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Competency Model

Help and FAQs



Learn About Competency Models
1. What is a competency?
2. What is a competency model?
3. What is the Competency Model Clearinghouse?
4. What is the Industry Competency Model Initiative?
5. How do the competency models relate to the career clusters?
6. What is the difference between a competency model and a skill standard?
7. Why is ETA supporting the development of competency models rather than skill standards?
Building Blocks Model
8. What is the Building Blocks Model and how was it developed?
9. Why is the Building Blocks Model portrayed as a pyramid?
10. What is the difference between building blocks and competencies?
11. Why doesn't the model specify 'levels' or 'degrees' of competencies?
12. What are Tiers?
13. Why does the competency pyramid appear to be hovering above Tier 1?
14. What do the different colors on the model mean?
15. Where can I find information about occupational competencies?
Industry Models
16. What does it mean for a competency model to be industry-wide?
17. Why do the competency models focus on industry rather than occupational competencies?
18. How are the industry competency models developed?
19. How are the competency models validated?
20. How are the models kept up to date?
21. For which industries will models be developed?
22. How do the industry competency models relate to O*NET?
23. Do the validated models cover each state's requirements?
24. Do the industry models contain examples of 'green' knowledge, skills, and abilities?
User Guides
25. What are the CMC User Guides?
26. What are competency model worksheets?
27. How do I download a model as a worksheet?
28. How do I use a competency model worksheet?
29. Do I need to follow the step-by-step instructions available in the guides?
30. Can I change the column headings included in the worksheets?
31. What if I know a better way of accomplishing the activities covered in the User Guides?
Build a Model Tools
32. What is the purpose of the Competency Model Clearinghouse Tools?
33. Who are the intended users of these tools?
34. How can I build or customize a competency model?
35. How do I customize competency descriptions when building a model?
36. Is there help if you get stuck?
37. Is there a fee to use this tool?
38. Are the models I build open for public viewing or are they private under my account?
39. Will the competency models and career ladders/lattices I develop be used by ETA?
40. How can I build or customize an industry competency model?
41. Are the career ladders/lattices validated?
42. What is the difference between the validated models and the models I can develop with the Build a Model tool?
43. Can I use an existing model as the basis for a career ladder/lattice?
44. Where can I find career outlook/employment projection information?
45. How can I use the Career Ladder/Lattice tool for occupations that don't lend themselves well to laddering, such as social worker?
46. Is there a way to create career ladder/lattices for occupations that cross industry lines and sectors?
47. Do the tools have the capacity to differentiate competency models and career ladder/lattices by state and/or regions?
48. How would community college programs align with the career ladder/lattices?
49. How can I collaborate with others to jointly complete a model developed using the online Build a Model Tool?
50. Is there any way to share the competency models and career ladders that are developed?
51. Do the competency models and career ladder/lattices I develop need to be vetted or approved by ETA?
52. How can the Build a Career Ladder/lattice Tool be used to show stackable credentials?
53. Can I use the documents I create using the CMC Tools in publications?


Learn About Competency Models

1. 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.
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2. 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.
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3. 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.
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4. 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.
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5. 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 www.careertech.org/career-clusters/ for more information about career clusters.
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6. 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.
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7. 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.
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Building Blocks Model

8. 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 for Competency Model provides a structure or framework for developing the personal effectiveness, academic, and workplace competencies required by an industry or an occupation.
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9. 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.
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10. 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.
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11. 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.
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12. 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.
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13. 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.
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14. 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.
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15. 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.
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Industry Models

16. 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.
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17. 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.
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18. 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.
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19. 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.
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20. 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.
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21. 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.
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22. 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.
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23. 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.
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24. 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.
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User Guides

25. What are the CMC User Guides?
The Competency Model Clearinghouse User Guides provide background information, step-by-step directions, and resources for using competency models and career ladders/lattices. These guides cover seven topics: developing a competency model, developing a career ladder/lattice, communicating workforce needs, identifying credential competencies, developing curriculum, performing human resources activities, and career exploration and guidance.
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26. What are competency model worksheets?
Competency Model worksheets present the contents of a model in a format that can be easily annotated. The input gathered using the worksheets can facilitate the activities covered by the CMC User Guides. There are four types of worksheets: credential competency identification, curriculum analysis, employer analysis, and gap analysis. Each worksheet lists a model's competencies alongside a suggested input column.

