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"Building Blocks" for Competency Models

This reference source consists of a set of "building blocks" for competency model development. These "building blocks" are arranged in nine tiers including:

Competency Model Clearinghouse - Building Blocks Pyramid Image
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Occupation Related

  • Tier 9 -- Management Competencies
  • Tier 8 -- Occupation-Specific Requirements
  • Tier 7 -- Occupation-Specific Technical Competencies
  • Tier 6 -- Occupation-Specific Knowledge Competencies

Industry Related

  • Tier 5 -- Industry-Specific Technical Competencies
  • Tier 4 -- Industry-Wide Technical Competencies

Foundational Competencies

  • Tier 3 -- Workplace Competencies
  • Tier 2 -- Academic Competencies
  • Tier 1 -- Personal Effectiveness

View the Competency Model Technical Assistance Guide in the PDF format

Each tier includes a set of related competencies. The tiers are arranged in a hierarchy. 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 nine tiers of the model are divided into blocks representing the skills, knowledge and abilities essential for successful performance in the industry or occupation represented by the model. The tiers are grouped:

  • Foundational Competencies
  • Industry Related
  • Occupation Related

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. As a user moves through the various tiers of the model, the competencies become specific to certain industries and/or occupations. The graphic is not intended to represent a sequential model, or to imply that all content area on a lower tier must be achieved prior to tackling a competency on a tier that is at an upper level on the graphic.

Foundational Competencies

At the base of the model, tiers 1 through 3 represent those competencies which provide the foundation for success in school and in the world of work. Employers have identified a link between foundational skills and job performance, as well as the fact that foundational skills are a needed prerequisite for workers to learn new industry-specific skills. These foundational competencies are essential to a large number of occupations and industries.

Tier 1: Personal Effectiveness

Personal Effectiveness Competencies are shown as hovering below the pyramid because these competencies are essential for all life roles—those roles as a member of a family, of a community, and of the larger society. They are not exclusive to the competencies needed for a successful career or role in the workplace. They are included here because these competencies also are valued by employers, and are often referred to as "soft skills." Personal effectiveness competencies are generally learned in the home or community and reinforced and honed at school and in the workplace. They represent personal attributes that may present some challenges to teach or assess. Personal Effectiveness Competencies include:

  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Integrity
  • Professionalism
  • Initiative
  • Dependability & Reliability
  • Willingness to Learn

Tier 2: Academic Competencies

At the base of the model are Academic Competencies. This domain contains critical competencies primarily learned in an academic setting, as well as cognitive functions and thinking styles. These competencies are likely to apply to all organizations represented by a single industry or industry association nationwide. They serve as the foundation for Occupation and Industry Specific Competencies. These competencies include:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Mathematics
  • Science & Technology
  • Communication - Listening & Speaking
  • Critical & Analytic Thinking
  • Active Learning
  • Basic Computer Skills

Tier 3: Workplace Competencies

The next competency domain included in the model is Workplace Competencies. Competencies included in this domain represent those skills and abilities that allow individuals to function in an organizational setting. As with the Academic Competencies, these are generally applicable to a large number of occupations and industries on a national level. The competencies in this domain include:

  • Teamwork
  • Adaptability/Flexibility
  • Customer Focus
  • Planning & Organizing
  • Creative Thinking
  • Problem Solving & Decision Making
  • Working with Tools & Technology
  • Workplace Computer Applications
  • Scheduling & Coordinating
  • Checking, Examining & Recording
  • Business Fundamentals

Foundational competencies are frequently referred to as Work Readiness Competencies.  Search for examples of Foundation Models

Industry Related

The competencies shown on Tiers 4 and 5 are grouped and referred to as Industry Competencies. The cross-cutting industry-wide technical competencies make it possible to show career lattices within an industry wherein a worker can move easily across industry sub-sectors. As a result, this model supports the development of an agile workforce, rather than narrowly following a single occupational career ladder.

