria, scope, and sequence of courses in a program of study, and the development of assessments. The Industry Competency Models focus more on competencies needed for performance in the workplace and do not go into the same level of detail. As such, they are designed to be used together. The CMC industry pages include Related Links to career cluster reports and lists of related credentials. See for more information about career clusters.

What is the difference between a competency and a skill standard?

A competency is the capacity to draw upon and apply a set of related knowledge, skills, and abilities to successfully perform a work role, function, or task. Competencies often serve as the basis for skill standards that specify the level of knowledge, skills, and abilities required for success in the workplace. Skill standards in turn form the basis for measurement criteria to assess competency attainment. A competency model differs from a set of skill standards in that skill standards define levels of skills (or competencies) required in a given job or role, while competency models typically do not.

Why is the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) supporting the development of competency models rather than skill standards?

As the Federal partner in the Workforce System, ETA's role is not to set or enforce workplace standards. Standard-setting is more appropriately a function of business and industry; thereby ensuring that a standard is tailored to an industry, region, or individual employer's need. ETA's role is that of information broker - providing information, tools, and resources about competency models and their value for supporting workforce development initiatives.