For example, a curriculum analysis worksheet will have a column for the model's competencies and a column for each course in a curriculum. A curriculum developer can then identify which courses will cover which competencies. Alternately, the developer can use the worksheet to assess an existing curriculum by identifying which competencies are covered by courses, and which still need to be addressed.
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27. How do I download a model as a worksheet?
Each of the Competency Model Clearinghouse's industry models can be downloaded in the four worksheet formats. Custom-made models can also be downloaded as worksheets from the "Stop & Save" menu of the Build a Model tool. When downloaded, the worksheets are automatically populated by the content of the selected model. Suggested column headings are provided, but can be edited according to the user's preference.

To download a CMC model in worksheet form, go to the industry model page and click on the "Download the industry model in several formats" link in Helpline on the left. You will then be able to download the model in PDF, MS Word, Excel, or worksheet format. The Competency Model worksheets are available as Excel files.

To download a custom-made model, click on the "Stop & Save" button available after building the first three tiers of your model. You will then be given the option to download the model in several formats, including the worksheets.
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28. How do I use a competency model worksheet?
Suggested steps for using each of the four types of worksheets are included in the User Guides. Each worksheet also contains instructions and recommendations for the type of input to collect. For example, a suggested process for using the Identifying Credential Competencies Worksheet is offered in the Identify Credential Competencies guide, while the worksheet suggests that the value of each competency be rated as "not important", "preferred", or "essential".
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29. Do I need to follow the step-by-step instructions available in the guides?
No, you do not need to follow the instructions included in the User Guides. The Competency Model Clearinghouse Guides and worksheets are offered as suggested resources for using competency models and career ladders and lattices, and do not represent the only way of performing the activities covered.
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30. Can I change the column headings included in the worksheets?
The Competency Model Clearinghouse Guides and worksheets are offered as suggested resources for using competency models and career ladders and lattices, and do not represent the only way of performing the activities covered. Users are encouraged to edit or add worksheet column headings to meet their information collection needs.
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31. What if I know a better way of accomplishing the activities covered in the User Guides?
If you have ideas about how to use the resources and tools found on the Competency Model Clearinghouse, please e-mail your suggestions to the Competency Model Clearinghouse at competency@careeronestop.org
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Build a Model Tools