Tier 4: Industry-Wide Technical Competencies

Industry-Wide Technical Competencies represent the next domain in the hierarchy of "building blocks." Competencies included in this domain represent the knowledge, skills and abilities needed by all occupations within an industry. These competencies remain undefined in the building block model. Industry representatives need to specify and define these competencies for each industry as part of the competency model development process.

Recently, representatives of the Advanced Manufacturing industry used the building blocks as the starting point for the development of an Advanced Manufacturing competency model. The industry-wide competencies identified by these industry representatives included:

  • Production
  • Maintenance, Installation & Repair
  • Manufacturing Process Development/Design
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Quality Assurance/Continuous Improvement
  • Health & Safety

Tier 5: Industry-Specific Technical Competencies

At the next level in the model are the Industry-Specific Technical Competencies. Competencies included in this domain represent the knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics needed by all occupations within an industry segment (e.g., the Chemical Manufacturing segment of the Advanced Manufacturing Industry). These competencies remain undefined in the building block model. Industry leaders and partner associations need to specify and define these competencies for each specific industry as part of the competency model development process.

Search for Industry Model Resources

Occupation Related

The competencies on Tiers 6, 7, and 8 are grouped and referred to as Occupational Competencies. Occupational competency models are frequently developed to define performance in a workplace, to design competency-based curriculum, or to articulate the requirements for an occupational credential such as a license or certification.

Tier 6: Occupation-Specific Knowledge Areas

All occupations require a specific knowledge base, over and above that which is required for occupations in the industry as a whole. At the next level of the model are Occupation-Specific Knowledge Areas. The knowledge areas contained in the Department of Labor's Occupational Information Network (O*NET) tool are shown below. These broad knowledge areas can be used as a basis for specifying more detailed knowledge areas required for work in a specific occupation. A great deal of information about the knowledge required in various occupations can be obtained from existing resources (such as community college curricula).

O*NET Knowledge areas:

  • Administration & Management
  • Biology
  • Building & Construction
  • Chemistry
  • Clerical
  • Communications & Media
  • Computers & Electronics
  • Customer & Personal Services
  • Design
  • Economics & Accounting
  • Education & Training
  • Engineering & Technology
  • English Language
  • Fine Arts
  • Food Production
  • Foreign Language
  • Geography
  • History & Archeology
  • Law & Government
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical
  • Medicine & Dentistry
  • Personnel & Human Resources
  • Philosophy & Theology
  • Physics
  • Production & Processing
  • Psychology
  • Public Safety & Security
  • Sales & Marketing
  • Sociology & Anthropology
  • Telecommunications
  • Therapy & Counseling
  • Transportation

Tier 7: Occupation-Specific Technical Competencies

Building on Occupation-Specific Knowledge Areas, all occupations require certain technical competencies. Often, these competencies are specific to a particular occupation, organization, or WDB. These competencies are not specified in the model and need to be defined by partners and shareholders developing competency models that are specific to their occupation(s) of interest. As with the Occupation-Specific Knowledge Areas, many readily available resources (such as community college curricula) can be used to identify or develop Occupation-Specific Technical Competencies.

Tier 8: Occupation-Specific Requirements

The top level of the model is labeled Occupation-Specific Requirements. This domain includes requirements such as certification, licensure, and specialized educational degrees, or physical and training requirements. Again, these competencies are specific to a particular occupation, organization, or WDB. Model developers need to specify those requirements that are specific to the key occupation(s) in a given industry sector. Once again, many readily available resources (such as community college curricula) can be used to identify these requirements.

Tier 9: Management Competencies

The competencies included in the Management Competencies domain are specific to supervisory and managerial occupations and include:

  • Staffing
  • Informing
  • Delegating
  • Networking
  • Monitoring Work
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Supporting Others
  • Motivating & Inspiring
  • Developing & Mentoring
  • Strategic Planning/Action
  • Preparing & Evaluating Budgets
  • Clarifying Roles & Objectives
  • Managing Conflict & Team Building
  • Developing an Organizational Vision
  • Monitoring & Controlling Resources

Search for Occupational Competency Model Resources