32. What is the purpose of the Competency Model Clearinghouse Tools?
ETA has developed online tools to enable strategic partners to collaborate in building customized competency models and career ladders/lattices that reflect regional workforce needs. The collaborative process for building a competency model or career ladder/lattice is described in two documents in the green HelpLine box on the Build a Model page.
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33. Who are the intended users of these tools?
These tools are intended to support workforce development activities. Users might be, but are not limited to industry associations, workforce partnerships, labor unions, colleges, businesses, Workforce Development Boards or American Job Centers. Visit the Models in Action section of the Competency Model Clearinghouse for examples of how competency models are used.
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34. How can I build or customize an industry competency model?
The Build a Competency Model Tool enables you to build or customize industry competency models that can serve as the foundation for important human resource functions such as recruitment and hiring, training and development, career planning, and performance management. The tool lets you choose one of the industry models or the generic Building Blocks model as a framework to guide model development. View the Build a Model Tutorial for more information on how to use the tool.
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35. How do I customize competency descriptions when building a model?
To customize competency descriptions you must first create the model with the Competency Model template tool and then save the model to a MS Word document. The text descriptions for any competency can be customized to ensure that the language 'rings true' for the industry or occupation in question. View the Build a Model Tutorial for more information on how to use the tool.
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36. Is there help if you get stuck?
General instructions are available in the green helpline box on the left side of the screen. Links to specific sections of the general instructions are available on most pages. The helpline box also contains tutorials that demonstrate the functionality of each tool. View the Build a Model Tutorial for more information on how to use the tool.
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37. Is there a fee to use this tool?
No.
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38. Are the models I build open for public viewing or are they private under my account?
The models you build are private under your account.
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39. Will the competency models and career ladders/lattices I develop be used by ETA?
No. ETA will not have access to the competency models and career ladders/lattices you develop unless you choose to share them by submitting your models and career ladders/lattices to WorkforceGPS.
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40. How can I build or customize an industry competency model?
The Build a Competency Model Tool enables you to build or customize industry competency models that can serve as the foundation for important human resource functions such as recruitment and hiring, training and development, career planning, and performance management. The tool lets you to choose one of the industry models or the generic Building Blocks model as a framework to guide model development. View the Build a Model Tutorial for more information on how to use the tool.
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41. Are the career ladders/lattices validated?
Career ladders and lattices consist of a group of related jobs that may comprise a career. They often include a pictorial representation of job progression in a career as well as detailed descriptions of the jobs and the education and experiences that facilitate movement between jobs. In reality, an individual must get the education, training, and work experience necessary to move to other jobs on the career ladder/lattice. The eight samples provided on the CMC Web site are theoretical examples designed to illustrate the concept. Collaborative development of career ladders/lattices helps ensure that the career ladders/lattices reflect actual possible career progression as well as accurate detailed information.
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42. What is the difference between the validated models and the models I can develop with the Build a Model tool?
The industry models represent nationally-validated models containing cross-cutting, industry-wide competencies. The competency models you can develop with the Build a Model tool can be tailored for your regional economy, a specific industry-sector, or maybe even for a few key employers.
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43. Can I use a validated industry model as the basis for a career ladder/lattice?
Yes. To do so, simply select Add New Model, choose a model to be the framework, and proceed through the tool checking Include All on each tier. When you click Save, the model will be available to serve as the foundation for your career ladder/lattice.
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44. Where can I find career outlook/employment projection information?
On the Job Information screen, click on the Research Job Information tab. Enter a keyword, choose a location, and select relevant job titles to show job profiles. The job profile displays state and national employment trends as well as a job description, associated tasks, and salary/wage information.
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45. How can I use the Career Ladder/Lattice tool for occupations that don't lend themselves well to laddering, such as social worker?
For such occupations, the tool can still provide the structure and functionality to develop a career ladder/lattice, though the user must supply more of the detailed occupational information. A career ladder/lattice often contains job titles that are not at the O*NET-SOC occupational level. For example, Social Worker I, II, III might represent a ladder based on promotional opportunities from entry through experienced levels where the criteria for advancement are additional education and work experience. It is also possible to create a career lattice documenting different occupational specialties or related occupations. For example, Public Health or Child and Family social workers share many of the same knowledge and skill requirements but have a different focus on the population served. There are also promotional opportunities to manager or supervisor jobs. The O*NET OnLine Web site is a valuable resource for this type of information.
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46. Is there a way to create career ladder/lattices for occupations that cross industry lines and sectors?
Yes. To create a career ladder/lattice for occupations that cross industry lines, you can use the Building Blocks Model to serve as the foundation that would be applicable to any industry.
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47. Do the tools have the capacity to differentiate competency models and career ladder/lattices by state and/or regions?
The validated industry competency models were developed from a national perspective. The tools allow you to customize the models to accommodate state and regional differences. For example, states often have differing occupational licensing requirements. Customized models or career ladder/lattices could include that state's unique licensing requirements.
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48. How would community college programs align with the career ladder/lattices?
Advancement along a career ladder/lattice is based on critical development experiences, which are described in terms of education, training, or work experience. Community college certificates and degrees could be included in the critical developmental experiences needed to move between the jobs described on the career ladder/lattice.
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49. How can I collaborate with others to jointly complete a model developed using the online Build a Model Tool?
The CMC Build a Model Tool requires a user to create an account with a username and password. The tool was not designed for multiple users. Only one user can be logged in at a time. However, it is possible to share the log-in information (username and password) with colleagues so that each could provide input in turn.
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50. Is there any way to share the competency models and career ladders that are developed?
To share models under development or completed using the Build a Model Tool, you may provide colleagues with the username and password information to login to the account. To share competency models and career ladders/lattices broadly as resources for use by workforce development professionals submit the finished products to WorkforceGPS.
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51. Do the competency models and career ladder/lattices I develop need to be vetted or approved by ETA?
No. ETA does not have the capacity to review and validate competency models and/or career ladder/lattices developed by individual users. To increase buy-in, we recommend validating the model with your workforce development partners, local community, interested parties, and stakeholders.
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52. Can the Build a Career Ladder/lattice Tool be used to show stackable credentials?
Competency model graphics show the foundation, workplace and technical competency areas required in an industry. The pyramid framework reflects how competencies become more focused and specific as you move from the foundation competencies, to broad industry technical competencies, then to occupational specific competencies. The model serves as a framework for linking stackable credentials that workers can obtain to verify that they have attained the various competencies depicted in the model. The Career Ladder/lattice tool provides the functionality to list credentials (education certificates, degrees, industry and occupational certifications, and licenses) in the critical developmental experiences required to move laterally or upward on a career ladder/lattice.
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53. Can I use the documents I create using the CMC Tools in publications?
Yes. The tools are in the public domain.
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